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Automation replacing people
How do you rationalise situations in which machines replace workers?
By Marc Sinclair on 28 July, 2000 - 9:00 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
Recently I designed a machine which automated a process in a food
factory. The installation was commissioned on the line with the manual workers standing by.
On completion of the commissioning the manual workers were 'released' (sacked). One gleaming new machine, five less people! I found this a strange situation as those workers had helped me in the early stages of machine development and now they were no longer needed. I was interested in how members of the list rationalised these situations.

marc sinclair

By Walt Boyes on 28 July, 2000 - 9:05 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
It is a serious pity that our culture militates against the teaching of ethics in b-school and e-school.

I've done the same thing. I sure didn't feel good about it. And the one time I was called in to look at automating a process which was currently run by one human "expert system" per shift when I had to say that it couldn't be done in an automated fashion I felt a sort of perverse glee.

It isn't good enough to say that workers must now be responsible for their own training and therefore they should be ready to be let go at any time. That's an ethical cop out.

And it is often difficult (read "impossible") to say, "I won't do this work because it will surplus 5 people." In the first place, someone else _will_ do the project, and you _do_ have to eat. About the only thing that you gain is the other guy gets the bad karma (assuming you believe in that sort of thing).

It isn't properly a subject that the project engineer, alone, can deal with. What needs to happen is that managements need to be proactive in assisting displaced workers, finding them places in their organization, or helping them to find outplacement.

Otherwise, you get to be, as somebody described a company to me the other day, "the sort of company that made unions and strikes necessary."

Walt Boyes

By Kevin Wixom on 28 July, 2000 - 2:07 pm

[Originally posted 2/2/1998]
To list,

This topic surely has touched everyone. But, technology changes and society must change with it. I'm sure there were many blacksmiths, stable
owners, wagon makers, and sailmakers that would not vote for cars, gasoline engines, or non-wind driven ships.

How do you make sure it doesn't happen to you??? Unless you inherited lots of money, the only answer is to make sure you have a skill that
society needs and will pay for. Period. (ok, ok, winning the lottery might be another method but I wouldn't count on it)

Don't fool yourself into thinking that YOU don't "contribute" to the effect. Every time you email this list asking for help, comments, advice,
etc., it means you are doing your job more efficiently and your employer needs fewer employees with which to solve problems, get products to market, etc. Everytime you email someone, there is no letter to mail -
contributing to fewer paper mill operators, ink factory workers, postal carriers, etc.

The issue of re-training about-to-be-displaced workers is a valid concern and a separate, but related, issue. Companies many times forget the morale impact of "sacking" workers and the potential in re-training already loyal employees. The cost of training people can be high, especially if they get trained and get better jobs elsewhere. But, what if you DON'T train them and they stay? Then, you are forced into unpleasant alternatives to survive as a company.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth.

Kevin Wixom
kwixom@tsc.net

By John Kowal on 28 July, 2000 - 3:19 pm

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
This snippet from Kevin Wixom brings up a question:

>The cost of training people can be high, especially if they get
>trained and get better jobs elsewhere.

A US colleague of mine who's now working at a Philips machinefabrik in Holland was amazed at the in-depth training of machinists there.

Apprentices spend three years learning not just how to operate a CNC, but physics, math, metallurgy, etc. Afterward, the workers are expected to be loyal, and of course, most European political and cultural systems encourage staying at the same job.

Now, a top notch tool & die maker in the US, such as my brother-in-law, can move anywhere he wants, and he's done so. But he never received formal training from an employer, and paid for his own
technical school tuition.

Would long term contracts in return for training help US mfrs acquire and retain workforces with the right skills, or am I naive?
Or are highly skilled "knowledge workers" better off as free agents in the US?


John Kowal
Account Manager
The Brady Company

Marketing o Advertising o Public relations
email: jkowal@bradyco.com N80 W12878 Fond du Lac Avenue
T: 414 255 0100 Menomonee Falls, WI 53051-4410
F: 414 255 3388

By Walt Boyes on 1 August, 2000 - 10:45 am

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
John Kowal wrote:
>
> Now, a top notch tool & die maker in the US, such as my brother-in-
> law, can move anywhere he wants, and he's done so. But he never
> received formal training from an employer, and paid for his own
> technical school tuition.
>
> Would long term contracts in return for training help US mfrs
> acquire and retain workforces with the right skills, or am I naive?
> Or are highly skilled "knowledge workers" better off as free agents
> in the US?

Kowal makes an interesting point. Very few people recognize a trained instrumentation technician or a tool and die maker as a
knowledge worker, but they are! So is a master machinist, and so are many other "hourly workers" from years past. It is in a company's best interest to offer as much training and incentive to keep these knowledge workers as they can, because if it is done with the right attitude by the company, it will reinforce the loyalty
needed to keep these workers for years and years....

....how will unions deal with their members asking for individual contracts because of their specialized knowledge?

Walt Boyes

By Ebert Dave on 28 July, 2000 - 9:07 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
How do you think that the project/new machine was justified?
By DL (direct labor) take-out!

Actually, we do install new machinery for more reasons than just labor reduction: quality improvement, process control/accuracy, throughput increase, SAFETY, etc.

Dave Ebert
Acting Manager, VLS Equipment Development
Thomson Consumer Electronics
Marion, IN, USA

By Ramer-1, Carl on 28 July, 2000 - 9:08 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
Rationalize it? Nope, that's not part of my charter. Expect it, admit it openly to the people who help me as I design a system, and sympathize with them, yes.

Webster's 9th New College Dictionary says automation is "3: automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process or system by
mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human organs of observation, effort and decision"

If anyone working in a process that can be automated doesn't see the risk to their livelihood, they will become technofodder, consumed by the rampant march of "progress". Does that make me and the rest of the folks on this list agents of destruction and despair? No. I wasn't born into this line of work, rather evolved from previous employments, and will continue to do so while I wish to remain employable at my current salary. How much of my job is automated now compared to 5 or 10 years ago? A lot! How many SCADA systems were around 20 years ago, and today? Is control system design "automated" now compared to stacking a
bank of relays on a backboard and stringing a mile of wire?

I suspect many people on this list have dragged themselves up from the shop floor and evolved into what they are now. And if they were to go
look at the position they once held, would find it filled by a PLC or some other device they now specify in their systems.

No need to rationalize what you do for a living. If it were not for people like the ones this list serves, we might still be planting corn with a pointed stick and praying to the weather gods for rain.

Carl Ramer

By John Kowal on 28 July, 2000 - 9:09 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
I've been on this list since 1995, and this is the first time I can
recall a discussion at the gut-level, re: displacement of workers by automation.

Thoughts for the list:

1) yes, the operative word is "rationalize," because in this case, apparently, automation = job loss, not reassignment, retraining or better work environment. Do we try to make ourselves feel better, and say "oh well," or would addressing this issue within the automation community be better for the economy and for the public opinion of automation?

2) in a macro view, you can look at those fired workers as casualties in battle for global competitiveness, etc. That is cold, but would you have your job if you did not keep your skills current, etc.?

3) Do we feel any obligation, personal or corporate, to sell automation only to companies who demonstrate how they will help displaced workers with outplacement, education, etc.?

John Kowal


John Kowal
Account Manager
The Brady Company

Marketing o Advertising o Public relations
email: jkowal@bradyco.com N80 W12878 Fond du Lac Avenue
T: 414 255 0100 Menomonee Falls, WI 53051-4410
F: 414 255 3388

By R A Peterson on 28 July, 2000 - 11:11 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
I don't feel too sorry that people are sometimes displaced (read sacked - laid off - etc). It is usually a temporary thing, and it is absolutely necessary
that progress be made, even at the expense of a few jobs here and there (except mine, of course).

Seriously, the fact of the matter is that people will have their lives changed by what we do. I suspect that most of these changes are for the better, but a few are not, or at least are perceived that way. I am sure, however, that if
i didn't do it, and no one else did it either, that the company would eventually die for lack of a quality widget to sell at a competitive price.

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
1. Was the job being done by the people dirty, dangerous, repetitive?
2. Could the people be reasonably expected to maintain the required performance for extended periods? (e.g., picking out faulty oranges from a line)?
3. Can the product be sold at a competitive rate and still pay the workers a living wage? (If not, the alternative may be a lot more people "down the road" when the company goes belly up.)


Bruce
Bruce Durdle
bmdurdle@taranaki.ac.nz

By Neil Waddell on 28 July, 2000 - 9:12 am

[Originally posted 1/29/1998]
Hello Marc Sinclair,

In my experience people are not permanently replaced by automation. Automation helps do a better job at a lower cost. What you have done
is saved the jobs of the everyone else in the plant. If you do not do all you can to process better food at a lower cost, your compition will.
If the competition wins in a big way your plant will be eliminated. Therefore you helped all the other workers in your plant. However, I would hope that management would not be so hard as to sack your five people but wait for attrition to lower the work force and retrain one or two of the five to help you maintain the new equipment and even help you develop more automation. The best thing we can do for our fellow employees is to find more ways to process product better and at a lower cost.

Neil Waddell
Stoughton Trailers

By Ken Roach on 28 July, 2000 - 9:14 am

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
It's a jarring scene Marc depicts, having your machine go online and send five people packing. One gleaming automaton destroys five livelihoods. An odd but very common thing, to feel guilty about an accomplishment.

"Rationalization" is the right word: Using reason and thought to understand an emotion or instinct. And I have two:

When I was seventeen, I got my first real job as a production welder at Alaskan Copper Works in Seattle. One of the things I did was use a balky
pantograph to convert part profiles into NC machine code. Three months later I had an IBM AT converting the profiles automatically and I had fixed the CNC and torch gantry and... I had obsoleted _myself_. And I'm no longer a welder.

The second rationalization for the "morality of automation" is the many occasions when I've attended a machine breakdown and been thrust into the role of doing the automated machine's task by hand- you did it too, Marc, didn't you? Building a machine that deprives a man of his shift of
backbreaking drudgery is nothing I feel ashamed of. Ask any draft horse how he feels about diesel engines.

John Henry died with a hammer in his hand because he only knew how to swing a hammer.

Ken Roach
Rockwell Automation
Seattle, WA

By Derek Jones on 28 July, 2000 - 1:59 pm
1 out of 1 members thought this post was helpful...

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
Ken Roach from Rockwell, John Kowal of The Brady Company and Neil
Waddell from Stoughton Trailers have the grasp of this issue. If the point is going to be debated, though, you have to maintain a strict difference in the debate between micro and macro economics. Something that is tragic in the particular may be beneficial in the general. When a wildebeest on the Serengetti Plain sadly succumbs to the lion's
predation, it would be absurd to respond by preventing lions from hunting. If a family member or friend loses their job due to an influx of automation, our natural instinct is to rail against a heartless employer even though we can simultaneously acknowledge the possibility
that the employer's pruning will create a net beneficial effect in the longer term. Generally speaking, employers who sack people unnecessarily
usually have the consequences of their foolishness visited upon them and don't ultimately survive.

Ideally, redundancy should be seen as (and indeed, is for many) an opportunity to upgrade skills, improve qualifications and/ or retrain.
IMHO the debate, if its going to do any good, should concentrate on the obstacles and barriers to people re-joining an increasingly
technology-based economy.

We might start for example, by examining what part we play in creating these barriers. As engineers, we are often guilty of rendering
technology innaccessible and even frightening to people who didn't enjoy the benefit of an engineering education - and even those who were
educated a few cycles ago, but didn't keep up.

We insist on using gobbledey-gook words and if we can't find an obscure, confusing term for something - we invent one with relish. We all too
often take an active pleasure in writing undocumented code that no-one (not even ourselves after a while) can figure out, let alone those
people whose livelyhoods depend on the process being controlled. We systematically err on the side of over-complexity and happily justify
this with the extra "features" we have created (even if they don't actually work) without feeling any need to question whether there is
any real economic (much less social or environmental) justification for what we are doing.

Let's face it, we engineers have big egos and we love erecting monuments to our self-perceived cleverness. As a breed, we have reduced the
effective economic life cycle of most technology to approx 3 years and yet we take great satisfaction in claiming that the fruits of our labour will last for 20 years! We, who uniquely understand the folly of positive feedback loops, have majestically created this crazy technology
race, a self-perpetuating arena of bloody combat, and then, it seems, loftily tut-tut at the advent of casualties.

Maybe we should try a to follow the example set by Rufus Smith and engage more in an examination of what the future consequences of our endeavours may be. I certainly believe we should be better prepared to communicate about technology and its prospective consequences in terms more accessible to the public at large.

Food for thought?

Best regards
Derek Jones

By David Lawton Mars on 31 July, 2000 - 8:46 am
1 out of 1 members thought this post was helpful...

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
Derek

I do agree with some of the things you state. However, I think you are *wrong* to tar all control people with the same brush. I personally pride myself on the level of documentation I provide in the software I write, and furthermore, run training courses for our maintenance people to ensure that they grasp it. Sure, some don't get it, but I'm making the effort. This effort is positively received by *everyone* involved at our
company on the maintenance side, and they appreciate the effort I put in. Okay, so I've got the so-called high-flying degree, and some of the code I write can be complex *when it needs to be*.
As I say, most of what you wrote is probably true, but there are a few control people out here who are actually *HUMAN*, and do understand the impact their systems can have on a 24 hour a day, 364 days a year production plant.
Regards
David.

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
When computer revolution began, many said that computers would be bad for the economy because they would replace workers. While computers have taken the jobs of many workers, they have created many more higher paying jobs.

Did Thomas Edison do a bad thing by virtually eliminating the profession of candlestick making?

By RGB Consultants Pvt. Ltd. on 28 July, 2000 - 9:16 am

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
Dear Marc Sinclair,

In India, this problem of replacement of manpower by Automation system is hurdle for carrying out big automation job. It is not because of worker
opposition. It is more economic to have workers to do the job that the price of complete automation. However labor have their own problems. So generally in India the automation comes in slowly. Usually the new workers are not recruited and automation is carried out.

But the fact remains that the manpower is replaced by automatic plant. Which is true for use computers in banks.

Umesh

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
It's not a pleasant thought, is it.

I remember when I was younger and naiver and working on our first machine and how exciting it was that the machine actually worked and could put out the same production faster and more reliably than a roomful of envelope-stuffing women (and I don't mean to be gender insensitive here). Until someone pointed out that that roomful of women were now out of their jobs.

Rationalizations I used (or was told) then:
1) The company will find them other similar work to do.
2) It's the kind of grunt work people shouldn't be doing if a machine can do it.
3) It's a service to the customer that the product is of better quality.
4) The savings could be passed down to the customer. (I don't think I was THAT naive!)
5) These jobs were typically second incomes and an excuse to get out of the house.
... rationalizations abound if you don't want to think too hard about them.

But this situation is not about to get better. If you think automation generates
this sort of (problem?, dilemma?, paradox?), look at what the INTERNET will cause:

The face of retailing will change. Bradlees department stores closed recently and I read that
JC Penney's is closing some stores. 4,000 people laid off. Some people blame Walmart.

But that will be the tip of the iceberg. Eventually people will buy many products they
normally shop for at stores, over the Internet (it's happening now). Imagine, at your fingertips, product reviews, product evaluations by fellow netizens, followed by automated agents that will track down the lowest price or quickest delivery. Sounds like a deal for the consumer, right?

But then who would then need salespeople? warehouse people? (the warehouses will also be largely automated or maybe there are no warehouses because the internet allows the manufacturer to build to the orders received that day), maintenance people? (not many needed to take care of the machines, because the machine will tell the human what needs to be replaced/fixed/washed/adjusted)

We'll just have more truck drivers to drive the stuff to your home.

What about the services that depend on the patronage of those people? Restaurants. Doctors. Vinyl Siding Salesmen (oh that's right, no salesmen - only installation people).

I am getting a little carried away here by my touched nerve.

Illigitimi Non Carborundum! (sic)

Hakuna Matata!

Think Happy Thoughts!

RufusVS@aol.com

By David Lawton Mars on 28 July, 2000 - 9:19 am

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
Marc
It isn't nice to think that individuals are "out of work" due to your actions - I have a similar role to the example you gave (also in food industry). I would counter the negatives with the following;

1. Automation itself generates many jobs for (other) people - OEMs, application engs, software eng, hardware eng etc etc.

2. More complex factories open more opportunities for maintenance and support roles (maintenance personnel, service engineers etc).

3. It provides solutions to applications where "manual handling" is an issue and thus prevents people becoming injured from their work.

4. It is inevitable in competitive industry, that businesses want to undercut competitors and offer the customer the most cost-effective solution. If some businesses chose not to employ such technology to improve their competitive
edge, there would be a higher chance of even more people being out of work i.e. business failure.

As it goes, it is the survival of the fittest.....
David.

[Originally posted 2/2/1998]
at our company, at least in the politically incorrect tobacco side,

automation means re-assignment and re-training
for real - the company has a long term agreement with our unions on this subject

but... that aside we engineers should not feel guilty.... automation = productivity, quality, agility = competition = survival because of productivity we have 40 hour workweeks instead of 72, we have decent wages, productivity shared is good...

productivity gains greedily and exploitively reserved for management and/or stockholders is something else

it's the people who decide how the productivity is used that should wrestle with this one Henry Ford had some decent quotes on this subject....

Randy Sweeney
Philip Morris R&D

By john coppini on 28 July, 2000 - 9:22 am

I have another question for you: can anyone rationalize the economic rape of domestic engineers by the importation of migrant H1B foreign engineers under the fraud of a shortage of domestic USA engineers? There are PLENTY of qualified, experienced US engineers with maybe a few to many gray hairs to suit the greedy like Sun, Microsoft, HP, Intel, .com's, Cisco, etc., etc., etc.

John Coppini

By Bain, Steve/WDC on 28 July, 2000 - 11:09 am

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
In response to Marc Sinclair's question:

WARNING: This isn't straight techie stuff.

Thanks for thinking about this, Marc. I have two suggestions, one for Americans, the other for everyone:

1 Our society needs to begin planning toward shortening the workweek again. At the moment, we're going for "economic growth": we can produce more cars than we can drive, grow more food than is good for us to eat, build more houses than we can live in, burn more energy than we can replace, weave more cloth than we can wear, etc. For those of us who are thriving, it feels good at the moment, but the folks who've just been laid off are probably feeling pretty unhappy, and I wouldn't be surprised if history decides "manifest destiny" was one of America's worst concepts. Stopping progress won't help - as
Dave Ebert pointed out, automation has lots of benefits besides reduced labor - but there's little point in building 50% production overcapacity. We Americans can now provide for
all our needs, and most of our reasonable material desires, with less than 40 hours labor per week. It'll soon be time to do just that.

2 Suggestion 1 is fine for Americans, who have over-production capacity, but it doesn't help the one third of the world's population who go to bed hungry each night.
Suggestion 2 is for everyone. We need either:
2.1 An international moratorium on immigration/emigration
or
2.2 To take down all boundaries and allow complete freedom of movement

Both these are pretty radical by current standards, so let me explain: Our problem is that anyone can leave any country, but we only have to admit people who we like into our own
country. As a result, desirable countries admit people who are well-able to create wealth, and undesirable countries have no way to stop desirable countries from enticing away wealth-creating people. So the wealthy countries get wealthier and the poorer countries get poorer. It seems to me that we have to level this playing field either by stopping all migration, so that undesirable countries keep their wealth-creators, or by allowing all migration, so desirable countries get their share of all types of people.

Both those alternatives are far out, and there are certainly many intermediate compromises. For example, we could negotiate around possibilities such as:
. Anyone wanting to move from one country to another must find someone of equivalent ability to move in the other direction.
. Whenever people marry across national boundaries, they go to live in the less-desirable country.

I'm thoroughly apprised of the totalitarian aspects of these alternatives and I don't like them, but I think they may be better for the world in the long term than the status quo.
However if you really don't like the totalitarian alternatives, pick 2.2 - open the gates, take down the walls, and give the border guards and immigration officials productive work to do, so we can get to a 32-hour workweek sooner.

Steve Bain, smbain@erols.com
Speaking from experience: Naturalized Canadian born in South Africa and living in Washington DC.
Opinions are my own, etc.

By A. V. Pawlowski on 28 July, 2000 - 3:16 pm

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
I like idea 1. I have tried to work that way for many years when I
worked for myself. I did not retire, but I cut back my paid working hours, did more volunteer work and took more vacation. I simply set rates to give me an income that would have been the same as the average for someone working typical 40 hour weeks. Life was good.

Now I work for someone else again. In the Southeast yet. Life is not as good as it was. My experience is that you would be hard pressed to find one willing to share the wealth with employees to the extent of reduced hours. Most companies are just not that enlightened. I look forward to the time when they will be, or I start working for myself again (we probably don't need to guess which will be first).

I had not thought about ideas 2.1 and 2.2. They seem reasonable, but that good old capitalistic "greed factor" probably makes idea 1 more
radical than ideas 2.1 and 2.2

By Hevelton Araujo Junor on 31 July, 2000 - 8:48 am

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
I think that your suggestion to Americans (shorter work week) can be
applied for everyone. In highly industrialized countries, I believe that it is the only effective way to distribute the wealth; other countries can do other things, like land reform, state sponsored constructions, etc. But sticking to the issue at hand (Automation replacing people), my opinion is that the first thing we should do is to do a research/poll to find out the real numbers. Automation people (and I am one of them) say that automation creates more jobs than it takes away; non-automation people say differently. So we should have an independent research to determine the true facts and discuss from there. I personally believe that automation
eliminates more jobs than it creates. And it is only reasonable, since what we do is to have that once were done manually, to be done automatically. And I don't think that the re-placement/re-train can work very effectively
most of the time, because we need different people to do different things (I would certainly appreciate Mr. Sweeney's words on how that is done at PM). I believe that we have to face the fact that the work we do (automation) does cause people to lose their jobs, and at the rate technology is changing, these numbers (of people being replaced by automation) tend to grow. WE have to start looking for alternatives, like sorter work week, because the problem, I believe, is just starting.

Hevelton Araujo Junior
IHM Engenharia e Sistemas de Automação LTDA
hevelton@task.com.br

By Ramer-1, Carl on 1 August, 2000 - 2:07 pm

[Originally posted 2/5/1998]
I tend to disagree with a good portion of the above. The Industrial Revolution isn't just starting, it's been here through all of my
lifetime.

Innovation in any industrial process is likely to reduce the need for "dumb" labor. Can you imagine how demeaning, boring and dehumanizing a
job like filling the bottles in a Coca Cola plant would be for a human? It reminds me of having water buffalo walking in a circle tied to a yoke
for pumping water.

I agree that the best way to speak from fact rather than opinion is through a study. Perhaps the next student who write to the list could
take on the task for his or her thesis. I certainly don't have the time and resources, and wouldn't believe a government study on the subject. My opinion on the issue is that populations continue to grow. The only way that's possible is if enough food, water etc., is available to sustain them, and sufficient income available to the population to acquire those commodities. Is it "noble" work? Who knows. My job is to improve industrial processes. Some people consider that with less esteem than prostitution. I consider some professions with high regard, others with less. But I sleep well because my conscience is clear.

The personal opinion of:

Carl Ramer, Sr. Engineer
Controls & Protective Systems Design
EG&G Florida

By Hevelton Araujo on 2 August, 2000 - 8:56 am

[Originally posted 2/5/1998]

>>Carl Ramer wrote:
>>I tend to disagree with a good portion of the above. The Industrial
>>Revolution isn't just starting, it's been here through all of my lifetime.
>> <clip>

Industrial Revolution has been around long before any of us got here. But never in history have things (in general) changed as fast as we are seeing today. And, IMHO, it tends to change even faster. I agree that the enough basic resources
(food, water, etc) are the essentials for a future society. But you touched on an very important point, which is "sufficient income available to the population to acquire those commodities". Automation, IF IT DOES REALLY COST JOBS, causes the newly automated company to increase its quality and/or productivity and, thus, to increase its profits (some of this increase comming from the "income" of the workers
who lost their jobs). Imagine this being done all over the world, we are talking about more wealth concentration, making the "income" not sufficient for all the people. What, IMHO, has to be done is to find other ways to distribute the wealth in order to have a stable (at least in today's standards, which, IMHO, are very low) society. Someone has pointed out the education is the key that answers this problem. I personally agree with that.

Best Regards,

Hevelton Araujo Junior
IHM Engenharia e Sistemas de Automação LTDA
hevelton@task.com.br

PS.: Opinioes are my own, etc ...

By Ramer-1, Carl on 2 August, 2000 - 12:01 pm

[Originally posted 2/6/1998]
Hevelton Araujo Junior wrote:

>Automation, IF IT DOES REALLY COST JOBS, causes the
>newly automated company to increase its quality and/or productivity and,
>thus, to
>increase its profits (some of this increase comming from the "income" of the
>workers
>who lost their jobs).

Many assumptions in that statement, and if we accept them all, then you've described the kind of company that is trying to stay in business.
Any well run, reasonably moral company would also use some of the profits to expand the business and create more jobs. That's a fairly
classic model anyway.

>Imagine this being done all over the world, we are talking
>about more wealth concentration, making the "income" not sufficient for all
>the
>people.

Then the level of starvation would limit or reduce the population and create less demand for the products and services being provided by the
few who hold all the wealth. There has to be demand for any supply side producer to make money.

>What, IMHO, has to be done is to find other ways to distribute the wealth
>in order to have a stable (at least in today's standards, which, IMHO, are
>very low)
>society.

I think the USSR tried a little experiment along those lines a while back. That model didn't work too well, but there are alternatives for sure.

>Someone has pointed out the education is the key that answers this problem.
>I personally agree with that.

I get in trouble on a regular basis for saying that, but it's so basic that no argument can stand against it. Even if you happen to like
biblical adages, "teach a man to fish, don't give a man a fish" has been with us for a long time and is still valid. As was pointed out, the
rate of change in technology has created a demand for faster and more teaching, but most taxing authorities in the USA don't place a high enough priority on funding education. We get under educated people slammed into a technologically demanding workplace and they frequently become the first casualties when "machines" take over. Maybe we need to automate the teaching profession next. :-) Has anyone seen an advertisement for a PTC (Programmable Training Controller) yet.

Carl Ramer

By Kevin Maguire on 2 August, 2000 - 1:25 pm

[Originally posted 2/10/1998]
I think we all agree that "sacking" employees replaced by automation is an unfortunate byproduct of technical advancement. And it would be nice if all companies cross-trained employees instead.

Unfortunately, the "teach a man to fish..." adage doesn't work with people who don't want to learn how to fish.

Be useful or useless. It is their choice.

Gov't cannot prevent this. Carl, your point about the USSR is right on.

Darwin was right.

Cold? Yes. Cruel? Maybe.

That is the world that we live in.

Can we have advancement without competition?

Tell your children and your loved ones to pay attention and not take anything for granted.

Kevin Maguire

By Steve Bain on 2 August, 2000 - 1:44 pm

[Originally posted 2/11/1998]
Mon, 9 Feb 1998 13:25:0, Kevin Maguire referenced Darwinism and Communism, and asked
"Can we have advancement without competition?"

Competition's good, Kevin. Maybe we wouldn't
be where we are without it. But one of the
characteristics of people is that we can
cooperate. Competition's good, cooperation's
better. Hence the existence of this list.

Steve Bain

By Leon Dionne on 23 December, 2000 - 1:03 am

Referencing "Darwinism" was predictable. Unfortunately, Darwin has become just a little obsolescent, and qualifies for some retraining!

In nature, 'arms races' occur between different species, but within a species (and after all, we presumably are discussing members of our species), other dynamics come into play.

Richard Dawkins wrote two excellent books on evolutionary theory, called "The Blind Watchmaker" and "The Selfish Gene". In one of the two (sorry, I don't have them handy), he described a dynamic system that finds a resting place in what is called an 'evolutionary stable strategy', or ESS.

Imagine two strains of the same species who have propensities to pursue different strategies in replication. One is 'promiscuous', and the other is 'chaste'. The 'chaste' faction is very cautious about choosing a mate and invests a lot of time in doing so. Their progeny enjoy the benefit of receiving a relatively high level of care by well selected parents. Now introduce a 'promiscuous' member of the species, and that member has the possibility of producing a larger number of offspring, because it gets down to business much sooner, and gets more opportunities to pass down it's genes, including the genes that give it the propensity for promiscuousness.

Introducing the promiscuous strain will upset the balance that was achieved by the relatively 'chaste' strain. But the road to promiscuousness is not unending. At some point, it will no longer be a benefit to be promiscuous, especially once the whole population has gone over to being that strategy. The pendulum may swing back and forth a bit, but it will always hover around the point that is called the 'evolutionary stable strategy'.

With regards to the speed of technological advancement, there are factors keep it in check. I'm sure that you are all aware of this, having faced resistance to change. In the 'macro' view, this is the situation of a species that is teeter tottering back and forth over a pivotal stable strategy.

Why does it hurt? Because nature is not too concerned with the fortunes of any one individual. If a society pushes the envelope such that it is no longer serving the interests of the average man, then the pendulum WILL swing back towards the point where it WILL serve his/her interests. While that pendulum is swinging far away from the comfort level of some (or even most), then there will be pain.

Better than railing against Nature as we perceive her, we should concern ourselves with the abuse of power by the few. One poster asked the question 'how would unions feel about individual employees determining their own contracts in order to get guaranteed training?' While unions may have ostensibly been set up to benefit the interests of the workforce, the question that arises is: 'according to who?' As surely as an electron in a copper wire will fill the 'hole' created by the de-ionization of a neighboring copper atom, someone will set themselves up as the 'authority' to answer that question - usually with the betterment of their own interests being the end result.

(There is also an ESS involved in that dynamic too, with the interests of the 'leader' being weighed against the interests of the 'lead'.)

Engineers don't usually enter the field primarily from a quest for power or wealth. Not in the beginning at least. An interest in the sciences and the natural world is primarily motivated by the natural desire to gain mastery over a part of the physical world for the purpose of one's own survival. This is such a benevolent enterprise that a 'need' for rationalization merits examination.

At some point, each of us looked at the world we live in and asked ourselves how we can utilize what is available to us. If some people did not choose to do this, the question that we need to be asking is: why not? What is it that prevents them from following this very natural course of action?

I believe the answer is that we are being taught to accept and obey 'authority'. The state's monopoly on education is the cornerstone of this development. Once the state assumed the role of cradle-to-grave provider of not only education but security, then the responsibility for one's life no longer became the primary focus of the individual, but was entrusted to the state.

"Not in America" you ask? Look at the mountains of regulations, laws and the onerous tax code, all designed to poke and prod Americans into behaving in state-sanctioned ways. To the extent that the state endeavors to think for it's citizens, to that extent an essential element of our lives is taken away. That element is judgement. Where there is no freedom, there can be no reward - and no responsibilty.

The concept of achieving a static level of 'training' is foreign to me. I don't expect to ever stop learning. But I am self-taught, having taken this course in opposition to the culture and community that raised me.

Do I learn all that I can, whenever I can? I can't say that I do. At some point, I have to rest, and we all do so (I hope!)

So, when I think about displacing someone, I think that it's probably going to hurt them for a little while, but not in the long run. It may do them good overall. It's a challenge they face, but far be it from me to assume that they are not up to the challenge! Better to respect their ability, and expect that once they stop doing something that I can design and program a relatively stupid little PLC-controlled machine to do, they are off to bigger and better things in the real world out there.

Ascribing to your neighbors the qualities of a pre-programmed device, discounting their creativity and industriousness, then loading yourself up with guilt for sins against this strawman, is not my idea of morality.

By Topher G on 20 May, 2005 - 5:15 pm

Automation isn't man's best friend, just man's other best friend.

By Jobe, John W on 1 August, 2000 - 2:09 pm

[Originally posted 2/5/1998]
> I believe that we have to face the fact that the work we do
> (automation)
> does cause people to lose their jobs, and at the rate technology is
> changing,
> these numbers (of people being replaced by automation) tend to grow.
> WE have
> to start looking for alternatives, like sorter work week, because the
> problem, I believe, is just starting.

While I certainly see your point, I think you discount the fact that those resources, human and capital, become available for another organization to employ. If an organization saves N dollars by employing automation, it will use those N dollars for investment in other ventures, or possibly to help finance the growth of the organization, thus creating *more* jobs.

Ultimately, the only true resource is the power of human intellect and creativity. A buggy-whip builder may be overtaken by technology; but by use of his mind and his creativity, he can become a PLC programmer. The human brain is far more flexible, I think, than to be permanently unemployable because a given type of work is no longer available.

By Shashank Goel on 28 July, 2000 - 11:10 am

[Originally posted 1/31/1998]
Hello Everybody,

I would like to point out following things:

1. If manual work was inefficient , slow and costly thing to do , how could you have thought about survival of organisation in changing global scenario of competition. The organisation would have sunk, taking all employees along with these five. Who would be blamed for this?, we as control
engineers , who did not provide economical solutions.

2. More important point is that organisation should have prepared these personnel for this eventuality , and trained them for doing something
better and much more value added jobs . In actuality automation should replace positions, not sack people .

Best of luck

Shashank goel

By Tom Kirby on 28 July, 2000 - 11:13 am

[Originally posted 1/30/1998]
Pardon my soap box, but you struck a nerve here...

The implication here is that the direct effect of automation is job loss. I think this is a misconception. It was not the machine that
caused the workers to be fired, but the employer. In this, as in all things in life, a person's actions are driven by their priorities. In this case the employer cared more about short term company profits than about whether his ex-employees would be able to survive without any
income.

Unfortunately, many employers still treat their employees as a commodity to be bought, sold and used as needed, instead of as fellow human beings. I feel an employer, by hiring a person, accepts a certain moral responsibility for that person's welfare. For me, this is not some "nice extra fluff," but the basic overhead for doing business.

This employer was not very bright. Just think how many devoted, happy workers he will have when they all realize that they could be canned on a moment's notice, just like throwing out the trash. I'm sure they will be very concerned about the quality of their work, too.

It's like when you were a kid: "You can have the puppy, but you have to feed him."

So, am I responsible for those workers being fired? Should I not sell that machine to company X because I know they will fire their workers?
Should I recycle because it's good for the environment? Should I not invest in tobacco stocks because it kills people? Like I said, it's a judgement call, isn't it? Sometimes you have to pay for your principles.

Tom Kirby
Richmond Automation Design, Inc.
804-262-6029
804-262-6421 FAX
tkirby@ricauto.com
www.ricauto.com

By Joe Gaglio on 28 July, 2000 - 12:43 pm

[Originally posted 2/2/1998]
Marc,
You have just been involved in a very difficult situation. But consider the following alternatives:
1. Someone else would have done the same if the contract went to another company,
2. A competitive food factory could have and may in the future do the same in order stay competitive.
3. the workers in that plant are competing with workers around the world who work for a few dollars a day. Unfortunately, world-wide competition is here to stay and it's very competitive.

For years I sold PLCs and other factory automation products and realized that the application of my products put people out of work. If I didn't sell them, someone else would and I would be out of a job. Not a nice
thought, but realistic.

For a small amount of comfort consider this: you did not put these people out of work. The food company did with their decision to purchaes the
equipment in the first place. They could have reassigned and/or re-trained these people for other jobs - assuming that jobs would be available.

So don't blame yourself. Just think of all the accountants put out of work by Lotus and Excel. Think of the travel agents who have been replaced by direct ticketing on the Web.

Wouldn't it be great if lawyers and politicians could be replaced in a similar fashion!

Joe Gaglio
Rochester Instrument Systems
255 N. Union St.
Rochester, NY 14605
(716)-238-4078

By Rick Roth on 28 July, 2000 - 12:45 pm

[Originally posted 2/2/1998]
Hi, All:

This is an important and sensitive issue.

This is especially relevant in smaller communities, like mine, in northwest BC. I am involved in a project whose justification is 'reduced manpower leading to lower cost xxxxx production'. Nothing else - savings are expected from more efficient use of energy, less wear and tear of production equipment, less motorized
vehicle repair, and so on.

I casually mentioned the name of this project, and was 'bush whacked' by a tradesman regarding 'job losses'. He ended his verbal tirade with the comment that Henry Ford had offered his men $5 a day so that they could be potential 'buyers'.

I had to tell him that Henry did not have to compete with Toyota and Hundai!

Its a tough issue for sure - but when management looks at cost per tonne to produce product xxx, and they compare across four of their own plants plus those of their competitors, you can bet the
farm that the high cost producer is not going to be around past the first market downturn!

It's not pretty, but it a fact of life in the '90s.

Rick.................

By Woodard, Ken on 28 July, 2000 - 2:15 pm

[Originally posted 2/2/1998]
In the early 1980's, we developed a computer controlled electrochemical
process that today would be called a light's out factory. It has run commercially since 1990. No new people were added to integrate it into an
existing facility. It didn't create employment, it runs so well that one of our customers using the technology wants to convert the control system to another vendor because the maintenance people know the other product so much better because they have to work on it all the time. When you are successful in creating a no maintenance, no people attention necessary
systems, it is very difficult to justify maintaining skill levels necessary to cope with the problem that might arise. Thank heaven for modems and the people that developed the system. They can diagnose and repair worldwide from one central source. This is a changing world. We have been at the future and see what's coming! People will have a different role in the automated production systems of the next millenium.

By Nick Nixon on 28 July, 2000 - 1:07 pm

A previous plant wide system installation left 15 people reassigned (not "Fired" mind you).
First, the people would actually produce about 1 hour a day in their old position. The rest of the time was spent napping, reading, placing bets etc. (I saw or heard all of this over 2 years on site)
Second, their new positions required more attention so their employer actually got 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay - seems fairer.
Third, Yes, it was a government job.

By John Palmisano on 28 July, 2000 - 1:56 pm

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
This is certainly the first time I can remember a thread like this being explored on this listserv.

Has anyone made the connection to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s "Player Piano"?

John P.

By John Fridye on 28 July, 2000 - 2:04 pm

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
Today, unemployment is the lowest its been in over a decade, despite
many advances in automation. I believe that automation creates more opportunities than it takes away.

For those that advance their skill sets, the ensuing opportunities are more rewarding than the more menial tasks that are being replaced by automation.

If a company decides not to automate so as to keep more people employed, then that company is at a disadvantage compared to its competitors. It can lose business, go out of business, or be acquired by its competitors. Each of these scenarios also will most likely lead to job layoffs. However, if a company gains a competitive advantage via automation, it may actually have to increase staff to handle an increased market share.

The business market and job market are today very dynamic. People have to adapt. Adapting can be difficult or even painful for some people; and ideally if more help existed for helping these people adapt, then you might not feel so guilty.

By Willy Smith on 28 July, 2000 - 2:05 pm

[Originally posted 1/29/1998] What about all the previous centuries, when we nerds were forced to exist outside of our cubicles, perhaps farming, fishing, or selling cardamom pods? We're just getting even!

Anyway, for an opposing view (I notice that most of these posts justify automation), please see the complete unabomber manifesto at:

http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~mszydyk/unabomber/

;-) Willy Smith

By Johnson Lukose on 28 July, 2000 - 3:18 pm

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
May I suggest that yourself and your company are in a better position to appreciate the talents, skills and intellectual property of these people in
automating, testing and commissioning food processing systems.

Therefore you / your company is best placed to offer them a position which will allow you to use their resources in similar future undertaking.

thanks.

Can be reached at;
=S= (M) Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia
Tel : +60 (0)3 7051150
Fax : +60 (0)3 7051170

I speak for me, myself and I... sometimes I am talking to myself!

By Allison Walker on 31 July, 2000 - 8:45 am

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
From yet another soapbox ...
The world is not going to stop automating processes. Because of the global drive for more, automation is inevitable and we must all prepare. Job training and ongoing re-training are extremely important. Companies need to be proactive in educating their workforce to deal with new skills. This helps employees feel more secure, LOYAL TO THEIR EMPLOYERS, and happy in their jobs/lives. Some will leave once they are educated, but you can't punish everyone (by not providing training) to prevent the few from leaving. A day or week's worth of downtime in
a plant probably costs more than a year's worth of education classes. Many of our students come to class angry and doubtful they can learn to use new technologies. It is a delight to see their faces light up as they write logic for a PLC or troubleshoot a field problem using a PC. Jobs are changing. The better prepared we are, the easier the transition will be and the more we will
be included in the change.

Education is the key

Allison Walker
intertec@peak.org

By John Kowal on 1 August, 2000 - 10:44 am

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
Allison Walker makes a great point...(some snips)

>Job training...helps employees feel more secure, LOYAL TO THEIR EMPLOYERS.
>Some will leave once they are educated, but you can't punish everyone

And some of those who leave will become your loyal customers at their new companies.


John Kowal
Account Manager
The Brady Company

Marketing o Advertising o Public relations
email: jkowal@bradyco.com N80 W12878 Fond du Lac Avenue
T: 414 255 0100 Menomonee Falls, WI 53051-4410
F: 414 255 3388

By Johnson Lukose on 2 August, 2000 - 8:54 am

[Originally posted 2/4/1998]
>Allison Walker makes a great point...(some snips)
>
>>Job training...helps employees feel more secure, LOYAL TO THEIR EMPLOYERS.
>>Some will leave once they are educated, but you can't punish everyone
>
>And some of those who leave will become your loyal customers
>at their new companies.
>
And some will help your competitors beat you.

Notice how many football players score against their old club even when they are not 'goalscorers'??

thanks.

Can be reached at;
=S= (M) Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia
Tel : +60 (0)3 7051150
Fax : +60 (0)3 7051170

By Warren Medema on 2 August, 2000 - 8:58 am

[Originally posted 2/5/1998]
Apparently there are two messages that are really combining. Allison
Walker's message (to me ) says that if an employer pays for your training - you are valuable. The original message implied that if you
helped with the new technology stuff, you could be replaced. Shift the focus of these two mesages together and you have a message that says that if you are knowledgeable, you are valuable. If the originator of this subject thought that his injection of service cost these people their jobs, he could write each one a reference for their future job searches saying how well they performed. I work construction and install
and repair many devices that have been installed. Nothing is forever and maybe, just maybe, I can work this new avenue towards my own good.

By Randy Sweeney on 1 August, 2000 - 10:42 am

[Originally posted 2/3/1998]
We also have had the problem of "excess" reliability in some systems... but the answer is not to get less reliable equipment but to retain skills using
simulation and off-line systems.

BTW... not retaining skills is not an option since even the most reliable system eventually fails and when it does your goose is cooked if you don't even know how to open the cover!

If MTBF gets too high MTTR can skyrocket if you don't watch out.

Randy Sweeney
Philip Morris R&D

By Grenville on 1 August, 2000 - 2:05 pm

[Originally posted 2/5/1998]
Hi,

Industry is subject to continuous change. All of which result in changes affecting employees. The acceptance of single employer for life is rapidly fading worldwide and this includes Japan. The wave of re-engineering exercises being conducting has led to more and more people being self employed.

Similarly the growing number of acquisitions invariably leads to a reduction in head count. There is a new class of industry emerging as a point of sale mass customised manufacturers whose products will be produced on demand to customer specified requirements. This move will be heavily dependant on automation and provide opportunities for self employment.

The point I am making is that when one door closes another opens and perhaps our educational systems should offer training in the skills
needed to develop and operate a business.


Grenville
miware@cis.co.za

By Noel Holshouser on 2 August, 2000 - 12:04 pm

[Originally posted 2/9/1998]
Michael Griffin wrote:
>
> With regards to automation replacing people, perhaps some of the
> people who think that this is a new problem might do well to remember Ned
> Ludd, a weaver who rebelled against power operated weaving machines in I
> believe the 18th century. But I suppose that Luddites never learn from history.
> However, no doubt the Indian members of this list could offer a bit
> of advice on what life is like in a country where very few people have been
> replaced by machines.
>
> The French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote a series of very well
> written articles in the 1840's which were later collected into a book called
> "Economic Fallacies" which you might find illuminating. In one story he
> invents a little tale about Robinson Crusoe marooned on his desert isle. One
> day Robinson Crusoe was walking down the beach, and came across some lumber
> which had washed up upon the beach. When he saw this, Crusoe rushed over to
> the wood, and threw it back into the sea. He did this because as the lumber
> was already cut and ready to be used, it would have deprived him of the
> employment of cutting it himself.
> The fallacy this illustrates is the assumption that work is an end
> in itself. Rather work is the cost we pay to get something that we want. If
> Robinson Crusoe had used the lumber he found on the beach, and used the time
> thus freed up to do something else, he would have had the benefit of having
> the wood, plus whatever else he was able to do in the time thus freed.
>
> The amount of work to be done in the world is not fixed, rather it
> is the resources we can employ to do this work which are limited. I am
> reminded that a century ago in Canada approximately 75 percent of the work
> force was employed in agriculture. Today it is around 6 percent. The result
> was not 70 percent unemployment; it was an abundance of automobiles,
> aircraft, electronics, and other wonderfull things which people are now
> available to produce.

While we are at it, let's have a moment of silence for those long gone blacksmiths who have been replaced by our machines (mills, lathes, etc.) over the past century plus. Please be aware though that there are some blacksmiths still doing custom work out there (artistic, custom, living history, etc.). Least anyone think these are dilettantes, I invite them
to come and bend iron along side of me this July in NW Louisana when it's 90+F and 90+% (an avocation of mine). The lessons to be learned in
metal displacement, cutting and heat treating might be of value to some who are not sufficiently founded in their craft (read profession if you must). Similiarly, a more than cursory examination of the history of the industrial revolution would reveal that displacements in labor, material and equipment have occurred regularly, been accepted and in
many cases forgotten. The concept that governments can long control anything seems totally at odds once again with these historical
antecedents and flies in the face of individualistic human endeavor.

As a software engineer, I shudder to think of having to walk into some of the appearant situations developing out there with inadequate
(none???) systems documentation. All too often a hired gun (my vocation) must walk bravely, some might say dumbly, into these and attempt to bring some order from chaos. I hope that unimagined horrors (this life or otherwise) await those who think a quick and dirty Visual Basic fix is economically and professionally sound. For an almost complete list of don'ts see http://www.jas.com - "Real programmers don't
write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC, after the age of 12."

In a more serious vein, I would appreciate any response relative to interest in network driven controllers similar to the Open Modular
Architecture Controllers (OMAC) as proposed by GM, Ford and Chrysler for the automotive industry.

By Vladimir Zyubin on 2 August, 2000 - 1:28 pm

[Originally posted 2/14/1998]
Hello to All,

Michael Griffin wrote:
>
> With regards to automation replacing people, perhaps some of the
> people who think that this is a new problem might do well to remember Ned
> Ludd, a weaver who rebelled against power operated weaving machines in I
> believe the 18th century. But I suppose that Luddites never learn from history.

It seems (not only to me) that now the problem has had new colors, but economical one. In the first place, it connect with an impact of technique on our culture. And changes are going on too quickly and deeply to predict all possible
after-effects.
There are a lot of various works on this topic. I am mostly aware of German papers. (But, as a matter of fact, Germany has very strong school of philosophers :-).
In spite of 'philosophy', it does not seem too dull and are excellent readable.

And, of course, poetry is more laconic...
Just as a digest:

"... the world on you depends"
la-la la-la-la "... end."

i.e., mostly, they write about our responsibility.

References:
1. Huning A. Philosophy of Technology and The Verein Deutscher Ingenieure. In: Durbin P.(ed.). Research in Philosophy & Technology. Vol. 2.
2. Lubbe H. Technisher und sozialer Wandel als
Orientierungsproblem. - "VDI-Berichte", 1979, Nr. 342 (Technical and Social Changes as a Problem of Orientation)
3. Ropohl G. Technik als GegenNatur. In: Natur als Gegenwelt., 1983 (Technique as an Opposition of Nature)
4. Adorno Th. Uber Technik und Humanismus...
5. Lenk H. Verantwortung in, fur, durch Technik...
(Responsibility in, for, via Technique )
6. Huning A. Ingenieurtatigkeit in ethische und
sozialer Verantwortung - "Zeitschrift fur
Vermessungswesen" Dec. 1985 (Engineering in ethic and social point of view)

E. Fromm, Heidegger, etc., etc., etc.

--
Vladimir E. Zyubin
mailto:zyubin@iae.nsk.su
Institute of Automation & Electrometry
Novosibirsk Russia

By Kim L. Ground on 3 August, 2000 - 1:34 pm

In many cases the people you are replacing are saved from jobs which are dangerous, boring, or otherwise unhealthy. It is true that those individuals are placed out of work, but in at least some cases they will find opportunities which are better than what they had before -- opportunities that they might not have been inclined to seek if they had not been 'pushed' out of their existing position.

Does the capitalist owner of the company owe these displaced workers anything ? Well, morally yes they probably should feel some motivation to retrain these workers, find them other jobs in the organization, or assist them with outside job searches, but thankfully we do not yet legislate most moral issues like this (just give the lawyers time). The hard fact is that employers will not take much effort to assist these displaced workers unless they perceive some advantage (measured in dollars on the bottom line) to do so. Those advantages DO exist in many cases -- a worker who has been in the factory for years must surely have learned a little something else about the operation than just which button to push to start his or her machine.

By Chris Moore- Porvair on 22 September, 2000 - 1:25 pm

My company and I are busy engaged in selling robotic casting machines to anyone who will buy one (and lots of people want one when they see them) so I have spent some time think over this whole issue

1) Robots save factories, so indirectly they do save jobs

2) The war between Capital and Labour has finally been won, and Labour helped them do it!

3) Our society has to face up the fact that just because one does not possess Capital, it does not mean that one is not entitled to enjoy some of the benefits that all this Capital brings.

4) Our society would look very different if we measured our performance and paid ourselves in Human Happiness and not Money. Too often we equate the two. It must be axiomatic that all humans have equal right to Happiness- no-one deserves to have more happiness than another. It is not the factory owners responsibility to deal with the consequences of change- it is ours, for we are the society that creates change.

5) Engineers create for the joy of creation, in the same way that a composer or playwright creates- A complex machine/process is no less beautiful than a symphony (Although mostly only the creative team realise this!)

6)Humans have been obsessed with increasing their control over the environment since the first flint axe- Nothing we can say or do will do anything to slow the process- get out there and vote for the changes- thats what democracy is about

Phew! I'm worn out after that little brain dump.

By Hamilton Woods on 9 October, 2000 - 10:41 am

I read through the replies posted to this article and agree with several of the sentiments. I actually got into this business (industrial automation/controls) because I saw a lot of small and medium manufacturing companies going out of business in the community where I was raised. My thought was that I could help small and medium manufacturing concerns remain competitive through "pockets of automation". I define pockets of automation as small automation projects to remove bottlenecks of production. These bottlenecks can consist of throughput, quality, and/or safety. My approach was the 80/20 solution: gain 80% improvement with 20% of the cost of a completely automated workcell.

I have grieved over the issues expressed in this article, namely the replacement of people with machines. I even hated NAFTA, but realized that it was a big marketing tool for me: if you don't automate, all these jobs are going to Mexico.

About 2 years ago, I picked up a 2nd hand book that is now 15 years old by Stuart Rosenfeld, "Competitive Manufacturing: New Strategies for Regional Development." Dr. Rosenfeld writes from the perspective of acedemia and suggests education and collaboration as means for achieving the objective of remaining competitive. Dr. Rosenfeld uses as one of his case studies the decade of automation projects that occurred at Steelcase Corporation in Athens, Alabama. The conclusion of that decade of activity was that it (the automation project) was more costly than was originally conceived, but that the company is in much better posture for having investing in the process. The thing that caught my attention the most, though, was that Steelcase removed their skilled workforce from the production of standard line office furniture and opened up a completely new line of custom office furniture, using these highly skilled craftsmen more effectively. The end result was that Steelcase, because of their automation, had not only kept their workforce, but had expanded it!

I grant that, sadly, this is not always the case. I get frustrated that several forces discourage corporate investment in capital improvements. Unless a project can be shown to be profitable within 2 years' time, it has no chance of survival. As a result, I have witnessed the closing of most of the clothing manufacturers in the Tennessee Valley area during a 5 year period.

But I am also noting something that gives me hope: as the textile industry in North Alabama and Tennessee is in decline, the automotive industry has already moved in. Not only do major automotive manufacturers reside in the area, but several contract manufacturers of automotive parts have sprung up in these hills. I begin to see that we, as Americans, are adaptable.

I do not like to see employees replaced by machines, but I do see industrial automation as helpful to increase throughput, improve quality, and enhance safety.

It is natural to feel bad but it is Capitalism. Like one of the earlier comments said in European countries the training is much more in depth but you are obligated to be loyal, if one leaves their job in a European country that may be it, they may not get hired again anywhere. In the US, however, you have your freedom and you have to pay for it also (no free lunch). Also you have to remember there are many situations where laborers may have an attitude where they don't want to learn and they have a "you can't fire me attitude", so in some cases this is no fault but their own.

By Jake Brodsky on 18 April, 2001 - 12:51 pm

And what were those five people doing, anyway? Was it something creative and useful that only a human being could do? Apparantly not. Do we really want to waste a person's life doing a menial task which could be automated? I remember talking to an automation vendor recently who tried to install some automation gear in a 24 hour manned substation which would have enabled it to go unmanned. The local union refused to help them in any way. This vendor had to bring in electricians from some distance away to do the work and armed guards to defend the installation from attack. I have no sympathy for such luddites. None. The act of performing a repetitive, unintelligent, and uncreative task is something to be shunned and avoided wherever economically feasible. You did the right thing.

Fortunately, many of these consequences could be ameliorated by automated countermeasures that offset the excesses. Unfortunately, it usually takes a crisis to institute fundamental reform, though the looming economic meltdown stemming from the mounting federal debt offers just such an opportunity. Automation is destroying jobs faster than it can replace them. The benefits of the increased productivity go 100% to the owners of the machines, and none to the workers displaced. What are the consequences of this? What will happen if this trend continues and accelerates to include white collar jobs, and even jobs currently handled by PhDs?

By Jake Brodsky on 17 May, 2001 - 2:10 pm

>What will happen if this trend continues and accelerates to include white collar jobs, and even jobs currently handled by PhDs?

Haven't you been looking around? It's happening right now.

I mean, is there anything truly redeeming about taking messages for someone else? Is there anything worthwhile about plotting curves on Smith charts when programs like SPICE can be used to more completely and accurately model an amplifier? Is there something about working out finite element analysis manually that makes it better than doing it on computer?

Some of these things used to be PHD material. No more. I call that an improvement.

This is a necessary evil of advancement, but hopefully those workers will move on to something better. Don't forget about the telephone operators that were replaced by automated phone switches decades ago. At the time, no one wanted to fire the operators, but think about life today if every call you made still had to go through a person!

By Frank Mitchell on 23 July, 2001 - 4:08 pm

I have been in this business for 24 years. Only once did I see anything similar. It was an auto-welder that did a job faster and better with less rework than 5 welders. Four welders were eventually moved to other areas in the plant.

Most of the time workers are moved rather than sacked. Of course the first economic downturn and usually at least some may go at that time.

Considerations:
1. As a PLC programmer you will be unemployed a lot. You will have to relocate a lot(unless you work for a big company)
2. This country has to compete with the Japanese who are very automated.
3. We could adopt policies like India but then many of us would starve.
4. It is the responsibility of the management of the company that hired you to inform it's workers of future layoffs and train for other jobs. Usually if a company has the money to automate they have predicted a future of growth that involves keeping and moving to other areas the good employees. Lousy employees should have to go looking.
5. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the workers to see the handwriting on the wall. There are no guarantees in this life. Chances are that they found work somewhere else as the type of workers you described make low wages anyway and can usually find a job making that wage doing just about anything.
6. As a PLC programmer myself I have been unemployed may times. Whenever there are layoffs contract engineers are the first to go. While I am sypathetic to anyone that loses their job. The alternative to automation to me seems much worse.

frank

By Jim Pinto on 26 July, 2001 - 11:54 am

Frank Mitchell <femitchell@earthlink.net> wrote :

>an auto-welder that did a job faster and better with less
>rework than 5 welders. Four welders were eventually moved
>to other areas in the plant.

Jim Pinto responds :

Think about this - in some cases, new technology is replacing old with a 10:1 and even 100:1 ratio.
In some cases, it eliminates the need for old procedures and mechanisms.

How many typewriter-repair mechanics are there in the world today? And where (in the world) are they?

Frank continues :
>As a PLC programmer you will be unemployed a lot.

Jim :
New techniques are making PLCs and PLC-programming
into antiques - equivalent to typewriters sooner or later. PLC programming (relay-ladder-logic) was developed to assist electricians to program "programmable-logic-controllers" - in turn developed to replace relays. If PLC programmers think they are better off than
"typewriter mechanics" they are simply kidding themselves.

Frank continues :

>It is the responsibility of the management of the company that hired
>you to inform it's workers of future layoffs and train for other jobs.

Jim :
Don't expect management to "inform" you. They are simply
to busy to do any more than protect themselves in a fast-changing
business environment.

Frank :
>Ultimately it is the responsibility of the workers to see the
>handwriting on the wall. There are no guarantees in this life.

Jim :
Right on, Frank !

My advice to PLC programmers everywhere :

1/ Don't wait to be "informed" by an ill-informed
hierarchy in your declining company. Become pro-active!

2/ Upgrade your knowledge - learn C++, Java, PERL, LINUX and the latest programming tools. Pick up a teach-yourself book, and sit down to learn.

3/ Look for work in a growing business - one that needs your skills, knowledge and talents in logic & programming - web-development, eBiz applications, wireless apps, computer graphics, digital animation.

Feel free to email me with your background and
objectives. I'll do my best to advise.

Cheers:
jim
----------/
Jim Pinto
email : jim@jimpinto.com
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
----------/

By Joe Jansen/ENGR/HQ/KEMET/US on 26 July, 2001 - 12:11 pm

Jim,
I have to add my comments here: I have been programming PLC's for 10 years now (geez, has it been that long?!?). I got my degree in Robotics and Automated Systems Technology in 1991. My instructor at the school would tell us from time to time that RLL was going the way of the dinosaur. Within 3 or 4 years, nobody would be using Ladder Logic anymore...

4 or 5 years ago, with the advent of the soft plc's, I again heard the prediction of the demise of the PLC. It wouldn't be but a few years, we
were all told, and PLC's would be extinct, and RLL with it.

And yet, here I sit, day after day, reading the A-list, er, I mean, programming RLL. We are in process of launching a new product line. I
will be doing all of the controls for several machines. Guess what the primary control system is. AB SLC 5/04. Programmed in RLL. Everything
else is HMI, drives, etc. All the action is in the PLC.

I will possibly begin to harken to the call of the demise of PLC's when there is something that can fill the niche. PC's don't do real time or
stability under the current OS system. Even Linux is heavily modified to do real time. (ie. RTLinux). The I/O capabilities of PC's are limited compared to PLC's. I agree that there are options, and using various bus protocols, you can build a respectable I/O system. However, there are times when sticking a simple I/O card into the rack is the right thing.

I just don't see anything that exists that can displace PLC's, given price etc (such as Automation Direct)

Per your other item regarding learning Linux, Java, etc. I would hope that this is obvious to most. I am doing the Java thing now, and will be
setting up a linux server this weekend (I hope!)

Thanks!

--Joe Jansen

By Jim Pinto on 26 July, 2001 - 12:21 pm

Joe Jansen <JoeJansen@kemet.com> commented :

>I just don't see anything that exists that can displace
>PLC's, given price etc

Jim Pinto responds :

Yes, PLC's will continue, alongside relays, contactors and pumps. But, the pay for programming PLC's will continue to decline. Just like the pay for servicing typewriters (which, as Willy Smith has suggested, continue to thrive in third-world countries).

Joe :
>Per your other item regarding learning Linux, Java, etc.
>I would hope that this is obvious to most.
>I am doing the Java thing now, and will be
>setting up a linux server this weekend.

Jim :

Hooray !

Cheers:
jim
----------/
Jim Pinto
email : jim@jimpinto.com
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
----------/

By Johan Bengtsson on 26 July, 2001 - 12:22 pm

As other have noted, PLC:s will continue to exist, but they will be replaced at some places where they are used today with other forms of computers (PC:s etc.) at least (as a start) where reliability and real-time demands are lower.

That don't necesarily mean RLL as a programming language will dissapear, actually I think it will move to the new controllers and continue to exist there. Someone still have to program the controller for a while forward, regardless of if it that controller is a PLC or some other computer. And when you want to program a
controller with some kind of logic you can do that in a number of ways (RLL, FBD, boolean expression, truth-table and probably some other) but they are all convertable to each other (at least to some degree) and whatever format you use is more or less up to you.

/Johan Bengtsson

----------------------------------------
P&L, Innovation in training
Box 252, S-281 23 H{ssleholm SWEDEN
Tel: +46 451 49 460, Fax: +46 451 89 833
E-mail: johan.bengtsson@pol.se
Internet: http://www.pol.se/

By Walt Boyes on 26 July, 2001 - 12:48 pm

I've said this before. So here goes again.

There are two trends in automation and controls staffing.

The first is that the "technicians" are becoming lower and lower level employees, because devices are becoming and, more importantly, are
_perceived_ by managers to be becoming smarter and more equipped with self-diagnostics. This is bad news for people who think of themselves as
instrument techs, and who get paid premium wages for those skills.

Along the same lines, instrument engineers are being replaced by better educated techs. This is the "career path" for techs to avoid being shoved
down into the maintenance pool. This means that people who only think of themselves as instrument engineers are time-limited in the job pool.

The other trend is the need for people who clearly understand the processes found on the factory floor, and how they relate to the business trends and business requirements of the company. In other words, people who not only
understand process but also eat drink and breathe MES. If you are that kind of person, most headhunters want to talk to you about making a whole lot of money.

Along with this trend, and dovetailing with the first one, is the growth of contract engineering and super-technician services. While a plant cannot justify a Senior Analyzer Tech on staff, a consulting Analyzer Tech or Engineer can be just the thing to bail out those jumped up techs who are replacing plant instrument engineers, or the maintenance guy who works on analyzers on Tuesday and Thursday, but fixes the airconditioning on MW & F.

MHO.

Walt Boyes

---------------------------------------------
Walt Boyes -- MarketingPractice Consultants
walt@waltboyes.com
21118 SE 278th Place - Maple Valley, WA 98038
253-709-5046 cell 425-432-8262 home office
fax:801-749-7142 ICQ: 59435534

By Jake Brodsky on 1 August, 2001 - 2:42 pm

> There are two trends in automation and controls staffing.

> The first is that the "technicians" are becoming lower and lower level employees, because devices are becoming and, more importantly, are _perceived_ by managers to be becoming smarter and more equipped with self-diagnostics. This is bad news for people who think of themselves as instrument techs, and who get paid premium wages for those skills.

...Unless you can show how the complexity makes a job more difficult than before. For example: It used to be that one could diagnose ignition system problems in cars. No longer. Shade tree mechanics (and a lot of professional ones too) are often faced with shot-gunning parts in and out to diagnose a problem. This is not problem solving, this is taking random pot-shots and never knowing just what caused the problem.

> The other trend is the need for people who clearly understand the processes found on the factory floor, and how they relate to the business trends and business requirements of the company. In other words, people who not only understand process but also eat drink and breathe MES. If you are that kind of person, most headhunters want to talk to you about making a whole lot of money.

Sadly, this level of business/technical integration is all too rare in the management I've had the misfortune of witnessing. There are too many BS artists and upper management has no way of knowing who is full of themself and who really knows what's going on.

> Along with this trend, and dovetailing with the first one, is the growth of contract engineering and super-technician services. While a plant cannot justify a Senior Analyzer Tech on staff, a consulting Analyzer Tech or Engineer can be just the thing to bail out those jumped up techs who are replacing plant instrument engineers, or the maintenance guy who works on analyzers on Tuesday and Thursday, but fixes the airconditioning on MW & F.

This works until the systems get so complex or expensive that simple substitution efforts don't work any more. Intimate knowledge of "where things are" and "what's in the middle" and "how it works together" are worth the extra money for keeping a full time person on staff. There are very few generic assembly lines or industrial processes and many many more custom built, one or two of a kind installations.

The bottom line: As automation replaces more and more direct manufacturing jobs, there is no way anyone will be able to do away with the instrument technician or engineer. Doing so will result in a shortage of people to work on such things.

Of course, there is a shortage of trained and qualified mechanics who can do a reasonable job working on my car or truck. It may not be healthy, but it may also be where we're going...

By Anand Iyer on 26 July, 2001 - 12:49 pm

int main(y=random value)
/*The following are random thoughts. links may be vague or missing */

As processes become more complex, as we become more aware of environment issues and we realise that the kind of accuracy and precision and
emotionless work demanded by the industry is beyond human scope on a continous basis, we accept automation as a remedy.

And every bit and piece of technology that we have assimilated since dawn of human race is if you philosophically think a part of automation.
For example, The wheel is the automation of walking.

Automation in the end is supposed to do a task to precision and once you have automated then manpower requirement will be rationalized.
What society needs to do is to distribute the benefits of automation by way of some social security schemes. With increasing population and longer life expectncies, naturally the question that arises is what these people are going to do. Society needs to promote art, education, sports and research as the primary means of mass employment.

The very reason that human kind invented wheel or fire and made bows and arrows were to enjoy the luxury of time, enjoy benefits of warmth and
cooked food that were hitherto unknown, enjoy the safety of not being close to the animals that humans preyed. The same principles also apply today, automation is to give humans the luxury of more time for other activities, reduce the proximity to dangerous and toxic chemicals and so on as already highlighted in previous articles.
Its basic purpose is not to replace human beings, but only augment their skills and improve the quality of human life.

Return 0;

Anand

By Willy Smith on 26 July, 2001 - 12:11 pm

>Jim Pinto responds :
>
>How many typewriter-repair mechanics are there in the
>world today? And where (in the world) are they?

Lots. I bet you haven't visited many third-world countries lately; the typewriter still has a lot of advantages when the infrastructure can't even supply power regularly!

Regards,

Willy Smith
Numatics, Inc.
Costa Rica

By Seib, Larry on 26 July, 2001 - 12:12 pm

They are now called network administators.

Larry

I programmed PLCs for well over 30 years and the only time I was un-employed was in a very bad "slump" for the entire economy... I found it very easy to stay working... And that's the secret! Be willing to WORK!!

I've heard so much whining about being out of work or working yourself out of a job that I feel like up-chucking!!

Instead of complaining, try working...

Walt :

Excellent treatise on industrial automation staffing!

Shoukd be published in a textbook!

Cheers:
jim
----------/
Jim Pinto
email : jim@jimpinto.com
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
----------/

By Dale Malony on 28 July, 2001 - 10:47 am

I'll preface this by informing you that I am one of those "jumped up techs"
mentioned earlier.

If someone has made these points already I apologize for repeating, but it
seems to me that this thread has overlooked some of the most important and
valuable reasons for using PLC/ladder logic versus a PC & PERL, PYTHON, C,
C++, VB, Delphi, JAVA, Pascal, Fortran or any other PC programming
languages. No need to address reliability of the OS most often used on PC's.

I'm talking about real time, real world scenarios. I can't even begin to
count the number of times I have found and fixed a program bug or
countermeasured a new problem WHILE THE EQUIPMENT IS RUNNING. It's almost
never necessary to stop a ladder application to edit it. You NEVER have to
experience the oft' repeated procedure of programmer of other languages -
stop the application, replace the old files with the new one (or more) you
just compiled on a separate development box, and restart it.

VB (as much as I hate M$) certainly has a good (the best?) development
environment for running and monitoring a program during the debugging
process. But it isn't remotely comparable to the "online Edit" experience
with a PLC.

If your company's production line controlled by software written in C or VB
is right now, right in front of your Maintenance Engineer's eyes,
experiencing a simple but crippling bug, what will he do? Is he going to
view the source code as it is running NOW and pinpoint the bug within a
minute? Will he have a fix for it up and running the next minute? No
way!! Even if he's the highest performing, most intelligent Maintenance
Engineer on the planet and actually knows C & VB and how to compile a
kernel - even if he wrote the program - he will be lucky to have fetched
his laptop in the time that he could have fixed the problem and sat down
for a cup of coffee. Really, how often is a PC with development software
other than ladder found permanently attached to production equipment or
very near to it?

I attempted to write a comparison of how software bugs other than ladder
logic are often handled, but responses range so widely (from fair to
completely unacceptable - see M$) that it would be like Motor Trend writing
a HEAD-TO-HEAD performance review of a Viper -vs- my John Deere
mower. When I program systems integrating both (and require me to debug
both) the PLC problems can be fixed shortly after they appear and I end up
adapting the PLC to the PC whenever possible for the sake of development
efficiency. Especially after put in use but still buggy, PC app changes
are patches developed during production and installed at breaks or
weekends. What would take minutes or hours with online editing in ladder,
instead takes days or weeks depending on equipment access.

SOME Advantages of ladder:
1. Real-time monitoring of the entire source code
2. Real-time editing off RUNNING programs.
3. Fast troubleshooting
4. No need to recompile/ reboot, or re-anything short unless you hardware
needs changed.
5. Simplicity/reduced learning curve enables larger selection of people to
learn it.
6. One of many technologies that enables a tech to do today what yesterday
required an engineer.
7. The more people who can understand technologies, the more technologies
can be selected, implemented and supported. The more they're used, the
less they cost, and used even more. Within limits, the vast selection of
easily understood (though amazingly complex) technologies (should, if
applied with justification and well applied) improves quality, reduces cost
to produce, and on.
7. Frees experts from day-to-day problems and be utilized more effectively.
8. Larger number of programmers/troubleshooters and debuggers means more
ideas and more problems solved. (OK, depending on mgmt, it can mean more
problems created too.)
9. Mgmnt perception of simple equipment adaptability enables more
agressive approach to market. New products are being brought to market
faster and at less cost than ever. One factor in that is
10. Did I mention ONLINE EDITING !?!?!?

By Rick Jafrate on 30 July, 2001 - 10:42 am

Dale,

You make excellent points. In my opinion they comprise the primary requirements of of an industrial control system (i.e. runtime monitoring, modification, etc.). Traditional software debugging tools/techniques such as break points, single stepping of instructions, etc. are at best useless and at worst dangerous in an industrial application. If you deploy a program that is controlling a machine or process, any debugging tool/technique must allow the program to continue controlling the machine or process during the debugging process. A break point may halt the program but the machine or process will carry on it's merry way, potentially causing damage to material, equipment, and personnel.

I agree that most all PLC/Ladder systems provide a development and maintenance environment that meets these needs and that most electricians
know how to read a ladder diagram.

I disagree that a ladder diagram is the only or most effective way of of providing the required development and maintenance environment. As
everyone should already know, software doesn't wear out; it gets more reliable over time. Normally physical components such as motors,
switches, sensors, or electronics fail and produce symptoms elsewhere in the system. Consequently, the debugging process entails tracing the connections from the symptom to the point of failure. This does not require examination of the software innards. In most all cases where a technician is examining source code (LADDER, C, VB, ..) he is doing so to find these connections and has very little concern for the
algorithm being implemented. In my opinion this is very time consuming and inefficient.

A better approach would be to provide proper diagnostic tools so that someone could monitor a working system, enable/disable functional blocks,
force signals to specific values, and make any necessary program changes. The technician would follow connections or obtain more documentation by
clicking corresponding areas of diagnostic screens.

Having said that, I recognize that any development/maintenance environment, no matter how good it is, will at a minimum have to support a relay ladders. If not there will be resistance to change. The really interesting thing about this is that more resistance comes from engineers
than from technicians and electricians. It makes me wonder who really has problems understanding and learning something new.

Just in case I wrote too much an obscured the good point you make, they are in your words:

> SOME Advantages of ladder:
> 1. Real-time monitoring of the entire source code
> 2. Real-time editing off RUNNING programs.
> 3. Fast troubleshooting
> 4. No need to recompile/ reboot, or re-anything short unless you hardware
> needs changed.
> 5. Simplicity/reduced learning curve enables larger selection of people to
> learn it.
> 6. One of many technologies that enables a tech to do today what yesterday
> required an engineer.
> 7. The more people who can understand technologies, the more technologies
> can be selected, implemented and supported. The more they're used, the
> less they cost, and used even more. Within limits, the vast selection of
> easily understood (though amazingly complex) technologies (should, if
> applied with justification and well applied) improves quality, reduces cost
> to produce, and on.
> 7. Frees experts from day-to-day problems and be utilized more effectively.
> 8. Larger number of programmers/troubleshooters and debuggers means more
> ideas and more problems solved. (OK, depending on mgmt, it can mean more
> problems created too.)
> 9. Mgmnt perception of simple equipment adaptability enables more
> agressive approach to market. New products are being brought to market
> faster and at less cost than ever. One factor in that is
> 10. Did I mention ONLINE EDITING !?!?!?

The phrase "SOME Advantages of ladder:" could have just as easily been "Some Requirements of an Industrial Software Development and Maintenance
Environment". I would also add "Online Editing" to your list :).

Rick Jafrate
Mitek

By Dale Malony on 30 July, 2001 - 2:21 pm

Rick Jafrate wrote,

>Your make excellent points.

Thanks, you too. the the following:
>In my opinion they comprise the primary
>requirements of of an industrial control system (i.e. runtime monitoring,
>modification, etc.). Traditional software debugging tools/techniques
>such as break points, single stepping of instructions, etc. are at best
>useless and at worst dangerous in an industrial application. If you
>deploy a program that is controlling a machine or process, any debugging
>tool/technique must allow the program to continue controlling the machine
>or process during the debugging process. A break point may halt the
>program but the machine or process will carry on it's merry way,
>potentially causing damage to material, equipment, and personnel.
>
>I agree that most all PLC/Ladder systems provide a development and
>maintenance environment that meets these needs and that most electricians
>know how to read a ladder diagram.

I both agree and disagree with you on the next part. Comments follow.

>I disagree that a ladder diagram is the only or most effective way of
>of providing the required development and maintenance environment. As
>everyone should already know, software doesn't wear out; it gets more
>reliable over time. Normally physical components such as motors,
>switches, sensors, or electronics fail and produce symptoms elsewhere
>in the system.

Some PLC programs tend to be left as-is for years once they are debugged. Others are very frequently changed, and the changes are not
always made by engineers. In my experience, the following are some factors which result in frequent program modification:
1. Product changes require equipment modification. (Product lifecycles are shortening and equipment is often asked to handle multiple products, some of which require very extensive hardware/software changes to incorporate)
2. Safety, reliability/efficiency, & quality issues are counter-measured at the equipment.
3. Improvement to interface with production associates and operators.
4. Response to production associate suggestions.

Honda has strongly embraced a philosophy to "empower" the average Production and Maintenance associate. As a result, if a system isn't perfect, somebody WILL have an idea to improve it and those ideas are often tried. I liken it to the advantages of Open Source Software.
With respect to ladder programming, engineers are sometimes consulted depending upon the skill level of the maint assoc making the
change and the difficulty of the change. Usually they work together and with their Team Leaders and Coordinators to do it themselves. With our VB
apps, THIS NEVER happens and changes are ONLY made by engineering or IT.
Frankly, I love it when the individual with an idea or countermeasure can also implement. I wish I could get the maint associates to be more creative and independent than they are. They do not understand VB thus have fewer ideas and they can never implement them.

>Consequently, the debugging process entails tracing the
>connections from the symptom to the point of failure. This does not
>require examination of the software innards. In most all cases where
>a technician is examining source code (LADDER, C, VB, ..) he is doing
>so to find these connections and has very little concern for the
>algorithm being implemented. In my opinion this is very time
>consuming and inefficient.
>A better approach would be to provide proper diagnostic tools so that
>someone could monitor a working system, enable/disable functional blocks,
>force signals to specific values, and make any necessary program changes.
>The technician would follow connections or obtain more documentation by
>clicking corresponding areas of diagnostic screens.

This really depends on the level of complexity of a given system and it's integration with other system. Take Honda's "Multi-mount" for example,
which installs the engine and front and rear suspensions simultaneously, automatically, in about 45 seconds. (linespeed 50 sec/car.) To further complicate the issue, it changes model jigs without losing a beat, thus giving the ability to build a Civic one minute and an Acura CL the next with no manual operations or time lost, assuming all goes as expected. We integrate 6 independant systems, each with a VERY large IO count to accomplish this.

To diagnose this system without ladder is an impossible concept. In the last year we tried to eliminate the need to go to the
ladder for many common functions, which could be done, but a fascinating lesson was learned in the process: Diagnostic systems are complicated to
design and implement and for more complicated processes, such as providing indication of the limiting condition for a step, they are especially
difficult to justify. The main factoring which destroys the economics of this is that I have added another system to be maintained. EVEN WORSE, if it is not maintain, it will SLOW the diagnosis process and result in MORE DOWNTIME.

Essentially, if a program is structured to facilitate fast isolation of a limiting condition, the same result is accomplished at
little to no cost. I can't see a benefit in extensive diagnostics to replace the need to look at ladder, other than in simple or unchanging systems.

By Michael Griffin on 2 August, 2001 - 9:43 am

Someone in the computer science field (I think it was Nikolas Wirth) once said something to the effect that programs are written for people to
read, not for computers. This is a simple idea which many people have difficulty understanding. Once you grasp the concept though, it changes your
point of view on what a good program looks like.


**********************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
**********************

By Bill Hullsiek on 2 August, 2001 - 9:50 am

Along those lines, Donald Knuth wrote LaTex, which is like a HyperText language that allows you to embed documentation alongside code. One
compile would yield an executable image, plus a document that describes the executable image.

One of the original goals of CASE tools was to have your documentation and code in the same container. You update your documentation and code at the same time.

This concept shows up in quite a few control system tools, but for some reason the computer language people (VB-Basic, Java, C, C++, C-sharp,
what-ever), always keep on keeping documentation separate from the code.

- Bill hullsiek

By Dale Malony on 2 August, 2001 - 10:01 am

>Along those lines, Donald Knuth wrote LaTex, which is like a HyperText
>language that allows you to embed documentation alongside code. One
>compile would yield an executable image, plus a document that describes
>the executable image.

Interesting, but can you online edit it?

By Johan Bengtsson on 14 August, 2001 - 5:19 pm

Depending on your definition about online editing

There is probably not many systems really allow you to change whatever you want online immediately just the part you change. However the fact that you have to put together your changes and upload those can be taken care of behind the scenes and go very fast. That means you have
to define a maximum time for the change to take effect. With faster computers and lower compile time - yes it could be made online editable in that way to - depending on how long time you would accept. Would 1 second be too long? 10 seconds? 0.1 seconds?

(It does of course depend on the size of the part needing a recompile too)

/Johan Bengtsson

----------------------------------------
P&L, Innovation in training
Box 252, S-281 23 H{ssleholm SWEDEN
Tel: +46 451 49 460, Fax: +46 451 89 833
E-mail: johan.bengtsson@pol.se
Internet: http://www.pol.se/
----------------------------------------

By Joe Jansen/ENGR/HQ/KEMET/US on 14 August, 2001 - 5:33 pm

Actually, many PLC's do offer the ability to change online immediately. You edit the program in memory, and when you hit the 'test' button, it
switches to the new code between scans (less than 1mSec).

PC's 'should' be able to do this. I mean, look at the difference in clock speeds, memory capacities, etc. Everything from a hardware standpoint is stacked ludicrously in the favor of the Intel based PC.

I am sure cww can tell everyone why, then, it is so difficult to get a PC to perform as quickly and reliably as a simple MicroLogix or something from Automation Direct.....

--Joe Jansen

By Curt Wuollet on 30 August, 2001 - 2:51 pm

Hi Joe

> Actually, many PLC's do offer the ability to change online immediately.
> You edit the program in memory, and when you hit the 'test' button, it
> switches to the new code between scans (less than 1mSec).
>
> PC's 'should' be able to do this. I mean, look at the difference in clock
> speeds, memory capacities, etc. Everything from a hardware standpoint is
> stacked ludicrously in the favor of the Intel based PC.
>
> I am sure cww can tell everyone why, then, it is so difficult to get a PC
> to perform as quickly and reliably as a simple MicroLogix or something from
> Automation Direct.....

You've been using the wrong OS. There's probably more code invoked in running a mouse across a few objects than there is in the whole PLC
executive. If you ported the same code to the PC architecture it would run insanely fast. I can easily toggle an output at 3.5 Mhz on Linux
with a character based display running, probably even faster if I had PCI IO handy. Start a GUI and you won't get half that and things become
erratic from scheduling events. You can get stuff like SoftPLC to be both fast and consistant because they don't run a whole OS as we know it.
QNX will run stuff fast and predictably also because it's designed as an RTOS.

Since it is inherent in Linux to stack and switch between many processes many times per second, it follows that it should be possible to stack a
process at a defined point and switch to the new process stacked at that same point in the same amount of time as a normal context switch. This
would no longer be Linux behavior and would be some really serious kernel hacking. Another, more attractive approach would be to put a conditional
fork/exec in the running program that forks and execs the new program on demand, say at the start of the scan. After the fork, the processes share
the same file descriptors, special memory map, etc. I'm not sure about IPC's and the like but it's reasonable to assume we could handle these.
On execing the new program, it overlays the old and there are provisions to share the file descriptors or not which we would want to do in this case. It would start at the top of the scan and then loop as normal. The other details would have to be dealt with, but this would be the *NIX
way to do it. By having a similar conditional in the new program you could fork and exec the old one if desired for your fall back. So you see, without thinking very hard, I can come up with very plausible ways to accomplish this. I can say with reasonable assurance that we can do it. At that point, I stop worrying about it. Linux has the stuff to do it. As of the last time I checked, it wasn't a priority, but that doesn't
mean we can't or won't do it. We are simply doing other things right now. It's really safe to assume we can do anything a PLC can do if there
is sufficient reason. It's all just software.

Regards

cww

> Since it is inherent in Linux to stack and switch between many processes
> many times per second, it follows that it should be possible to stack a
> process at a defined point and switch to the new process stacked at that
> same point in the same amount of time as a normal context switch. This
> would no longer be Linux behavior and would be some really serious kernel
> hacking.

Actually, not necessarily. If you wanted to do it absolutely generally then yes, you may have to do that (or maybe not); but we mostly don't need that.

> As of the last time I checked, it wasn't a priority, but that doesn't
> mean we can't or won't do it. We are simply doing other things right now.

In some ways, a lot of the basic pieces that would be needed for module exchange are already there. The synch library can be used to ensure that the old and new versions can't both run (and to make the other one sleep). Mostly it's just a question of someone sitting down, designing the protocol and thinking through all the consequences to make sure it all works right.

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <jiri@baum.com.au>
http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
visit the MAT LinuxPLC project at http://mat.sf.net

By Bill Mostia on 2 August, 2001 - 10:02 am

Good point(of view).

Bill Mostia
===========================================
William(Bill) L. Mostia, Jr. PE
Independent I &E Consultant
WLM Engineering Co.
P.O. Box 1129
Kemah, TX 77565
wlmostia@msn.com
281-334-3169
These opinions are my own and are offered on the basis of Caveat Emptor.

By Bill Mostia on 9 August, 2001 - 4:38 pm

> As everyone should already know, software doesn't wear out; it gets more
> reliable over time.

The concept that software gets more reliable over time should be looked at more closely from a lifecycle perspective and may have some shortcomings.

The general concept that software reliability improves over time may be true but at any period in time, it may not be true. The general idea behind software reliability improving over time is that software bugs will be removed as time goes on, hence reliability growth(improvement). There is an inherent assumption made here, however, that as bugs are fixed no new bugs are introduced(a questionable assumption as a generalization).

There is also an assumption that the program remains static except for the removal of the bugs. But as we all know in a program's lifecycle, improvements are made and "features" added so that the operating system and embedded software change and new versions are released. Who has gotten a new release of software that was free of bugs? Well, hopefully free of old bugs. And, few things remain unchanged in the production environment due to the process of continuous improvement. As bugs are removed and changes are introduced into the application software so are potential new bugs.

David Smith's book, "Reliability Maintainability and Risk, 5th Ed," Figure 16.1 pg. 202 provides a simple graphical illustration of software error rate over time including the introduction of change.

It is also true that software doesn't exhibit "wear out" in the mechanical sense but it does exhibit aging in the sense that as time goes by, it may be less able to meet the requirements of the application(which evolve) and
may be less supportable. An interesting paper was written on the subject "Software Aging" by David Lorge Parnas, from the proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Software Engineering(ICSE), 1994, available from the Association for Computing Machinery(ACM) - http://www.acm.org/.

Bill Mostia
===========================================
William(Bill) L. Mostia, Jr. PE
Independent I &E Consultant
WLM Engineering Co.
P.O. Box 1129
Kemah, TX 77565
wlmostia@msn.com
281-334-3169
These opinions are my own and are offered on the basis of Caveat Emptor.

By Rick Jafrate on 9 August, 2001 - 5:11 pm

Bill,

You make some good points that are not obvious to many people. Although I have encountered it many times, I had not considered software that has lived long past it's time.

> > As everyone should already know, software doesn't wear out; it gets more
> > reliable over time.
>
> The concept that software gets more reliable over time should be looked at
> more closely from a lifecycle perspective and may have some shortcomings.
>
> The general concept that software reliability improves over time may be true
> but at any period in time, it may not be true. The general idea behind
> software reliability improving over time is that software bugs will be
> removed as time goes on, hence reliability growth(improvement). There is an
> inherent assumption made here, however, that as bugs are fixed no new bugs
> are introduced(a questionable assumption as a generalization).

Assumes competent, disciplined, knowledgeable, experienced professional making changes.

> There is also an assumption that the program remains static except for the
> removal of the bugs. But as we all know in a program's lifecycle,
> improvements are made and "features" added so that the operating system and
> embedded software change and new versions are released. Who has gotten a
> new release of software that was free of bugs? Well, hopefully free of old
> bugs. And, few things remain unchanged in the production environment due to
> the process of continuous improvement. As bugs are removed and changes are
> introduced into the application software so are potential new bugs.

Certainly if you add new software then you back step on the reliability curve. The amount of backward progress depends upon how much change was introduced. It has been my experience that in a production environmwent changes are added incrementally and methodically and at a fairly slow pace. After a change is made, the longer it has been in use the less likely that it will operate incorrectly.

> David Smith's book, "Reliability Maintainability and Risk, 5th Ed," Figure
> 16.1 pg. 202 provides a simple graphical illustration of software error rate
> over time including the introduction of change.
>
> It is also true that software doesn't exhibit "wear out" in the mechanical
> sense but it does exhibit aging in the sense that as time goes by, it may
> be less able to meet the requirements of the application(which evolve) and
> may be less supportable. An interesting paper was written on the subject
> "Software Aging" by David Lorge Parnas, from the proceedings of the 16th
> International Conference on Software Engineering(ICSE), 1994, available from
> the Association for Computing Machinery(ACM) - http://www.acm.org/.

Excellent point and I couldn't agree more. One of the problems I have personally observed that fits into this category is as follows: A metal rolling mill application deployed on MODCOMP computers in FORTRAN language made good use of state machines in the form of if-then-elseif-else constructs. Each else/elseif represented a state and the
code block within implemented the actions to be performed when the state is active. I was asked to evaluate the prospect of re-implementing this system in another language on a distributed platform. The problem was that over a period of 20 years the elseif conditions (logical
conditions) had evolved empirically. For example, it was observed that the system operates incorrectly (i.e. goes to the wrong state) on every other thursday when the mill speed is between 500-600 feet/min and the alloy is
zzaabbcc. So the easy fix is to find the offending elseif construct and add the above conditions thusly:

elseif (not thursday) and (speed<500 or speed>600) and (alloy <> zzaabbcc) and (...)

This same procedure repeated over a period of 20 years results in a house of cards and makes porting to a new system difficult and time consuming. Many of these emperically observed conditions would not necessarily maintain their relationships on a new platform, particuliarily a distributed one. Conditions would not be
detected/generated on the new platform with the same timing relationships as on the old platform.

Theere is not much you can do about bad programming practices.

regards

Rick Jafrate
Mitek

By P Baum, Niksar on 2 August, 2001 - 9:37 am

>> 10. Did I mention ONLINE EDITING !?!?!?

And I would add

10a. ONLINE EDITING with VERY FAST [BACK] function ...

... which allows return to previous version of the program. It is nice to be able to do a few changes online, but it is even better to be able to return to previous version without need to upload previous version from laptop, searching
in /file/open window for ... for .... which one was it before I edited??? You know the story -

Petr

By Dale Malony on 2 August, 2001 - 10:04 am

Is there a software/PLC that can do this? When I want a fast change back from an online edit I usually program a bit that let's me switch between new and old branches of code.


Dale

>And I would add
>
>10a. ONLINE EDITING with VERY FAST [BACK] function ...
>
>... which allows return to previous version of the program. It is nice to be
>able to do a few changes online, but it is even better to be able to return to
>previous version without need to upload previous version from laptop,
>searching
>in /file/open window for ... for .... which one was it before I edited??? You
>know the story -
>
>Petr

Petr:
> >10a. ONLINE EDITING with VERY FAST [BACK] function ...

Dale:
>Is there a software/PLC that can do this? When I want a fast change back
>from an online edit I usually program a bit that let's me switch between
>new and old branches of code.

Just the other day, on a branch of this thread on the MAT PLC list, I was suggesting just that...

The idea was that the new version gets prepared in the background and loaded into memory (but not started) while the old version is still running. At that point, both versions are in memory, and you can flip between them on a scan-by-scan basis.

Eventually, you decide which one's the keeper and nuke the other one.

You mean that's not a standard feature?

(Obviously, it'd be useful to have a full revision control system, so you can back out of a series of changes, or back out of them a week and three unrelated changes later, but that's a separate issue: it should be flexible and work within minutes - the above is simple and needs to work instantly.)

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <jiri@baum.com.au>
http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
visit the MAT LinuxPLC project at http://mat.sf.net

By Michael Griffin on 30 August, 2001 - 2:56 pm

At 00:14 02/08/01 +1000, Jiri Baum wrote:
<clip>
>The idea was that the new version gets prepared in the background and
>loaded into memory (but not started) while the old version is still
>running. At that point, both versions are in memory, and you can flip
>between them on a scan-by-scan basis.
<clip>
>(Obviously, it'd be useful to have a full revision control system, so you
>can back out of a series of changes, or back out of them a week and three
>unrelated changes later, but that's a separate issue: it should be flexible
>and work within minutes - the above is simple and needs to work instantly.)
<clip>

I used to like the AB PLC5 which had nice features like easy on-line editing, test/untest of edited rungs, an AFI (disable rung) instruction, force tables, etc. That is, I liked it until I had to deal with programs which half a dozen other hackers had played with and had left all these features active in a running program. Before I could do anything myself, I had to clean up someone else's half finished mess.

I've come to the opinion now that I would rather have a PLC without all those features. I don't like on-line editing, I don't like AFI
instructions, and I don't like force tables. The reason why I used to like them was that they made bad programming practices easy. I would like to
think that I've learned something since then. Now I would rather give a problem some serious thought, edit off line, down load a complete modified program block (or set of blocks), and if it doesn't work, then down load the original one again while I think about what went wrong.


**********************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
**********************

(cleaning out my inbox)

Michael (almost a month ago):
> I used to like the AB PLC5 which had nice features like easy on-line
> editing, test/untest of edited rungs, an AFI (disable rung) instruction,
> force tables, etc. That is, I liked it until I had to deal with programs
> which half a dozen other hackers had played with and had left all these
> features active in a running program. Before I could do anything myself,
> I had to clean up someone else's half finished mess.

Sounds like you need a ``commit as is'' function that would clean out all those things automatically... Since *any* editing session involving these features would have to end in cleaning up after yourself, such a function
would be generally useful, not just in that particular situation.

(Ideally, it would generate a report of what it cleaned out.)

> Now I would rather give a problem some serious thought, edit off line,
> down load a complete modified program block (or set of blocks), and if it
> doesn't work, then down load the original one again while I think about
> what went wrong.

I'm still in favour of having an immediate-backout facility... one level only. That way you can quickly switch back to something that works. You still have to give the problem the serious thought, edit off-line and download the complete modified program block (or set of blocks); just that if it seriously doesn't work, there's a better chance of recovering.

That's if you have to work on a live system. If you don't, there's no point to this feature.

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <jiri@baum.com.au>
http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
visit the MAT LinuxPLC project at http://mat.sf.net

By Scott Cornwall on 30 August, 2001 - 3:43 pm

The Fisher & Paykel PSC state based PLC does this.
In one model two complete programs can be resident in memory and swapped between while running, in a newer model only changes in the program are downloaded and swapped into the controller and the programmer can immediately swap back to the previous program (again while running of course).
The programming environment also provides revision management allowing old versions to be selected and downloaded if desired, plus an undo/redo system of unlimited history that works across programming sessions - e.g. wind back
to how the program was yesterday.

It would be very useful if that all finds its way into the LPLC eventually.

Scott Cornwall
_________________
www.sentech.co.nz

Scott :
> The programming environment also provides revision management allowing
> old versions to be selected and downloaded if desired, plus an undo/redo
> system of unlimited history that works across programming sessions - e.g.
> wind back to how the program was yesterday.

> It would be very useful if that all finds its way into the LPLC
> eventually.

Well, considering that the LinuxPLC itself is developed using such a system, there's a good chance it will :-)

(Yes, there have been cases where I went "give me the LinuxPLC as it was yesterday" - when I downloaded a new version and found that it doesn't
work... Send an e-mail to the person responsible for that section, meanwhile carry on using yesterday's version.)

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <jiri@baum.com.au>
http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
visit the MAT LinuxPLC project at http://mat.sf.net

By Russ Kinner on 2 August, 2001 - 10:16 am

A typical PLC that can do this is the PLC-5 - you add/change any number of rungs (up to the limit of memory) and go to a "test" mode to try the changes out. Two clicks and you are back to the old program. Two other clicks "assembles" the edit into the main file. You still have to be careful as you can leave dynamic data in the wrong state but in general it works well.

I cut my teeth on the Modicon 384/584 with their immediate edits (it is still that way in the Quantum) where you have to do what Dale mentions - it can work well with an experienced programmer but you can get into trouble quickly if you don't think your actions out first.

Russ Kinner
AVCA Corporation
Maumee, OH USA

By Christopher Blaszczykowski on 15 October, 2001 - 9:46 am

Automation/Controls DO NOT cause release of laborers. Problem lay on lack of knowledge of upper management up to the highest level in management, especially CEO's. The second level of ignorance is build up of Integrators, who in many cases rip of companies due to the same problem.

In both cases the same people make idiotic decisions, without ever entering production facilities, and without any knowledge of production/manufacturing requirements. As well there is foreign for them safety issues and quality of product.

They think similar way as people at the beginning of Industrial Revolution. Then due to activity of owners people destroyed machinery in believe that would solve the problems with lay-offs.

Today the very similar problems occur. Instead of retraining people across factory they try to "reduce cost" (so they call it. But according to normal economics there shall be ratio of four people which bring (produce) money for the company to 1 overhead person. As well there shall be limitation how much money shall make CEO and others according to total cost of production, to prevent overprizing. For those who are familiar with economics it is clear, but not for those who have only MBA. By the way I call them Masters of Business Assasins.

Lets look at the prices. At the beginning of 80's the cost of Wonderbread was 26 cents for loaf. Today the size of it is only about 50% and the prize (if I rememer correctly) $2.59. If someone look at the technological process it can be easily found that it didn't change to much. Production improve due to automation, but the technological process is the same almost for centrys. so what is the reason for so drasticqal cost increase? Quantity increase as well - but how much in reality this bread cost? Is this associated with automation, or it is something else? Lets make an assumption - how much influence would have on price hiring 1000 laborer in relation to one CEO? I will leave analysis to those who are interested, but remember to count materials, tools and labor in such analysis. According to my counting price increase depend only on salary increase of those in upper management, who by the way destroying companies across US.
Lets look into another example:
CEO decided that due to decreast cost everybody will have to use fax paper on both sides! What a great idea?! But... due to lack of knowledge, he dont know that the pigment use to print faxes will clog a fax machine. In this case fax machines have to be repaired at least once a day. Lets summarize: fax machine cost around $350, repair per month around $6500 (those are real costs which I pesonally experienced!). After 6 months fax machine have to replaced - another $350. Can someone tell me where is the savings.

All of this what I described look like not associated with the major subjes, but it actually is. Same values apply to automation.

Aditional thing - please show me how many times did any of you observe reduction in administration, and how many time you experience reduction of laborers and engineering employment?

Returning to automation and integrators.
During many years of my work I was laid off many times, not because I wasn't able to perform, but due to bankruptcy (or something similar). I meet only one VP who knows how to... He also met difficulties and was looking for job for over one year. He was creator of very dynamic engineering group well known in US and overseas.
Another case VP of Engineering - who don't know a didly thing. Even our technical secretary coment his ability to manage. Thosa are types of menagement which I call "from social advancement".
He was the one who hire integrator (before I come to company) and cause rip of by this integrator. Number one it was wrong choice of equipment for application, second cost of controls system excede $860,000, when should not excede max $150,000 even with the garden and fountain with color light and fireworks in the middle. I push for training for people and for hiring enginners for each plant - not result. Documentation for each of the lins - NON EXISTING, Ladder logic not described, HMI - custom made for job security. AND ALL OF IT WAS APPROVED BY VP OF ENGINEERING WHO CLAIM THAT EVERYTHING IS IN PROPER ORDER. I ended with recovering wire by wire schematics!
Another examle - After three week of instaloing and debubing new installed equipment, and as well training new hired employee I found that the new employee was fired, because he was to fat. To clarified - this particular employee done exceptional job after the training and without any supervision. I was highly surprized how good job he did regardless of fact that he received limited training due to time constrains. I would definitely keep this employee on board permanently.

I always work with the people on production as a mains sources for spotting problems and apply corrections to controls. They are very interested in learning something new and apply their new knowledge to production, unfortunately in majority of the case they are treated badly by upper management.

Is the automation bad for the people - my answer is NO. Does automation casuse unemployment - NO. The problem is that we do have to many uneducated ignorants in upper management interested only in filling their own pocket, and until it changes it always would be bad. Working in Germany I observe that in all their companies about employment and salaries for upper management decide not CEO but join meeting of management and union. Maybe this would be solution for meny of our problems, but Union would have to change attitude as well.


By RJP@Genesis on 1 May, 2002 - 1:42 pm

I have been there before. You have to think about 2 things. Number One, in the long term, as your customer's competitors install their machines, would your customer be able to compete? and keep the employees it has now?

Number two, By displacing these employees they put themselves back into the job training grinder where if they follow some wisdom they aquire new skills for the supervisory level job that did remain or maybe even replace you later on. They do have the experience you needed them for to get the machine going. You did a good thing for America, long term.

These are all excuses. In real life there is no such thing as retraining, because you are 45+ by that time and no company wants you even with your existing skill. Forget about getting hired with new skills and no experience at that stage.
Secondly at that age how much you can concentrate on learning? can you compete with youngsters?
In fact it is a human rights issue. This is a true story of my father. Afterwards he never had peace in the rest of his life.
Typically, human being digging their own graves.
Only way out is genetic medicines that can make your brain at par with the efficiency of a twenty two years old fresh graduate.

By Anonymous on 6 June, 2003 - 6:45 pm

> The biggest problem is that as people get older they believe that their job will last forever. This is not true, regardless of automation, downsizing. The company does not owe you or me a job. We are paid for the time we are there.

People on the lines have choose not to learn anymore after high school. They spend their time fishing on the weekends, watching the football games. I love to do this stuff also, but I only fish one or two times a year. I only watch football if all of my projects are on time and I can afford to take a break.

I read over 150 Engineering books a year front to back. As a EE, I taught myself advanced chemistry and I keep all my skills sharp.

I'm 40 years old, and about every 2-3 years I look for a new job and find one because I have not fallen behind.

Those people on the line have fallen behind or they would be up for that supervisory position.

These are all excuses. In real life there is no such thing as retraining, because you are 45+ by that time and no company wants you even with your existing skill. Forget about getting hired with new skills and no experience at that stage.

> Secondly at that age how much you can concentrate on learning? can you compete with youngsters?
> In fact it is a human rights issue. This is a true story of my father. Afterwards he never had peace in the rest of his life.
> Typically, human being digging their own graves.
> Only way out is genetic medicines that can make your brain at par with the efficiency of a twenty two years old fresh graduate.

By Daniel Cunha on 17 July, 2003 - 10:47 pm

First of all, I'm sorry for my broken English (it's not may mother tongue).

Sinclair raised a very interesting issue about the society in wich we live in nowadays: the nature of "work". We, who work with automation, are at the center of this issue.

In fact, "automation replacing people" is a necessary consequence of the kind of society we live in. In a capitalistic society the pressure of competition forces businesses to increase productivity, through new technologies and/or rationalization. But on the other hand, capitalism needs work; after all, who would buy the commodities if nobody worked to produce them for a salary? In short, capitalism has a contradiction in itself: it needs work, and it destroys it. The necessary result is a collapse, and we are approaching it right now.

It was possible to cope with this contradiction until now for a simple reason: market expansions created more new jobs than technology/rationalization destroyed. In other words, the job destructions were compensated by the increase in absolute production. But the rise of microeletronics and automation killed this trade-off. The speed of job-killing is much faster than that of job-creation, no "market expansion" coul afford it. We are arriving now at a historical moment in which work is turning obsolete. When we can produce things without human activity (with automation!), we can *free* from work.

Unfortunetely, we live in a fetishistic society, in which work, instead of being a means to an end (the satisfaction of material necessities) is an end in itself. Only this can explain that an increasing number of people are starving for the only reason that their "work" is superfluous. Only this can explain that automation, which should be a source of wealth and thriving, turns out to be a source of "unemployment" (the irrationality of this concept is the measure of the irrationality of the society in which we live in).

The subject is very interesting... for people who would like to read more about it, I leave a few references:

"Manifesto against labour", Gruppe Krisis
[ http://www.giga.or.at/others/krisis/manifesto-against-labour.html ]
A very interesting analisys of the "society of work", by the German group Krisis.

"The happy unemployed"
[ http://www.diegluecklichenarbeitslosen.de/dieseite/seite/engl.htm ]
Another German group which criticizes "work" as the center of sociabilization

"In praise of idleness", Bertrand Russel
[ http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html ]
In this 1932 text, Bertrand Russell says that technology makes possible a 4-hour-day (*before* microeletronics and automation!)

"The righ to be lazy", Paul Lafargue
[ http://www.marxists.org/archive/lafargue/works/lazy/ ]
A very interesting text in which Karl Marx's gendre attacks the "disastruous dogma" of work"


Best regards,
Daniel Cunha


> [Originally posted 1/29/1998] Recently I designed a machine which automated a process in a food
factory. The installation was commissioned on the line with the manual workers standing by.
On completion of the commissioning the manual workers were 'released' (sacked). One gleaming new machine, five less people! I found this a strange situation as those workers had helped me in the early stages of machine development and now they were no longer needed. I was interested in how members of the list rationalised these situations.

marc sinclair

By Mark L. Goldstein on 26 April, 2004 - 2:37 pm

I look at it this way, if I can help make a company profitable in the United States even if it means reducing some operating staff it is better than them moving the whole operation to China or India. If they move the entire operation off-shore than there aren't any jobs for anyone.

By Curt Wuollet on 28 April, 2004 - 12:23 am

Often thought about this but, it hasn't happened to me. The companies I've worked for are mostly short of people, the work tedious and the pay nothing to get excited about. But it has crossed my mind. I'm not sure what you could do about it, asking beforehand would be embarrasing for the customer and probably be considered out of line. It's a paradox because the most effective automation will often be that which displaces the most workers. My test equipment most often simply speeds things up rather than replacing hand testing, but the potential is there. And once you're comitted, I doubt that one can back out for social reasons. At best you might get a sniff of this up front, and there are some machines that would obviously tend to replace people. I guess if I felt bad about the intended project, I would no-bid. I could rationalize it
with the "someone will do it" argument, but if I were knowingly putting people out of work, I might regret it. It would help if the jobs were dangerous or nasty for people to do. It's actually the customer who is doing the dirty work, but.............
In good times they would move people around, in bad times, out the door. So it's not in your direct control. A very troubling question in all. It's like weapons work.

Regards

cww

By Bob Peterson on 29 April, 2004 - 2:07 pm

On April 28, 2004, Curt Wuollet wrote:
> Often thought about this but, it hasn't happened to me. The companies
> I've worked for are mostly short of people, the work tedious and the
> pay nothing to get excited about. But it has crossed my mind. I'm not
> sure what you could do about it, asking beforehand would be embarrasing
> for the customer and probably be considered out of line. It's a paradox
> because the most effective automation will often be that which displaces
> the most workers. My test equipment most often simply speeds things up
> rather than replacing hand testing, but the potential is there. And once
> you're comitted, I doubt that one can back out for social reasons.
> At best you might get a sniff of this up front, and there are some
> machines that would obviously tend to replace people. I guess if I felt
> bad about the intended project, I would no-bid. I could rationalize it
> with the "someone will do it" argument, but if I were knowingly putting
> people out of work, I might regret it. It would help if the jobs were
> dangerous or nasty for people to do. It's actually the customer who is
> doing the dirty work, but.............
> In good times they would move people around, in bad times,
> out the door.
> So it's not in your direct control. <

Fact is no one has any control over the massive increases in productivity we have expereinced in the last few decades, and its unlikely to change much. If companies do not upgrade and improve their productivity they will be gone soon, thats a much worse situation than having to shed some jobs along the way (although not much comfort to those whose job was shed).

> A very troubling question in all. It's like weapons work. <

Whats troubling about weapons work? As long as you are not making weapons for islamic terorists or other evil doers, you are actually doing something necessary and proper, and there is nothing that should trouble you about it at all. can you imagine the world today if US weapons designers had not won the tech war with the Soviets?

By marc sinclair on 2 May, 2004 - 11:25 am

When I see opinions like this I could weep. Using our skill and ingenuity to make machines that kill and maim others is wrong. As technologists we have enough of a job to sustain life and health on this planet, I choose to use my talents in this direction.
If you want peace then don't prepare for war.


--
Marc Sinclair
http://www.germainesystems.co.uk

By Davis Gentry on 3 May, 2004 - 8:36 pm

Hear, hear. Hopefully it will work as well for us as
it did for Neville Chamberlain....

Davis Gentry

By marc sinclair on 5 May, 2004 - 1:15 pm

Precisely! while he was negotiating, Britain was re-arming. My point is simple, If, as a community, we limit the technology available for weapons, then the options for the nation states, or other groups, to start war is limited. (Incidentally this is not in the interest of national governments, who rule by keeping us apart.)

My _much_ bigger point is that the Internet, and the communication it allows, means that our communities transcend national boundaries and therefore the 'us' and 'them' no longer exist. There is no longer, our moral boffins working to outsmart their evil boffins, with the
accompanying collateral damage. Boffins of the world unite!
--
Marc Sinclair
http://www.germainesystems.co.uk

Kudos: the love of peace and peacefulness is a laudable quality. Automation professionals have a certain responsibility in this direction.

By Jiri Baum on 5 May, 2004 - 6:09 pm

On May 2, 2004, Marc Sinclair wrote:
> > If you want peace then don't prepare for war. <

On May 3, 2004, Davis Gentry wrote:
> Hear, hear. Hopefully it will work as well for us as
> it did for Neville Chamberlain.... <

Nice, but people who have heard of Chamberlain probably agree already, and it won't make any sense to those who haven't. How many remember these days that Chamberlain's "peace in our time" refers to World War II?

Hmm, getting rather off-topic here...

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <jiri@baum.com.au> http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
MAT LinuxPLC project --- http://mat.sf.net --- Machine Automation Tools

[Editor's Note: As Jiri mentioned in his reply, the posts on this thread are getting off-topic for this forum. Please restrict your future comments on this thread to aspects of the subject that relate directly to industrial automation and control. Thanks.

Pam Williams
Editor & Moderator ]

By Bob Peterson on 3 May, 2004 - 8:55 pm

Horse hockey! We all have to make moral judgements in our everyday lives, including our professional lifes. It's generally going to be immoral for us to take shortcuts in our designs that will lead to injuries or deaths that are
otherwise avoidable.

Its also a plain fact that there is no case in recorded human history where peace loving people were able to remain peacefull except through the application of force. Human beings are what they are, and turning a blind eye to the evil side of some human beings does not make them go away, or quit comitting their evil acts.

OTOH, you certainly have a right as an individual to ignore evil if it is personally convenient for you to do so. many people are quite happy to leave the dirty work to others to do, while pretending they are doing so out of some great moral decision they made.

I for one choose to act in as moral and ethical a way that I personally can. This is not always the easiest thing to do - I have had it bite me in the backside more than once, but its the way I choose to act.

Bob Peterson

By marc sinclair on 5 May, 2004 - 12:43 pm

On May 3, 2004, Bob Peterson wrote:
> Horse hockey! We all have to make moral judgements in our everyday lives, including our professional lifes. <

No! you misunderstand - I am not trying to decide who is right, wrong or evil, these are just opinions (remember today's evil dictator was your friend yesterday, where's the moral absolute in that?) My point is that all of us - yes us, the ones with technical expertise, can choose whether to use our skills to refine and build machines that hurt other people - this is a small world, those other people are my family and my friends.

Yes I know the old argument that to fight is human nature; and that may be so, but let them do it with sticks, not computer controlled intelligent weapons. It is you and I and our community who supply these weapons to _ALL_ sides, it is our community who can eventually limit the options of those who decide th fight.

> Its also a plain fact that there is no case in recorded human history
> where peace loving people were able to remain peaceful except through
> the application of force. <

I choose to keep looking, to find a way. In the meantime I'll work on making food safer and keep fresh longer.

Marc Sinclair

By Chris Jennings on 2 May, 2004 - 10:51 am

Let's not bring politics into this. Ethics are a very individual thing, if someone has a problem ethically with something they have a right to act upon it. Your view of islamic terrorists as being evil doers will be different to someone elses. Therefore what you find acceptable ethically would be totally unacceptable by many other people.

Now back to the original point. As a lover of science fiction I have always believed that automation and control systems are moving the human race further into a world where tedium, danger and mind numbing work are being removed. In the ultimate future, if costs of manufacture go down, eventually it will be so cheap to produce things that people will not need to do as much work to survive. In this utopia people will simply live and be able to live in the way they want, not constrained by the artificial needs of money and the consumer society.

Chris Jennings

By Bob Peterson on 3 May, 2004 - 8:42 pm

No offense but if you are unable to make a moral distinction that says that islamic terrorists are evil doers, you really need to look deep into your own soul. there are some moral and ethical absolutes, and neither politics nor religion is an excuse for random acts of vicious attacks on innocent civillians.

I do agree ones own conscience is the best guide, but soem people are just plain lacking a conscience.

Bob Peterson

By Chris Jennings on 4 May, 2004 - 5:01 pm

I am only replying to this so that you understand that I am in no way condoning the actions of so called "terrorists". Basically what I was trying to say is that politics have labelled people in a particular way. Western
politics have labelled insurgent groups in Iraq as "terrorists", to some Iraqis these people are "freedom fighters". Just as the Western politics defines the Allies in Iraq as a "liberation army" whereas some in Iraq label
them as "Infidels". This is just one example. One of the most important things that people should do is put yourselves in the other persons shoes. Take it from their perspective, it is the only way that solutions can be
reached (unless total destruction of the other party is achieved).

So please don't get me wrong, I am against any kind of violence against innocent civilians. When people create weapons they will be used by politicians who control armies to do their bidding.

Chris Jennings

Hi All

Many "Islamic terrorists" feel that the lackadaisical morals and undisciplined attention to religious duties exhibited by western society, is a threat to the very fibre of their own society. They may see western moral
standards as being a threat to their family and social order and they may consider that this threat to their way of life is worth defending themselves against, therefore they take up arms against what they perceive to be evil.
It is the inability to see the other side of the coin that causes us to paint them as terrorists, they believe western society is a real cause for concern and this justifies the actions, consequently they are not terrorists but defenders of Islam. I do not necessarily agree with this, but this is the way my brain has containerized it.

"Containerizing" it is of course the easy part, what to do about living together in peace is the difficult part, being South African and seeing the change in my own country over the last 15 years, I have come to believe there are solutions to these problems that don't necessary entail mayhem, murder and anarchy.

Regards
Donald P

By Dobrowolski, Jacek on 2 May, 2004 - 2:07 pm

In my opinion the Soviets lost because political and economical reasons. In the tech war, as you call it, it's hard to tell who was better. And thanks god (any one you believe in) nobody tried to find it out.

Regards,

Jacek Dobrowolski

By Curt Wuollet on 2 May, 2004 - 2:11 pm

Hi Bob

Yes, I pretty much agree. But if I couldn't get comfortable with what they are doing, I still might no-bid. The point is "to thine own self be true". I didn't have any problems with airborne computers or other Mil. electronics, I might with poison gas dispensers or germ warfare stuff. And there are companies I won't do business with as they are clearly morally bankrupt. Strange for a conservative, I suppose, but not very restrictive or disadvantageous in the long run. Someone else _will_ do it and I'll sleep better. There are quite a few common business practices I won't engage in either.

Regards

cww

How can any knowledgable person ask a question like this? If you are making weapons, most are built for terrorists, either governmental or non-governmental, domestic or foreign.

By Anan Omus on 28 April, 2004 - 5:51 pm

Depends on the situation. Some jobs are simply not sustainable due to improvements in technologies. Ice delivery people and typesetters for printing come to mind. I had a job in a factory when I was younger where I pushed a button to start the machine once parts were loaded. Another where I fed bolts down a feeder where the vibator did not work properly (my wages cost less than the repairs cost). That company no longer exists and it is probably good that it doesn't. Not eliminating these obsolete jobs will only hasten the elimination of the company that fails to act thereby resulting in the elimination of all jobs. This process certainly is tragic and painful for those
involved (it has happened to me before so I know). But in the long run, everyone is better off for it, including the people that can peform more useful work. I, for one, am a heck of a lot happier doing something useful now.

By Jason Covington on 15 June, 2008 - 11:42 am

Automation enables plants and people to be more efficient. This is the job of American workers and American free-market industry: to be innovators and develop new ways of doing things that allow us to stay competitive.

As individuals, we have to continue to do this in our own professional development as well. Therefore, if you once worked on an assembly line, you must stay in touch with the development of new technology and develop the skill sets that allow you to continue to contribute to increased production and improved proficiency long-term. This is not the job of the plant itself. Industry's role in the market is not to ensure that American workers have the same jobs forever. Industry should have any hard feelings when a plant improves its overall efficiency and an outdated process is improved, displacing manual workers. However, the manual workers who were there during the whole process should feel bad if they did not do anything in their own lives to continue their professional development growth and to gain new skills and stay abreast of new technology so they would be able to continue to contribute.

At MYNAH Technologies, we would be in trouble if our process simulation software and products did not result in greater plant efficiency and reduce the number of man hours spent on a project. This is how we measure ROI: quicker time to market, improved efficiency, better production, improved batch, reduced number of incidents and shut-downs, etc.

We are in the business of reducing the number of engineers required to do a simulation project as well. With MiMiC v3, if you can use Windows, you can create a simulation of your plant. It is that easy to use. It is designed for use by end users and integrators. Although this takes some engineers off a project, it improves overall ROI, efficiency, profit, production, and our ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Isn't that our goal?

Jason Covington
MYNAH Technologies
http://www.mimicsimulation.com
http://www.mynah.com/forum/

By Firas Faham on 16 June, 2008 - 5:32 pm

Cost reduction is the word of this decade that everybody is talking about. Too many professionals became very well overpaid especially when jobs were transferred to China and Mexico and other global spots. I have hared many Americans saying this is the American way of doing business, and I agree that cost needs to be reduced by any mean. For example there are many redundant engineering jobs, too many managers getting big bulk of dollars for a job a babysitter can do, CEO and president positions with too fat salaries for a jobs the hotel receptionist can do, so called inventors and SS Black Belts paid for jobs they claimed but didn't do, technical report writers who are not more than an ancient history writers, leaders who spend 99% of work time playing computer games and talking non sense and wondering around, and the list is so huge as I observe and feel the Niagara Falls of Millions of dollars lost for filing time report and the weekly and monthly reports and poor managemen
t and leader skills.

Why do we want to reduce cost? For these fat salaries individuals mentioned above to have more money in their pockets for the job they didn't do and to cut the jobs of those who bring cash to the register.

Why not being realistic? Why not having these fat salaries individuals to come down and do the real job? Why don't we invent a computerized circuit that can do what they are doing with many times fold of better performance at almost no cost? As an engineer I came up with many different circuit – system – ASIC and AI application ideas I can present to the Share Holders of the company to replace these fat salaried people with buttons that can do real job at almost 1/100th of the cost the company pays to them – the fat salaried CEOs, Presidents, Chiefs, Officers, Marketing, Administrators, Planners, Sales people, and many others who are very well overpaid. Being overpaid is damaging to the Share Holders and real workers and money must be saved the American Way. With the advent of today's technology our innovative Artificial Intelligence Application Programming combined with the complex semiconductors will yield to several thousands percent more efficient work environment where o
nly few will do the job of thousands. Tremendous cost reduction will be accomplished when utilizing buttons instead of CEOs, leaders, and big managers. Besides eliminating this layer of the roof in the command chain will improve on all aspects especially on time resulting in multiplied profits.

AI will be used to make decisions very fast, do the real work, take care of sales and marketing, assist in management, do inventory, automate, organize, analyze, optimize, translate languages, listen to your verbal commands in obedience, and yes read your mind…

Time and money are the nerve of this country. The only way to keep it strong is by making more time and money available to the holders. All redundancies must be eliminated; all additional expenses must be reduced, and must be worked out in the open with the consensuses of the rest of public, as making isolated - secret decisions will constitute fraud.

F. Faham
June 16, 2008

By Ron Garrett on 1 August, 2008 - 11:35 pm

I understand your problem. I guess most of us here have had similar experiences. However, I have tried to change the way our sales pitch push ROI (Return on Investment. Instead of pointing out less labor will be required, we now tell them that with the product waste, they'll save, they can out in a new line (with operators) within a year or two. So far, we haven't seen a massive layoff (yet). I design precision checkweighers, and the approach would seem to encourage management to a "wait-and-see" attitude. We basically try to save the customer thousands of $$/month. Knock on wood...

By TonopahJoe on 2 August, 2008 - 5:12 pm

As a former employee of a semi-conductor company, I once automated an RO system that had been run manually for years. But as production was moved overseas and FABs were shutting down, the high cost of operating the RO/DI plant were being born by a shrinking "customer base", so costs had to be reduced. It was time to reduce head count.

The operator on the back shift's sole job at this point was to start and stop the RO's to maintain level in a wet well to prevent overflow or a low level. But he didn't even do that very well, as it was common for the wet well to overflow into the parking lot because he was too busy talking on the phone or napping to pay attention to the level.

I knew him personally and also knew that by automating the RO's he would be laid off. But I also knew I would be doing him and the company a favor. When he angrily approached me about his upcoming layoff, I said "Bob, your whole job has been reduced to maintaining a level in a tank, and that job can easily be done by a PLC. You haven't got a real job and you're way to smart to be wasting your talents (he did have an associates degree after all) waiting for a tank to overflow. It's time you got a real job because you're just wasting your time here."

He didn't want to hear that and he retaliated by stealing my company jacket, but he did get a real job where he is making more money, has more responsibility, and most importantly, is using his talents productively. I have no regrets.