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Industry News

Advanced Automation

Interoperability is Every Engineer’s Goal

December 17, 2014

The article below from Manufacturing Connection speaks to the need for interoperability standards:


Most of my research and conversations this week dovetailed together into discussions of open standards and interoperability. This is often a controversial topic, even though it need not be. The debates begin when a certain type of “true believer” wants to “standardize” everything, not just connections.
Once there were computer networks proprietary to computer companies. Then first Ethernet and then the TCP/IP stack revolutionized networking. These were basic standards upon which proprietary computing and applications could be built.
Somewhere around 1997, a group of control engineers wished to drive the cost of programmable controllers down and improve the ability to switch from among technology suppliers. That was a path destined for failure. Hence, the Open Modular Architecture Controller became Organization for Machine Automation & Control. OMAC comprised of “end users” became OMAC comprised of end users and technology suppliers.
The most successful standards in manufacturing/production are those which describe interfaces and allow suppliers to do what they do best under the hood.

The standards revolve around interfaces and data. PackML describes a standard way for packaging machines to operate reducing operator training time and cost. MIMOSA describes ways of communicating properties of physical assets in a plant from one application to another. Its work has led to the OGI Pilot (oil & gas interoperability). This latter was a downstream application test bed. In process is a similar one for upstream.
When we can describe properties and exchange data through machine to machine automatically, we will be reducing risks, costs and time-to-startup. All of these directly impact plant performance and profitability.
And all need owner/operator or end user pressure to happen. Suppliers do not necessarily oppose many of these measures—except for the few who think that they can handle all communication chores within their proprietary app. Quite frankly, that’s an impossible task.
Interest exists. One of my most viewed recent articles concerned open source tools for SCADA. We just need to push the envelope

Interoperability should be every Control Engineer’s goal.   Too much time is spent on integrating components instead of improving processes.

Bedrock’s automation system embraces interoperability in every dimension.   From industry standard 61131 programming tools, to support of standard Ethernet using industry standard OPC-UA protocol.

Build your future on Bedrock.”

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