General Assembly Meeting Report Day 2

Thursday morning was our PROFINET morning.  We began with an Industrial Ethernet market overview by ARC Advisory Group Senior Analyst Harry Forbes.  Actually, I think Harry followed our PROFINET “commercial.”  (Seems like everyone used videos this year.  All the user presenters did.  So did Michelle Palmer in her keynote.)  Harry provided some interesting insights on Industrial Ethernet market growth – still looking like 51.4% per year CAGR.  He also sparked some interesting discussion as he led us through the pros and cons of the various Industrial Ethernet choices.

Joerg Freitag provided an overview of PROFINET, replete with comparisons to other technologies and application stories.  He was followed by Mike Darnell of Prism Systems presenting a complete application story that included PROFINET, PROFIBUS, and AS-i.  Mike made a great point about users: they don’t care about the technology, just about results.  Naturally that conclusion resonated with me.  Another “Aha” moment during Mike’s presentation was the seamless blend of PROFINET and PROFIBUS.  The head turner was the comparison of the engineering savings possible using the CBA technology in PROFINET.  As the system integrator, Prism saved 20% of their engineering time compared to the conventional approach of separate PLC programs for each machine.  With PROFINET they easily cloned the first machine and in minutes had completed the interface configuration for the next machine of the same type.  Since there were many similar machines, this added up quickly.  We usually think of PROFINET CBA as only being useful to integrate disparate control platforms and fieldbuses, but this project used only PROFIBUS and PROFINET and allowed big savings.  In fact, because many of the duties could now be handled by less senior engineers, the engineering cost saving was even greater that the time savings!  One last observation: because PROFINET is standard Ethernet, Prism easily found local qualified installers to handle this part of the project.

After PROFINET, the theme became “Buzzword Bonanza.”  We covered asset management, wireless, and safety.  Todd Hubbell showed the connection between PROFIBUS and Asset Management, meaning Plant Asset Management (PAM) in this case.  PROFIBUS has always allowed the transfer of the information needed by PAM.  Next year we’ll have a similar presentation called PROFINET and Asset Management.

I provided a short introduction to the wireless part of the program in which I made an astute and profound philosophical observation: “Wired is just like wireless… except without the wires.”  If you’ve followed this blog a while you’ll remember I complained previously that just saying wireless as if it were some monolithic thing is wrong.  So the similarity between wired and wireless is simply that there are different kinds of wireless jus like there are different kinds of wired.  We cover this in our PROFINET one-day training events.  Harry Forbes then returned with a professional market overview.  We concluded with two more user stories from ProSoft’s Richard Theron and Barbara Brunswick.

We always try to break up the day with something.  Usually, it’s a raffle – sometimes of something really nice and sometimes just something silly (like the Cowboy Chocolate Assortment).  This year we added PROFIbingo, a variation of the popular buzzword bingo sometimes secretly played in meetings.  We played one game on each day.  How did we print over 100 different PROFIbingo cards?  Google and Excel.  Googling “buzzword bingo” revealed the technique to use Excel’s random function to populate the card.  Typing in about 70 buzzwords was easy.  Adding a macro to repeatedly re-sort and print completed the trick.  The excel spreadsheet will be on the CD we send to attendees in case they feel compelled to generate their own buzzword bingo cards.

One of the attendees that I’ve known for a while thought I had a lot to do with the PTO PowerPoints.  He said he saw my sense of humor in them.  I was pleased, of course, to think someone thought I had a sense of humor.