Author Archive | Gary Mintchell


11:18 pm
September 24, 2014
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20 Years of Profibus Industrial Networking in North America

0914piNABy Gary Mintchell

This week’s edition of the PI North Americs (formerly PTO) annual general meeting in Phoenix celebrates 20 years of Profibus/Profinet/Profisafe industrial networking in North America.

Chairman and Executive Director Mike Bryant began the session–the largest gathering so far–recounting the people and experiences that contributed to the growth of the organization and the technology over the past 20 years.

Where will the next area of growth lie for Profinet? Bryant and others are exploring the application of Profinet as part of the Internet of Things (or Industrial Internet of Things). As a technology built upon Ethernet, Profinet is an enabling technology for moving data from the “things” part of IoT to the Internet part.

My take on this is that they are on the right track. The IoT is essentially just moving data from the sensor/device level to a level where data becomes information displayed in such a way to enable analysis and decision making. Technologies such as Profinet will be an essential link in the train.


8:58 pm
June 24, 2014
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Disney, Water Treatment and More at Siemens Automation Summit

Anton Huber Siemens 2014

By Gary Mintchell

Siemens US held its Automation Summit June 24-26 in Orlando. Anton Huber, Siemens AG CEO of the Industry Automation Division discussed the digital revolution and Industry 4.0. Amid the challenges of accelerating time to market, competitive pressure to continuously reduce costs, and attaining higher levels of quality the complexity of manufacturing increases. “Only through seamless support by software tools can the ever increasing complexity of industrial value add processes be managed safely and professionally,” he concluded.

During a pre-conference press event, Disney personnel discussed the company’s eight-year relationship with Siemens. Specifically, we were briefed on the controls and software used on the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. The system must keep track of vehicles and maintain separation. The PLC is at the heart of the system, then VFDs for vehicle management. Operator Interface incorporates WinCC. Each vehicle has a unique number, so the operator can see the location of each vehicle. Profinet is the communication backbone.

Next, we toured the Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Program, City of Orlando. Siemens provides the controls and electrical for this wastewater treatment and water reclamation plant. The 15 process areas each have an S7-300 PLC with WinCC HMI and a Siemens variable frequency drive (VFD) and/or soft start motor control. The WinCC system is configured to also provide a view into the city’s other two plants. One reason for the selection of WinCC was its interface to SQL Server rather than using its own version of SQL. One byproduct of the automation project was reduction of operators per shift from 16 to 2. While that sounds negative on the surface, it alleviates the very difficult task of recruiting operators.

Another aspect of application connectivity with WinCC is the feature of right-clicking a component and going directly to a maintenance system—the ability to view or generate work orders or go to the CMMS system.. This is all based on everyone using standard Microsoft SQLServer.

Digital technology continues to provide a foundation for improved performance—whether industrial or entertainment.


2:29 pm
June 20, 2014
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It’s All About Asset Health

Jay Lee, Professor of Engineering and Director of the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems at the University of Cincinnati always tells me “It’s all about equipment health.” Dr. Lee’s doctoral and post-doctoral researchers have uncovered many equipment health issues in a variety of factory settings and developed analysis tools to help manufacturers correct and improve the situations.

Dan MiklovicUntil now, I really haven’t seen much from the analyst community digging deeply into asset health. Dan Miklovic, a respected manufacturing IT analyst, now works with LNS Research covering Asset Health.

Miclovic writes in a recent blog post Why Healthy Assets are the Foundation of a Healthy Business.

“It seems everyone in business these days is obsessed with driving productivity or quality improvements, or talking about driving costs down or improving sustainability. Why then do so many still treat plant (or asset) maintenance like ‘that cousin we don’t talk about?’ ”

He speculates, “So maybe it’s no wonder businesses tend to think of asset maintenance as a cost of doing business that we need to minimize, thinking that in doing so it means we don’t have problems. Unfortunately, asset maintenance and asset management are not the same thing, and while we should be managing our assets, too often we just maintain them, and then rather poorly.”

He cites some disturbing recent research indicating roughly 3 out of 4 plants in the world still practice reactive maintenance as the norm. When surveyed, contributors to LNS Research’s recent studies show that among all the applications typically used to support business, asset health management ranks lower than most with only 38% adoption.

Miklovic calls for management to invest in the tools maintenance and reliability professionals and engineers need to go beyond reaactive maintenance. He adds, “Asset Health and Performance improvement is difficult without adequate investment and getting the necessary funds to invest in the technology needed to accomplish your goals is a prerequisite.”

Of the software applications available to manufacturers Asset Management fares the worst in LNS Research studies. Half of companies surveyed have no plans to implement it. Manufacturing Execution Systems and Data Historians are next on the do not plan to use scale with 40% each.

Obviusly we are not investing in tools to help plants improve overall performance. It is important that we learn to speak “executive-ese” to convince executives about the critical need to improve our tools.


1:21 pm
June 19, 2014
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Manufacturing Connection: Focus on the Big Picture


By Gary Mintchell, Executive Director

Why do we have trouble focusing on problems that we know will happen, but will only occur in the future? Maybe that future is next year. Maybe five years. Still, we would rather devote our time on pressing problems of the moment. The urgency needed to solve tomorrow’s problems can be hard to find.

This is not a new phenomenon. A management consultant presenting to a company conference that I attended years ago dubbed it “the tyranny of the urgent.” We busily hop from situation to situation never stopping to ask why. He suggested differentiating the important from the urgent. Understandably, based on the concepts of criticality and risks, when plant machinery is down, the situation could be urgent and important or not. But let’s consider when we are dealing with something we perceive as urgent and important.

Twice in the last month I have heard speakers talk about two types of functions:  “Maintenance focuses on fixing things; reliability focuses on analyzing things to fix the root cause.” Doesn’t this shortchange maintenance people? Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many maintenance professionals (managers, engineers, skilled trades) who were involved in root-cause analysis efforts—and also thinking about how to improve equipment performance.

People as a resource

One of the best reasons to adopt Lean Manufacturing is for its insistence on using the brains of people to make improvements. People are not a cost. People, rightly employed, are an invaluable resource.

Even so, people tend to work on the immediate crisis rather than plan ahead. Managers check emails, engineers search for a new product, technicians look through the CMMS. A reference to this human tendency is found in the Rex Stout novels from the early 20th century, where narrator Archie Goodwin complains about the difficulty his private-detective boss Nero Wolfe has doing “the hard work of thinking.” This applies to many of us.

Current author Daniel Goleman tackles the subject through scientific research. Emotional Intelligence is my guidebook to emotionally healthy growth. His latest book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, includes a chapter on climate change and the trouble people have trying to be concerned about something where the results are far in the future.

It seems that our brains are wired to help us survive—but only from immediate danger. That would be the “fight or flight” response. He suggessts this as the most likely reason why public discussion about the climate has degenerated into polarized opinions rather than rational looks into the data. It surely is the reason we put off necessary thinking in order to tackle the “urgent.”

Goleman identifies three types of focus in his work: internal focus, focus on others and focus on the bigger picture. He suggests that a successful leader will develop the skill to switch from one to the other quickly and seamlessly, depending on the situation.

Thus, as we focus on “fixing” something, do we file away data and observations that can help prevent the situation from recurring? Are we also looking for opportunities to not only solve the immediate problem, but improve situations associated with it? (On an industrial level, in high-reliability plants, the answer to both questions is yes. Work orders document data and observations so they’re not lost. Reliability engineers mine this information and make the case for justifying and/or leading improvement efforts.)

Focus, in any aspect of life, is the most important attribute we can have for personal effectiveness. Combine focus with passion for what we do and we are well on our way. MT

Gary Mintchell,, is  the Executive Director of Maintenance Technology magazine and a long-time writer on manufacturing, leadership and technology.


6:54 pm
June 17, 2014
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Analytics for Predictive Maintenance Featured at Rockwell Event

F Kulaszewicz RSTechED 2014Rockwell Automation’s consistent theme for more than ten years concerns the connected manufacturing enterprise. RSTechED, the annual Rockwell Software user conference and training session, kicked off its 17th edition this week in Orlando with a record attendance greater than 1,900. The reality of the connected manufacturing enterprise is gaining ever more critical mass.

Predictive maintenance analytics based upon data gathered from distributed, connected sensors (the Internet of Things idea) empowers maintenance professionals now to find and fix problems before a costly shut down. Repairs and upgrades can be coordinated with production to minimize impact on throughput.

Frank Kulaszewicz, Rockwell Sr. VP Architecture and Software, said in his keynote address that the industry is in a digital inflection point. Control systems are smarter and connected increasing the opportunity for value improvements. He cited estimates that $3.8 trillion of value has already been created with Industrial Internet of Things.


5:39 pm
June 6, 2014
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Honeywell Process User Group News

Vimal Kapur HUG2014The 39th Honeywell User Group (HUG) assembled for the first time not in Phoenix. The User Group board (the User Group is run by a board composed of users with some Honeywell Process Solutions input) chose to move to San Antonio, Texas this year.

This was a good decision as evidenced by attendance of 1,300 that was up 25% over last year. These are significantly greater numbers than a few years ago when they had dropped into the mid-hundreds.

Vimal Kapur marked his first HUG as president of Honeywell Process Solutions—a move announced only the week before. Not a newbie, Kapur has been with HPS for 25 years, most recently as vice president of marketing. His talk featured continuity with the past—surely something HPS customers were happy to hear.

Previous HPS president, Darius Adamczyk, is still Kapur’s boss, having been elevated to president of the PMT group where HPS now reports along with advanced materials and UOP.


Kapur set the technology tone for the conference referencing trends of cloud, virtualization and universality. He defined cloud as moving from physical computing on site to leveraging data centers that can be deployed across the world. The keys to universality include simple, easier-to-use. Applications all in one device but that device is simpler to use—for example iPhone.

The three technologies combine as the technological foundation of the new LEAP program—Lean Execution of Automation Projects. HPS may be taking some liberties with the use of the term Lean, but the idea is still to eliminate waste in process industry projects.

Jason Urso HUG2014

Jason Urso, HPS Chief Technology Officer, led his usual hour-plus product keynote with his usual energy. He showed off the Orion 2 operations center, Smartline instrumentation platform, LEAP program and much more.

Unisim Design Challenge

Unisim Design Award HUG2014

I had to lead with this item. I had dinner with them on Wednesday evening. A Brazilian chemical engineering student who used simulation software to show how emissions can be converted into electrical energy has been named the winner of Honeywell Process Solutions’ annual UniSim Design Challenge.

Herbert Senzano Lopes, a master’s degree student at Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), worked with Professor Vanja Maria de França Bezerra to design a solution to show how flare gas from pipelines could be reused to generate energy.

Integrated safety / security

During a special press briefing on safety and security, executives discussed advancements in streaming video on both the camera and client side. In an Enterprise Solution Center (coming perhaps by fall), there will be many ways to call up real-time videos with intuitive touch screens (like iPad), advanced alarm management, and analysis It will be browser agnostic working on desktop, tablets, and smart phones.

[On a side note, Eddie Lee of solution partner MOXA showed me a class 1, div 2 IP camera that includes Power over Ethernet and told me there was a class 1 div 1 camera, too.]

On the safety side, HPS’ safety system includes the same Universal IO technology as standard IO. Universal IO means that each module is field configurable in software after installation (for example as digital input, digital output, analog input, analog output).

Operations Center Console

HPS announced availability of the Experion Orion Console, dubbed “an advanced display technology that brings the plant control room of the future to life by meeting the changing needs of the increasingly mobile plant operator.”

The console – which builds on Honeywell’s flagship Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) control platform – features an improved ergonomic design and better displays to simplify control system management, reduce operator fatigue and improve situational awareness.

LEAP Services

LEAP project services launched to help manufacturers in the processing industries get their plants up and running faster and at lower cost.

LEAP combines proprietary hardware and software, virtualization and cloud engineering to give users greater scheduling flexibility while reducing risk and total automation costs by up to 30 percent. Multiple industries can benefit from an estimated 80 percent reduction in costs related from unnecessary rework. These features can also help reduce avoidable schedule delays by up to 90 percent.

LEAP specifically combines three key core technologies available in Honeywell’s Experion PKS Orion:

  • Universal Channel Technology – Honeywell’s proprietary solution allows instant remote configuration of channel types, standardized input/output cabinets, reduction or elimination of marshalling cabinets and reduction in equipment needed.
  • Virtualization – Use of virtual machines in the control system removes dependencies between the functional and physical design, enables standardized server cabinets, reduces hardware requirements and delivers corresponding savings in space, power, cooling and weight.
  • Cloud Engineering – Engineering in a secure, centrally hosted cloud environment allows project execution and testing anywhere in the world, delivering improvements in collaboration and travel savings.

Transmitter Platform

060314 SmartLine_Temp_Modularity sm

Someone mentioned at a press conference that it’s nice that HPS is talking about instrumentation again. It had previously released the SmartLine pressure transmitter and promised it as a platform for future development.

At HUG 2014, a new range of temperature transmitters was introduced that are build upon that platform. All SmartLine transmitters, whether they measure pressure or temperature, utilize modular components which simplify field repairs and reduce the parts inventory required to make those repairs. These parts can be easily upgraded and even exchanged between the two different product lines.

In operation, the transmitter and smart display team to provide necessary information to the field technician. When the operator requests a field check of the transmitter and the technician asks for switching to manual mode, sometimes the operator and tech are talking about different instruments. With this product, the operator can send a text message to the device saying “maintenance required” for example. Then the tech knows he is working on the correct instrument.


12:38 am
May 21, 2014
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Reliability the Keyword at PAS Technology Conference

The PAS Technology Conference is in session May 19-21. PAS bills itself as the “Human Reliability” company, and indeed reliability broadly speaking was a conference theme. This is also a celebration of PAS’s 20th anniversary, and historical references were everywhere.

PAS Founder and CEO Eddie Habibi

PAS Founder and CEO Eddie Habibi

Eddie Habibi, founder and CEO, introduced the Conference Theme of Connecting the Dots by looking at the thinking of Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author (“The Age of Spiritual Machines” and “Singularity”). Noting that 86% of the predictions Kurzweil made in his Machines book have already come true, Habibi said that futurists work by bringing together various technologies into some ideas on trends—connecting the dots.

He was the first of several who talked about first looking at assets as data, then relating to the actual physical asset. Data can be collected, organized, contextualized, and displayed to help operations and maintenance make a reliable plant and increase the company’s profitability.

Inspiration, collaboration, invention

Habibi concluded, “Opportunities are there for us as a company that brings software solutions to great customer relationships. Customers bring inspiration, collaboration, and invention. We’re excited about it, and we want to be here another 20 years.”

At dinner the night before, I had the opportunity to talk to two of the conference’s keynoters who are both with production companies. Keith Dicharry is director of controls and Instrumentation at BASF and Andy Geddes is controls and instrumentation manager for Scottish Power (as in the UK). Both were eloquent in their descriptions about the engineer’s role in helping maintenance and operations achieve a reliable plant.

Dicharry said in his keynote, “If we increase the reliability of equipment, we will increase our profitability. The goal for increasing reliability is to increase access to data. I want a rotating equipment engineer in Germany to be able to talk to a rotating equipment engineer in the US about a compressor where they can both look at all the data sets and figure out why one works well and the other has problems on a conference call rather than a flight across the pond.”

Harvey Ivey, manager of instrumentation and control systems and field support at The Southern Company, told the conference the story about how he worked with operators and others to develop displays that would give operations situational awareness of the health of their processes at a glance. His work, and collaboration with PAS, led to the development of the PowerGraphix product.

Alstom, in another conference announcement, has done much research on improving performance resulting in an agreement for it to become a reseller of PowerGraphix to its customers.

Security partnership

The day’s final announcement involved another partnership—this time PAS and Tripwire—a provider of risk-based security and compliance management solutions. The partnership is part of the Tripwire NERC Alliance Network Program that has been designed to foster collaboration on critical infrastructure compliance and security solutions to help companies efficiently and effectively achieve NERC CIP compliance.

According to PAS, the integration between the PAS Integrity Software Suite and Tripwire NERC Solution Suite will provide mutual energy customers with automation software that reduces the time and resources required to collect audit evidence. The integration brings a consistent approach to the management and maintenance of secure configurations across a wide range of devices including Industrial Control Systems (ICS), SCADA, Microsoft Windows and Windows Servers.