'The age of the control engineer is just dawning’

Dr. Peter Martin of Schneider Electric talked about opportunities to apply control engineering skills beyond efficiency at the Schneider Electric Global Automation Conference.


Dr. Peter Martin of Schneider Electric talked about opportunities to apply control engineering skills beyond efficiency at the Schneider Electric Global Automation Conference. Courtesy: Bob Vavra, Plant Engineering, CFE MediaDelivering a stirring call to action to a room filled with engineers, Dr. Peter Martin of Schneider Electric told attendees at the opening of the Schneider Electric Global Automation Conference in Dallas that changes in industrial automation should make the control engineer indispensable in the years to come.

"I've heard people day the age of the control engineer is over. Wrong. The age of the control engineer is just dawning," said Martin, a Schneider Electric Fellow and vice president of business value consulting. "We have to apply control engineering to manage more than efficiency."

Martin said the control engineer is all about managing change, a subject fundamental to the use and technology around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). "If something doesn't change, you don't have to control it. If it changes frequently, you have to control it," Martin noted. "It's a matter of applying real-time control theory to areas other than efficiency." Among the areas Martin cited were:

  • Reliability. "You can convert maintenance from a management problem to a control problem, and we're really good at solving that problem," Martin said.
  • Profitability. "This is not a matter of going into the business systems," Martin said. "It's understanding what is in real-time control and what what needs to be done transactionally. The challenge is to think of our front line people not as a labor force, but to think of them as performance managers. Why don't we allow them to make them decisions with the right information? What these people can do with the right information is astounding."
  • Security, safety and the environment. Martin said these all are issues that need to be considered as real-time control issues. "The problems we face are control problems. We are control engineers," Martin told the audience. "Let's apply your trade where company needs it to be applied. Let's apply your trade where the world needs to be applied."

Martin also talked about how manufacturers and product developers need to think less transactional and more real-time to adapt to the new world of real-time business decisions and real-time product delivery. "The real problem is not connecting the two domains; it's rethinking the two domains," he said. "We've reached the point where technology is not a barrier to solving problems. Technology shouldn't be the barrier between the people and their jobs; it should be the conduit between the people and their jobs. It's lights-on manufacturing. Let's no longer eliminate people; let's use people to their fullest extent."

- Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com.

ONLINE extra

See additional coverage about the Global Automation Conference below. 

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me