This Is Not Your Father’s Plant

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Nancy Golden
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Nancy Golden   5/11/2014 2:42:32 PM
"There's a famous case where the last person who knew how to shut down a 24/7 process plant retired. When the company needed to turn off the plant for annual maintenance, it had to call in a vendor."

That has also been the methodology for many an engineer - they called it "job security." The irony is that the same skills that provided job security back in the day are becoming obsolete with the newer technology paradigm that many factories are employing. While it makes sense, it is also a bit sad. But then I am also nostalgic for those days when the lack of technology actually served to create work environments were humans interacted in person and engineers were go-to guys and gals that could solve any problem that came up on the factory floor...

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   5/7/2014 6:53:00 PM
Thanks Bobjengr. I thought salaries were increasing for control engineers. Maybe not. At any rate, it may take time for younger engineers to find out how advanced plants are getting. 

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bobjengr   5/7/2014 6:29:52 PM

Rob--Excellent post. I think changes in manufacturing technology and methodology are absolutely fascinating.  I'm constantly surprised as to why Industrial Engineering still seems to be on the lower rung of engineering pay scales when the excitement is there.  It is truly a new age for manufacturing.  The "new guys" bring technology reducing manpower, improving throughput and providing safer working conditions.  We should all applaud the efforts aimed at redefining the new factory.  I think also these efforts will drive continued "on-shoring", which will be a welcome situation in our country.    

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Waiting for security
thingstodo   5/7/2014 12:17:51 PM
I guess I'm also waiting for management support of this new way of operating.


I guess I must be one of the laggards.  A Baby boomer that should have retired already.


Until there is a reasonable way to keep internet denizens OUT of my plant, it's not going to be connected to the cloud.  

I'd also need to justify another IT person to keep up with the constant changes being made.  I don't have any desire to take hundreds of hours of Cisco training each year just to configure and upgrade the switches, routers and firewalls that I'm told I will need.  The kinds of changes that I can fit into a few hours a month using our 'old and closed and proprietary' system.


Relatively up-to-date information (10 sec - 10 minute delay) IS BEING sent through an information server to a PI system ... and the PI system trends data that has been identified as useful to someone.

That information can be displayed on a BYO device - but it can't affect operation of the mill.  If someone can demonstrate decent security ... that may change.  


We use ethernet for data collection that is not time sensitive and that can go offline without affecting operation of the mill.  And our plant ethernet DOES go offline all the time.  Our IT people don't have enough time to keep our administrative PCs, switches and firewalls up to date.  So when would they have time to troubleshoot an IIOT?  Downtime is expensive.  IT people are not on call 24/7.  I am.  If I'm getting it running, I'm using communications that I know to be reliable, and that I can talk an electrician through replacing at 2 am.


One of our vendors is supplying 'cloud data' as part of a service contract.  It's been 6 months and they have not even given us the login credentials.  They are having trouble with THEIR cloud security and disabled logins so that their clients can't see each other's data - privacy issues.


Safety and control on the same ethernet cable sounds to me like a single point of failure.  I must be so far out of date that there is something unsaid there, because it does not sound good to me.

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Re: Welcome to the future
AnandY   5/7/2014 7:28:46 AM
Rob you are absolutely right about the technological changes that have taken place within various industries and plants. It is true that as time goes there will be more technological advances and developments within plants, and you never know may be in the future nobody will be working manually no more. Because if you look back, lets say ten years ago, you will remain wondering how far many plants have changed technologically.

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   5/6/2014 9:57:15 PM
Considering the military supposedly has technology 10 to 20 years more advanced than what's available to the public or industry, I wonder if the plants used to build that tech is up to date. 

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