I am in Orlando, attending the ARC Forum (www.arcweb.com). This annual meeting is all about real time performance metrics and the changes to production that companies can do if they adopt these principles. I admire ARC for continuing in the face of massive ennui to pound this bully pulpit. The fact is, those few (and I DO mean few) companies who have put their money where ARC says to have reaped great rewards. So why isn’t there a stampede of companies trying hard to get on the real time performance bandwagon?
Consider the lowly spray nozzle. Nearly every plant has some, many, especially in the food industry and in the paper industry, have gazillions of them. If you have some, when was the last time you looked at them? Are they on a regular preventive maintenance schedule? The folks at Spraying Systems Co., Autojet Div., think you ought to think about how much you might be wasting with worn nozzles. They have a calculator on their website that figures out payback for things like replacing nozzles, measuring flow and pressure, and so on. I was amazed at the realistic payback they were showing. So, what other lowly devices in your plant can you use to up your ROI?
EZ is as EZ does!
After five years of being best buds, and helping to make AutomationDirect.com a huge success, Shalli Kumar, CEO of AVG Automation is taking the big direct reseller of automation products on as a competitor. His new catalog, www.ezautomation.net, looks startlingly like ADC’s, with little red and green “thumbs up/thumbs down” indicators on specification comparisons, and little red and green men in hardhats. Sound familiar? Well it should. And why does this stuff sound familiar? Because EzTouch and EzText products made by AVG have been sold by AutomationDirect for years.
Is the divorce amicable? It is, according to Kumar. He says he has given strict orders that there will be no badmouthing ADC by his people, and that he wants to continue working with ADC on the product lines they currently sell. I haven’t been able to get a response back from AutomationDirect yet, but I will post it as soon as one comes in.
Does Kumar expect to hurt ADC? “Not really,” he says, “I expect there is more than enough room in the direct selling model for the two of us.”
He also says that his model is really “Dell meets Best Buy,” having already signed up a bunch of VARs. “Direct pricing, but with local service worldwide,” he said, “is our key to being better.”
Is he right? And is he willing to put the money up necessary to overcome AutomationDirect’s huge marketing machine and brand strength? He says he is, but we shall see.
Another skirmish in Fieldbus War II was fought yesterday on the Automation List (www.control.com) by noted automation gadfly, Curt Wuollet:
“I have also finally had a need to take another look at Profit^hBus(sic). In my first study of the enigmatic, secret, cult driven fieldbus, I found no useful information save that it turns good old RS485 into a occult medium with dependancy on your vendor assured. But, driven to overcome my revulsion by having some actual use for the knowledge, I popped the term into google and started surfing. The profibus.com site required full membership to download any of the papers of documents. Undeterred, I surfed further and gleaned very little of use. So I added Open Source to the search term as this is usually the gateway to free information. Not much going except for a nodave project which I bookmarked to peruse later. But I did hit an announcement that had me laughing and made my whole day. It deals with ProfiNet which sounds like but is not Profibus on Ethernet.”
See our coverage of ProfiNet’s press tour for details.
Wuollet continues, “They make profuse use of the word Open, and even mention Open Source but then go on to name Microsoft and every proprietary protocol in their family. No mention is made of working with anything else and the whole thing comes across as a way to pay lip service to the trend in Europe towards OSS and the ever popular Ethernet without giving up anything. Perhaps it’s just my consumer orientation, but I think you’ll enjoy the name dropping, doublespeak and propaganda. It makes Modbus/TCP look like a Stallman/GNU projectin comparison…”
From Gene Giltner, of Patrick Engineering (www.patrickengineering.com), one of our Editorial Advisory Board Members:
“Once upon a time while walking through a food processing facility I mentioned to my host that one of his tanks was overflowing. He said it did that every once in a while. Since I was there on a protracted startup and it bothers me when things like that happen, I took a look at it during one of those stretches in the startup when others are forcing you to wait.
“Now, this tank had two valves, one, which modulated to control level, FV-101, and the other, which modulated in response to downstream demand, FV 102. As the demand decreased, FV-102 would begin to close and FV-101 would follow. This is a common scheme that works well and indeed worked 95% of the time at this plant. Did I mention that this place did not have real time trending available on the control system? Standing in front of the MMI (I’m still a chauvinist and they are Man Machine Interfaces) with coffee cup in hand, I happened to witness the PID loop on the demand start to close down valve FV-102. FV101 followed vary nicely, especially after being tuned, until the FV-101 got to be less than 5% open at which time the valve continued to close and the level continued to increase.
“Seems the plant had installed air solenoids in the air supply lines to close the valves when they were less than 5% open. This scheme worked will to save the plant money on compressed air. However the level control valve was an Air-to-Close valve that went wide open when the solenoid valve on the air supply was closed. The only way to find this was to trace the airline back to the air junction box and find the mischievous solenoid valve.
“Here was another case of the equipment doing exactly what it was supposed to do, but not what we wanted it to do.”
Spending the weekend shoveling snow gives you lots of time to think. Several years ago, ISA Executive Director Glenn Harvey, in his retirement lecture (he got out while the getting was good; ISA was still in good health and growing) averred that the profession of controls engineer was dying. Was Glenn right? Even though he was very prickly to work with, nobody doubted Glenn’s vision. His point was not that the profession of controls engineer was going out of business, but that it was changing beyond all recognition. He was very right.
Field instruments are becoming a technician’s game. Partly this is because field instruments are smarter, but technicians are smarter too, and they have tools that those of us who did our field tech work in the 1970’s can only marvel at. Control systems are becoming more open, and the goal of single user interface, plug and play is within reach.
What this means is that, like IT itself, the controls engineering profession is being subsumed by the surrounding task sets. Like a big Venn diagram, the intersection of process engineering, instrumentation design, control engineering and maintenance and operations, is swallowing up the “independence” of its parts. People who work in process automation now have to be process generalists who know how the process works, as well as how to measure it and control it.
Beating the two organizations to the punch by a couple of hours, Rockwell sent out a press release this morning supporting the “recently announced” merger of ISA and OMAC. This of course sent us all into a tizzy. How come we didn’t know about it? Well, we didn’t know about it because ISA and OMAC announced their upcoming merger about two hours later. So, it is true. The process industries largest automation society is finally getting some traction in the discrete factory automation space, after almost two decades of trying. Does this mean that “Motion Control” magazine will come back? The fact is that ISA has been trying to represent OMAC’s core constituency for years, and this merger, which makes OMAC a subsidiary of ISA, is a no brainer for all concerned.
Is World Batch Forum next?
Sometimes, I really wonder what makes Microsoft tick. After years of fielding bad press and gaining some of the most powerful brand negatives in the world (really, who do you think of when you hear the term “Evil Empire”? Not the Former Soviet Union, duh.) they have been saying for over a year now that “Security is Job 1” to them.
Then they release an anti-virus tool that doesn’t even find all of the top ten virus infections, and they intend to upgrade this tool only once every month, not every week, or every new virus outbreak. I’ll stick with Symantec and McAfee and their third party brethren for the time being.
Their anti-spyware tool is better, even in its current beta state, but it still isn’t adequate.
With all of M$s money, you’d think they could negotiate a license from one of the security firms and just use the straight stuff.
We’re stuck with Microsoft for process automation solutions for at least the foreseeable future, and it would be nice if they showed they cared…more.
We talked about branding recently. One of the things that grows a brand quicker than anything else is “word of mouth”…what the marketing gurus have started to call “viral marketing.” What is interesting about this is that viral marketing has the same property that branding does…it is not in the control of the brand being marketed. You just have to hope that the word of mouth on your product is a “good word” and not otherwise. If you have any influence on this, it is to make sure that you clearly state what your policies and goals are, what the performance of the product is, and then do exactly what you said you would do, every time.
Lately, we’ve been seeing some word of mouth about ControlGlobal.com. Eoin O’Riain’s respected website and e-newsletter, Readout, (http://read-out/net/signpost/cybers
afe.html ) picked up information on our new e-magazine, SecureSystemsInsider. Andrew Bond has picked up some things for his magazine, Industrial Automation Insider (http://www.iainsider.co.uk/)and we have been sharing some content with www.automation.com (formerly automationtechies.com) for some time. Thanks for passing the word, guys.
In the same vein, we are pleased to note that we are beginning to pick up a following in Russia! We received the following fan mail: “My name is Lester Powell. I am currently working with SPIK SZMA, a mid sized control and information system integrator in St. Petersburg Russia. We are aggressively implementing a formal project management methodology and lean/agile design & implementation processes. As part of moving this effort forward I routinely share state of the art methods, approaches and best practices from the international community. I recently shared an article from your July 2004 issue entitled “Designing Control Rooms for Humans” By Ian Nimmo and John Moscatelli. The article received rave reviews by our managers and engineers. The article addresses numerous issues that plague operations for all of our customers on a daily basis. As a service to our customers we would like to post the translated article on our and our associate’s web sites. The article has been translated in its entirety including publishing and author credits.” Thanks, Lester, and we will be sure to post the translated article in tandem with the English language original on www.controlglobal.com.
Also, visit www.mera-moscow.info for detailed information on the MERA International Trade Fair for Measurement Control and Automation.
ABB announced some serious initiatives for Industrial IT and their flagship control software, System 800xA. Following in Emerson’s footsteps, they announced a System 800xA SIS product, and pointed out that, unlike Emerson, the ABB system is shipping already. Dow has installed 5 systems and Petro-Canada’s DeRuyter North Sea platform will be the first non-Dow system shipped. Bob Hausler made a big, and honestly refreshing point of saying, with every new announcement he made, “And this is fully released, in stock, and shipping now.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if every vendor waited until they actually had more than vaporware before making product announcements?
So I went to Cleveland. It was cold and snowy, but that’s not news. Last year, I went and came back and wrote an article for CONTROL talking about the Holy Grail of process automation. Well, I had some interesting discussions with ABB’s Roy Tanner about the search for the Grail. From my point of view, the Holy Grail is a set of software that is so integrated that it can start at the simulator level, output loops based on the process sims, allow the process engineer to take those loops and using OLE and OPC tools, create smart P&IDs that can do their own loop diagrams and wiring diagrams, complete with wiring schedules, marshalling tables and tag numbers…and then automatically create the control strategy for those loops, taking into account that, as John Gerry of Expertune put it in the forthcoming February CONTROL, “sometimes a loop works better detuned.”
The software would automatically integrate (not link, integrate) with CMMS and other asset management software, and to the business systems, and changes to equipment and instruments made as a result of the downstream stuff like maintenance would automatically roll back into the drawings, and back into the sims. Holy cats! We’d have live, self-editing and self-updating as-builts! How much would we all pay for that!
I have to give credit to a fine gentleman named Robert Pawley, whose Instrument Design Works software was the first credible attempt at this sort of synthesis of the control system software with simulation, design, asset management, and the business system. It was an idea way ahead of its time, which looks like it has finally come.
Free, all expenses paid trip to Cleveland in January!
That’s right, I’m leaving tonight for the annual ABB Press Event…held every January in that garden spot of the world, Wickliffe OH. This reminds me of the dubious honor of having to deliver a paper at the Hibbing ISA Show in International Falls MN, also traditionally held in January. Since it is 2 degrees F. outside right now in Chicago, I’m dreaming of, oh, say, Aruba, not Cleveland.
It appears that ABB is going to introduce their competition for the Emerson combined SIS system. It remains to be seen if the user world will accept an SIS system that is not completely isolated from the control system. We will also be treated to a lot of winning war stories about how their System 800xA is being used to replace legacy systems from all their competitors…just the same stories their competitors tell when we go visit them.
I am pleased to announce that Dale Peterson from Digital Bond will be providing content for SecureSystemsInsider, our e-magazine devoted to process system security. Dale will be writing a column every other issue of SSI. I am looking forward to his first one.
Reply to Tsunami sound off:
As a native Floridian, I ask that all the money that’s left over when the cameras stop covering the story — about a week from now — be sent to Florida, to help the people who were hit by four hurricanes. The media coverage in Florida lasted about two days, so those poor folks didn’t get any support other than the promise of Federal loans. We could also send some of the money to California, to help the mud slide people.
I’ve been asked about the recent alliance between Rockwell Automation and Endress+Hauser. “Why are they doing that?” has been the question. From where I sit, the answer is obvious. Every one of the other big players in automation systems has field device products, even GE, which has been buying up a grab bag of companies ranging from Betz Labs to Panametrics to Druck for several years now. Rockwell alone doesn’t have field instruments to speak of. Endress+Hauser doesn’t have control systems to speak of. Together, they can match most if not all of the capabilities of Emerson, Honeywell, ABB, Siemens, and GE. I’m not sure we should be looking for a merger, though, and it remains to be seen how longevous this alliance will be.
Dale Peterson, in his SCADA Security Blog writes:
IT Security Controversy
The current buzz in the IT Security industry involves allowing criminals and other hackers to speak at information security events. This has been bubbling below the surface for a couple of years. It became the topic when infosec legend Bill Murray and ex-cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt pulled out of a recent CSI event because Frank Abangale, the criminal showcased in the Catch Me If You Can movie, was a featured speaker.
Read Bill Murray’s explanation here and more stories available here.
I have heard that Mr. Abangale is a very interesting speaker, and he has helped develop many of the protection measures that are in use today to protect currency and checks. So certainly he does not fall into the Kevin Mitnick category, but Bill’s point is Mr. Abangale’s glorified crimes is what drives people to attend his sessions.
Let’s bring this back to SCADA security. Let’s imagine a criminal successful breached a pipeline SCADA system or an electric T&D system and caused a serious financial loss. After serving a couple of years in prison, the criminal is scheduled to keynote an industry conference and discuss his attacks and how he was able to penetrate systems. It sounds like an interesting and even exciting talk. Do you attend?
Interesting question, isn’t it? And what about bringing in a disgruntled ex-employee who hacked a plant floor control system and caused a serious hazardous material spill with fatalities? What then?
Safety is as safe as you make it.
That was the mantra preached by exida’s Bill Goble last night at the Chicago & Will-DuPage combined ISA section meeting. Referring to the new safety system standard, ANSI/ISA84.01(2004), which he and ISA’s standards organization director Lois Ferson, called IEC61511-plus), Goble said there was good news and bad news. The good news, he said, was that the new standard is performance-based, and not prescriptive. “In other words, you get to do real engineering,” he said, to develop the safety system that is exactly suited to your needs. Of course, the bad news followed. “The bad news,” Goble joked, “is that you really have to do the engineering.”
The problem with this, it seems to me, is that fewer plants have the intellectual capital and experienced personnel that are necessary to do the level of safety system engineering required to make sure that Bhopal (see Steve Kuehn’s excellent piece in the January CONTROL) doesn’t happen again. At least prescriptive solutions have the added layer of protection that they tend to be over-engineered.
Not that I don’t emphatically agree with Goble as to the great benefit of the way the standard is written. But as an attendee, who requested anonymity, pointed out to me, “It’s going to take another big accident before the ‘run lean and mean’ mentality will swing back the other way.”
One would hope not, but we often hope in vain.
Sometimes with the best of intentions, things go south anyway. We inadvertently omitted one category from the Readers’ Choice awards article we printed in the January issue. We caught it in time for the HTML story on the website to be changed, but weren’t able to catch it in print. We left off the category of Level Gauge, Inventory Type. The category should have been:
LEVEL GAUGE, INVENTORY GRADE TANK LEVEL SYSTEM
Emerson Process- Saab Rosemount – 30%
Endress+Hauser – 12%
I sincerely regret the error.
Spamalot and specsmanship
My wife and I went and saw the new Eric Idle musical, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” this weekend in its tryout for Broadway in Chicago. The completely internally consistent logic of Monty Python, which is completely absurd in the real world reminded me of the world of PRspeak and specsmanship in process automation.
In the world of PRspeak, every company is “the leader in whatever we’re selling” and never “a follower” or “last on the list.” Every product is new, simple to use, easy to operate, and has a host of new features guaranteed to differentiate it from the nearly identical product that the competitors introduced a while ago. As I learned from trying to produce, with David Spitzer, the “Consumer Guide” Series to field instruments, it takes quite a bit of study to reduce multiple vendor specifications, even of similar products, to apples-to-apples for ease of comparison. No wonder end-users and consulting engineers have a jaundiced eye when it comes to believing what vendors say.
Every month, we get many product releases. They average two to three pages long, with at least one photograph. We cut all the PRspeak out of them, and they generally become much shorter. On average, we make a product release about 70 words long, and it conveys all of the information an end user needs. Wouldn’t it be nice if the folks who write those screeds would boil them down for us? What we want, as end users, is clear, actionable content that we can use right now. So let’s declare war on adjectives and adverbs in product releases and specifications.
Plant Operation security guru Joe Weiss and I had a conversation today about the difference between IT security and plant ops security. Basically, the difference is a mindset. IT looks for intrusions after the fact, and can always re-boot the system. Having to re-boot the plant operation system, DCS, or SCADA network can be ruinous. There is still a huge gulf between the mindsets, and both EPRI and Homeland Security are trying to figure out what to do to bring them together. Joe said that it takes both sides to provide adequate security.
The parade is starting.
Honeywell has also announced a pledge of $1 million to aid the survivors of the tsunami. Let’s all get on board, shall we?
I got an email this morning from Tom Varney, at Siemens. He noted that Siemens has pledged 1 million euros and matching contributions from employees for tsunami relief. I think that it is a good thing that Siemens is doing this, and I’d hope that other Big Six automation companies would follow suit. Sometimes we get complacent, because we’ve managed by and large to make the world a safer place for ordinary people than it has ever been before. It is then that the world reminds us how large and dangerous it really is, and how insignificant we are.
But are we? Among the heroes I’ve heard of during the tsunami was an unknown blond woman, clad only in a bikini bottom, who, instead of saving herself, kept helping injured to safety in the face of the second wave, which washed her away. Ordinary people, heroes. We’re going to need volunteers from the process automation world to go to the relief areas and help get basic services and processing plants back up and running so that the toll doesn’t get any more unbelievably large.
You gotta ask yourself how some companies feel about branding.
The Readers’ Choice Awards are more of a branding survey than anything else, because it is an open ended survey. We don’t provide the voters with a drop down form listing all the possible candidates, it is strictly a write-in ballot.
I’ve been keeping the List of Lost Companies (Appendix 9 in Bela Liptak’s IEH4, Volume 1) for years now. During the 90s, companies merged, re-merged, changed their names, re-sized, down-sized, reorganized and organized to the point where many of the great old names are nearly lost. Included in this dance was its effect on company brands.
A brand is more than a logo. It is more than an advertising or public relations campaign. Simply put, a brand is a gestalt made up of all the impressions and interactions a company has with its suppliers, customers, competitors, employees, and the public at large. Positive brand values are a real measure of how well the company “walks the walk.” Negative brand values are a real measure of how poorly.
Companies have, in the past, won categories in the RCAs where they didn’t even make a product. What does that tell you about their brand?
Leaky electrolytic capacitors–A ticking time bomb–Beware
I spent a day over Christmas replacing the two-year-old motherboard in my son’s 2.5 GHz computer. It finally sputtered to a halt after months of flaky operation, in which we blamed the OS and drivers for several strange problems. Finally, we couldn’t even get BIOS.
Problem: Six leaky aluminum low-ESR electrolytic capacitors. (See Computer Power User magazine (CPU), May, 2004, Volume 4, Issue 5; also see the IEEE’s Website, http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/re
source/feb03/ncap.html). These capacitors may have used a defective electrolyte based on industrial espionage–strange, but true.
This problem affects motherboards from, among others, several well-known manufacturers such as Intel and Gateway; video cards; and several non-computer products including–according to CPU magazine–camcorders, VCRs, TV sets, computer monitors…and anywhere else these caps are used. Motherboards manufactured between 1998 to 2001 can be affected. Failures typically occur between 250 hours and 2000 hours of usage, far less than the 4,000 hours or more for which they’re rated. Sometimes they may survive longer.
Many manufacturers buy white box computers for HMI use, and some for control. Other automation vendors may have used the caps unknowingly in various industrial products–especially if boards were made in Korea or China. Who knows? Obviously, it can take months to years for these to fail, so if you’re experiencing unstable, flaky, weird operation, pop the cover off whatever the product is that you’re using, and inspect all electrolytic caps for bulging anywhere on the case or for brownish-colored leaks at the seals. You could be feeding unfiltered power to your components–possibly damaging them forever. You can replace the caps, but it may be cheaper and more effective to replace the motherboard or printed-circuit that’s contained in your device.
–Wayne Labs, Contributing Editor
First time I’ve written the new year date. Happy New Year to all of you. This year, we’ll see some significant changes. We are re-designing the print magazine, and we hope you will like what you will see.
I’ve been wondering what it is like to be a process automation professional in Iraq right now. How do you refurbish a dead infrastructure with a civil war going on all around you? If you have thoughts on the subject, email them to me.
We’re going to develop a new reader forum. If you would like to be a CONTROL and ControlGlobal.com Editorial Insider, drop me a note.
ControlGlobal Dives into the Blogosphere
Welcome to Sound Off…CONTROL’s entry into the blogosphere. Feel free to respond to me at mailto:email@example.com?Subject=Control
Linux Worm Defaces Websites…What Does that Mean for Process Automation?
One of the reasons Linux has been touted for use in embedded control systems is its resistance to attack by worms and viruses. Security consultants have been warning against this complacent attitude for years, but now it is reaching critical mass.
Posted on Monday, Dec 20 on Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor blog was a comment by security guru Rick Hellewell: “A new work dubbed Santy or php/chaploit is rapidly defacing web sites running the phpBB discussion forum software. The worm uses a Google search to find web sites running that software; the search string used is inurl:phpbb inurl:viewtopic. A Google search using that string will find over one million hits; so there are many sites using this software. Once a site is found, the worm then uses a vulnerability in that software to overwrite various “php” and “htm” files with a message “This site is defaced!!!” Some reports indicate that the worm may also install a ‘root kit’, which allows the hacker full access to the server. An MSN search for those text strings will find over 37,000 sites that have been successfully attacked. There is a workaround until a fix is released; web site operators using the phpBB software should immediately enable that workaround, and monitor for updates. I suspect that many of your readers might have this software installed on their personal Linux servers. It does not appear to infect user computers, only Linux servers running the phpBB software. Some anti-virus software is providing detection at this time, but the threat is evolving.”
As the number of Linux servers and clients increases so too will their vulnerability to the same kinds of attacks currently plaguing Microsoft Windows operating systems. How this will affect process automation is clear. It isn’t a solution to say that we should run away from Windows, and embrace Linux. What we have to do is to make computer security so easy to do that people will actually do the things they need to do to make their systems secure. –Walt
Linux Worm Defaces Websites…What Does that Mean for Process Automation? One of the reasons Linux has been touted for use in embedded control systems is its resistance to attack by worms and viruses. Security consultants have been warning against this complacent attitude for years, but now it is reaching critical mass. Posted on Monday, Dec 20 on Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor blog was a comment by security guru Rick Hellewell: “A new work dubbed Santy or php/chaploit is rapidly defacing web sites running the phpBB discussion forum software. The worm uses a Google search to find web sites running that software; the search string used is inurl:phpbb inurl:viewtopic.
A Google search using that string will find over one million hits; so there are many sites using this software. Once a site is found, the worm then uses a vulnerability in that software to overwrite various “php” and “htm” files with a message “This site is defaced!!!” Some reports indicate that the worm may also install a ‘root kit’, which allows the hacker full access to the server. An MSN search for those text strings will find over 37,000 sites that have been successfully attacked.
There is a workaround until a fix is released; web site operators using the phpBB software should immediately enable that workaround, and monitor for updates. I suspect that many of your readers might have this software installed on their personal Linux servers. It does not appear to infect user computers, only Linux servers running the phpBB software. Some anti-virus software is providing detection at this time, but the threat is evolving.”
As the number of Linux servers and clients increases so too will their vulnerability to the same kinds of attacks currently plaguing Microsoft Windows operating systems. How this will affect process automation is clear. It isn’t a solution to say that we should run away from Windows, and embrace Linux. What we have to do is to make computer security so easy to do that people will actually do the things they need to do to make their systems secure.