Integration strategy

> Surely by concentrating almost exclusively on one platform, the 'integration' part becomes almost non-existent? Tying pieces of similar equipment together, most likely from a single supplier sounds relatively easy (and boring)?!> That is the way to become efficient and hopefully more profitable. Trust me, there are always challenges. Everyone will have a new wrinkle in their requirements. That said, I love to do R&D (or is that R$D) projects on new control products. But I cannot afford to have too many too close together. I need to space them out with some bread and butter projects in between. I have just completed 3 in a row for one of my employers, and I am way behind on sleep. Bill Sturm
On the flip side, I have seen *large* integrators who try to be all things to all applications completely screw up an application that required the services of a *one-man-show* to come in and clean up the mess. We are a small integrator with - at present - 5 engineers on staff. We specialize in motion and application of high performance drives in coordinated motion applications. Our focus is not on a specific industry, but rather on a specific application of technology (MOTION and DRIVES). We have done sub-micron positioning systems used for wafer scanning and other systems for positioning railcar barges - broad scope / same technology / different scale. The focus is motion and the exploitation of the laws of physics. We have some niche industries where we believe we are the best (controlling glass container manufacturing from the forehearth to the annealing oven / Bath and Kitchen towel paper converting), but the main focus is Motion . . . we avoid SCADA apps as we think they are boring. We like motion and drives, we do this because we think it's fun, we think we are naturally talented in this area, AND . . . we are sure as hell glad our customers are willing to pay us well to do it because it would be a terribly expensive hobby! Bottom line . . . whatever you chose, make sure you are wired that way and give it your absolute best shot. Nothing is more depressing than doing something you don't naturally like to do and life is too short to not enjoy your work. Ken Brown
I agree with this and I am not even offended, even though I am a one man shop. One must know their limitations. I avoid large projects and I try to find ones where I can add real value. If I take on an unfamiliar control, I end up eating some learning hours. This was also true, of course, when I worked for a "real system integrator". I try to find customers where I can add some value that they may not easily find at a typical system integrator house, if there is a typical one. If I stay within my limitations, my customers are generally happy with my work. Bill Sturm

Steven E. Braun

Curt: I have watched with some interest the development of the LPLC project. From my perspective in the integration industry, some thoughts. I have spent the majority of my career trying (not always successfully) to integrate a PLC system as a complete solution for a given project. In my line of work this usually involves some sort of serial communication link, such as a Multilin PQM or a Smith Meter Accuload II. This is usually why I get these projects in the first place. In order to effect this link, I have over the years written many, many C language interfaces and implemented them with a GE Fanuc PCM, an Allen-Bradley 1771-DB or DMC, the Modicon BM85 Bridge Muxer, and a few others. Except for the GE PCM, these items are horrendously expensive if you stop to consider that all they consist of is a few serial ports. The GE PCM is merely just expensive and I have been marketing the Modbus Master for the GE PCM for over ten years now. This is however what I used to solve the problem and it was not always pretty. Sometimes I had to resort to an SBC (single board computer) as an interface to the PLC usually running some odd OS. I even spent a year (on someone else's nickel) trying to adapt Windows CE and Embedded NT to an SBC. The LPLC would go a long way to make this serial integration task not only easier but even trivial. If there had been such a device, I would have adopted it exclusively long ago. I am currently watching the industry's next generation of PLC's. There are no coprocessor boards available in this generation except for the ubiquitous Basic processor. This is not acceptable in my line of work. The manufacturers are adopting a host of protocols on their own such as Profibus, Devicenet, and various Ethernet offerings but as we all know there are hundreds of legacy and emerging protocols that will never be available to the current PLC platforms. It is time to move along........ Steven E. Braun Bellingham, WA. [email protected]

Geoffrey Dell

I have grown up (20 yrs) in the pharmaceutical packaging industry(one company, differant locations). I Started as a Packaging equipment mechanic and progressed through the years of study and experience to be a controls system specialist or otherwise known as integrator. I specialize in small to medium size PLC projects, upgrades and conversions. Our chosen PLC standard is A-B. This standardization concept is driven much by us maintenance types. It is more efficient to be competant in one or two similar programing packages than many. In our plant we have Micrologix, SLC and PLC5. We also have a few non-standard PLC's. However, I am confident I can work with any PLC as long as I can acquire the software. My point of view is that it is better to have a broad range of experience (mechanical, electrical, electronics, ect.) with a few specialties like PLC or MMI. This is the approach I will take when I retire from this company and hawk my wares in the open market.

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