Something different


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Ron Gage

On a more serious note...

After having spent the past few months within the General Motors Powertrain Group here is lovely, rusting Michigan, I have come to the conclusion that I really don't want to be here (GMPTG) anymore. Why... corporate driven direction of all new machinery. *ALL* new machinery coming in (and there is currently a LOT of new machinery coming in) will be controlled by Nemasoft's
OpenControl product in an NT environment. This is for PowerTrain only, the rest of GM is still firmly planted in the real world (PLC's).

After being here for a while and going through the training courses and what not, I firmly believe that PowerTrain is heading for a major problem in maintainability in these new machines within the next 3-5 years. Why am I bitching about all of this? Because my current position within this plant is putting me squarely into this "new technology". My job is Plant Engineering, in other words, I am the person the maintenance people call when they can't figure
out a problem with a machine. While I certainly appreciate a challenge as much as the next person, I don't want to become a crutch for the rest of the plant. This is the direction that I am being moved towards. Why? In my past
experiences with flowchart based machine controls (Flopro, OpenControl's predecessor), the plant personnel will do everything within their power (with the backing of the union in most cases) to AVOID working on this "stuff". Debugging a problem flowchart was very difficult under Flopro, it is 2-3 times harder to do under OpenControl. Debugging a flowchart is not nearly as easy as debugging standard PLC ladder. Add to this the current impossibility of flying
in an edit while the machine is running and you begin to see how debug can be a pain. Enough of my ranting for now... :)

Anyhow, I am seeking employment elsewhere. The type of position I am seeking ideally would be a software or controls engineering position. Ideally, telecommuting should be a possibility (I can dream, right!). Some (very limited) travel is acceptable. Only if absolutely necessary will I relocate. If I had my druthers, I would like to work in an Allen Bradley based manufacturing environment (but NOT in Detroit, thank you). My resume will be available if you think you can help.

Any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at work ([email protected]) or at home ([email protected]).

Thanks folks!


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Bill McAlexander

I have been lurking on this site for a good bit off and on. I too worked in powertrain as a contract engineer dealing with FloPro @ Romulus. Your situation analysis is correct. Never have I seen so many controls engineers at one place just to keep the place running. I, unfortunately was stuck with 2nd shift coverage for the plant for awhile, then just the machining side. When new equipment was rolling in, many people put in to work on the new V8 side, until they saw what they would have to deal with. A mass exodus then occurred. Workers now wanted to work in the old, dark, grimy, greasy V6 side controlled by a AB PLC2's, Honeywells, Modicon, Syron, Indurmats, et al. I would dearly love to see this project come to something, but not at the expense of another operating system like I dealt with there. Flow charting works well with computer programs and some sequential routines, but by equipment's nature if it is to be productive (and let's face it, how often have you heard "Yes that is quoted production, but how fast can I really make it go?"), it needs a non-sequential operating
environment. Parallel flow charts did nothing to make things easier for the electricians on the floor.

William McAlexander
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Just so you don't think I don't know what I'm talking about:
20 years of:
Electrical and controls engineer with experience in:
PLC2, PLC3, PLC5, SLC100, SLC150, SLC500, 8200, 8400, Modicon 984, Mitsubishi F10 & FX, McGill, TI, Telemecanique, Symax, Omron, FloPro, Indramat, Unico, Fanuc TT T M G R, GE, Bandit, Power Mate, much more.
Automotive, arms, food, machine tool, packaging, more.
Machine and tool designer.
Fortran, Cobol, Forth, Pascal, Basic, MML, RPG, NC, CNC, some other old stuff no one has heard of.
CAD from Applicon on a DG mainframe to AutoCad R14.

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Hi Bill:

I did work in that plant a few years ago, just as the machining stations were coming in. I was installing 2 mods to the existing V6 line - 1 for a new valve seal installer for the v6 head and 1 for pressing a ball-bearing into the engine
block in place of a conventional seal.

I also have done PLC2,5,5/250/slc100/slc150/slc500, 984's, 884's, Fanuc, TI's, Symax, Gould (pre modicon), and all kinds of little dedicated controllers. I have never seen anything like the exodus seen when flowchart based controls are introduced, just like you have experienced. My Flopro experience was at Powertrain Tonnawanda Engine. There was nothing like trying to explain to the GM engineers there that I could make the changes they wanted, but I would have to shut the line down for the changes to happen. Took some of them a long time to understand that there was no effective on-line editing. Add to this the
wonderfully sane production managers wanting to know why the line isn't running... Ahhh, now THAT was fun! (NOT)


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Hi Ron, Bill,

I am looking for a PC-based control solution for small individual platforms. Unlike your situation, we are a system integrator that prefers flow charts over ladder. Currently, OpenControl does both flow and ladder. Currently, on a sufficiently powerful PC, OpenControl can do online changes. (It spawns a duplicate control structure to implement the change without interrupting the process being controlled.) It looks like Nematron OpenControl would work fine for us. I will be evaluating it to get a better feel for it. Do you know of something superior that allows complete, relatively simple connectivity to the MS world?