IT in process control (Was COMM: Modbus+ SA85 board and WinXP)

  • Thread starter Michael R. Batchelor
  • Start date

Thread Starter

Michael R. Batchelor

On Sat, 10 May 2003 Dick Caro wrote:

> Subject: Re: COMM: Modbus+ SA85 board and WinXP
> It's really very simple. Since IT doesn't have a clue about
> control systems, ask them to kindly keep their noses out.

This is often easier said than done. In the past few years I've been involved in a couple of battles, not by my own choosing, at customer sites where IT was going to take over the computers on the manufacturing lines. In both cases it was a horrible experience. IT was in way over their heads, but they were determined to exert total control over the "computers" in the plant.

Interestingly they didn't want responsibility for the PLCs - even when you took the boards out and showed them the memory and processor to explain that it was "just a computer" - because it didn't *LOOK* like a computer. But because the operator interface *LOOKS* like a computer, it must not be part of the machine. It's something different and apart somehow, therefore it belongs to them.

> If IT insists on the conversion, then stick them with the
> cost of the upgraded boards too.

Good luck.

> You may have to do your own tech support, but with my
> experience, you don't get much support from IT anyway,
> especially on real-time systems.

For a number of years I have maintained that the nature of IT needs to change. Bear with the explanation, and comment please.

Back at the beginning of the industrial revolution there were a few guys we would now call mechanical engineers, and they were the Prima Donnas in plants with these newfangled machines. Then some decades later electricity came into play, and the guys we would now call electrical engineers became the Prima Donnas in plants that had it. But as time went by, we wound up with maintenance groups and engineering groups split up, and mechanics and electricians handling most of the day to day "stuff" that it takes to keep a place going. And, except for a few highly regulated industries, if you need a new outlet on the other side of your desk, the electricians come do it, not an electrical engineer. The engineering groups handle new projects, etc., and work for an engineering manager. And maintenance handles, well maintenance things, and generally work for a maintenance manager or plant engineer.

But in IT groups, while it's true that some larger organizations have a group which works on the hardware, and others who are "program analysts" - whatever flavor of that you want, both sets of people all work for an IT manager. And, since that position traces it's historical roots back to Finance, it's gestalt is very different than either the ME/EE group or the Maintenance department. They are now in the Prima Donna stage, and they don't plan on getting dirty.

But what I envision one day in the future is just another group in the Maintenance department which handles the day to day business about the computers - fixing hard drives, maintaining the network, reseting passwords, installing new programs on your desktop, etc., and just another group in the Engineering department which handles planning and development. If IT could be removed from their perch, and restructured to work like the rest of the world, then I think a lot of the problems would simply vanish.

Do I have a point, or have I completely missed the mark? If the point is valid, how can we work to effect this change?

Michael R. Batchelor - Industrial Informatics, Inc.
Contribute to society:
My comments were for the obviously clueless IT group about which CK wrote.

Many industries have already made the conversion in which the Process Control group has been absorbed into the IT department. Often, they find a more secure home with fewer funding problems. In effect, they become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem since they participate in the budgeting process. At least in one paper company where the conversion is now some 8-9 years old, the former Manager of the Process Control department has become the CIO. How can this be? Let's fool ourselves into thinking that we in the control systems business are a lot smarter than the financial guys and BS computer science majors in the old IT group. Maybe the story is don't fight IT -- join them and conquer.

Dick Caro
Richard H. Caro, CEO
CMC Associates
2 Beth Circle, Acton, MA 01720
Tel: +1.978.635.9449 Mobile: +1.978.764.4728
Fax: +1.978.246.1270
E-mail: [email protected]


It is better to join them but still keep process
control with you.Effectively it increseas your
knowledge base in both the fields.I have come
across this kind of situation where IT department
of the company trying to exert the control on
us we joined the & kept them out of 'CONTROL'.

[email protected]