Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s the main purpose of automation was to eliminate labor. Actually, that’s pretty much been the main purpose of automation since the first machine of any kind was rolled onto a factory floor hundreds of years ago.
Every day we talk to manufacturers who are struggling with questions about their DCS migration. The risks involved. The business case. How to get started. We understand your concerns and what’s at stake for your organization — and your career. To help you get the information you need, we’re sponsoring a free webinar in conjunction with the ISA called Straight Talk on DCS Migration.
One problem we face when developing an automation solution is managing and organizing the vast amounts data that are needed. This applies to numerous scenarios, whether it is developing a tracking system, controlling conveyors, or discrete machine control. Not only is the organization of the data important to the control system directly, graphics development is equally concerned.
This trail of breadcrumbs has led us back to ISO 13849-1:2006, Safety of Machinery – Safety-Related Parts of Control Systems. This new standard is the basis for the PL and B10d ratings you see on many safety devices today. The ratings are ranked “a” through “e” in increasing risk to the operator, with “e” being the greatest risk. Within this standard, the EN-954 categories for circuit types survive, but are only part of the implementation. More common-sense approaches are allowed, taking into account variables such as mean time to dangerous failure (MTTFd) for devices, monitoring devices for failure, circuit types (cat.1-4), and even those hazards which cannot be guarded without impeding the work to be done (such as PPE, signage, training, etc.). All of these are on the table if the situation supports them. ISO 13849-1:2006 was developed with the support of ANSI, as this organization supplied representative engineers to help with development of this standard. ANSI is a contributing member of ISO standards development and adoption boards.
A few years ago, I was working with an internal integration group for a manufacturing company which had facilities in many domestic and international locations. One of the initiatives I had undertaken was to redevelop procedures for assessing safety hazards on automated equipment.
Take a look at the people in your control room: you probably see a lot of gray hair. How many of those individuals are still going to be there in another three or five years? To answer this question, we need to look at the retirement rate of the baby boomers that are now between the ages of 55 to 65. On January 1, 2011, the first baby boomers turned 65. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, dated January 30, 2008, the retirement of baby boomers will affect the overall economy and our industries until the year 2020. The industries affected most will be those that have been part of the structure of the U.S. industry buildup: steel and primary metals, power generation, paper makers, forestry, and so on.
In my last discussion on OEE I mentioned that when I’m asked the question “where should I get started with improvements on the shop floor?” I usually answer that OEE is the best place to start.
I recently sat down with an automation manager responsible for a subsection of a large manufacturing business. His company is embarking on an effort to standardize the use of process control narratives for all automation projects. To my surprise, the concept of process narratives was new to him. He didn't understand their purpose. But he was intrigued and asked many good questions I was happy to answer.