Recommended Reading

Wireless segue into today’s recommended reading list: There is an excellent case study in The Industrial Wireless Book showing how wireless is being used in a giant frozen food storage center. Adding to the typical reasons for wireless (moving equipment) is the temperature, a constant -25 degrees C. For a real world example of the principles expounded in our wireless webinar, read: “Unmanned Bluetooth conveying system.” It also exemplifies the integration of other fieldbuses into PROFINET as Interbus is used in concert with PROFINET in a Phoenix Contact controller.

Jim Cahill at Emerson Process Experts recommends an excellent article on maintenance in Plant Engineering: “Act, don’t react, for greater asset optimization.” Why am I recommending an article that does not use the magic words PROFIBUS, PROFINET, or even fieldbus? Because fieldbus is the enabling technology allowing intelligent instruments to communicate information to asset management software. We talk about PROFIBUS, PROFINET, and other fieldbuses providing an economic advantage in installation costs and an even greater economic advantage during operation. Asset management is one of the big contributors to the latter.

Reading survey results can be boring, but I was enraptured by the survey results from a Control magazine survey on fieldbuses and wireless. The reference to the survey was in the second paragraph of a wireless article in the August issue… and that was as far as I got in the article. (You’ll find the survey at Some observations on the survey:

Ethernet is not a protocol. Why does the survey make this one of the protocol choices? I’ve ranted on this topic before and the folks at Control Engineering have the right perspective on this topic: “Ethernet isn’t a protocol.”

The bar charts are somewhat interesting, but I was fascinated by the verbatims (that’s survey-speak for the unedited comments of the survey takers). Some of those with my comments:

“Converting to FF or Profibus would transfer I/O troubleshooting from techs (who only need a fluke & 275) to Engineering.”

We’ve been wondering out loud why not all new projects use a fieldbus. Here’s another reason. I wonder if this is destined to change as we dinosaurs become extinct and kids who grew up with computers take over. Won’t tomorrow’s techs be more comfortable with a laptop than a digital multimeter?

“Ethernet is used and understood more than all the others I feel. And as far as support your standard IT guy can assist the controls designers in design and trouble shooting.”

We talk about standard IT tools in our PROFINET one-day training events. If we can just get the IT guy to understand the control engineer…

“Profibus seems to be the easiest and yields the most information for ease of use. The panel is still out as to whether we will stick with this or eventually go to Ethernet.”

This is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? (Sorry, that’s dinosaur-speak; must be the $10,000,000 question on today’s quiz shows.) When will users make the leap from PROFIBUS to PROFINET? Our position is that’s it’s not a leap, but rather a planned transition based on the same principles and concepts.

My favorite question was the last one of the survey: “If you were ‘lord of fieldbus for a day’ what one thing would you do?”

There were a lot of interesting responses here – some wishful (“find a fieldbus queen”), some insightful, some wrong.

One comment showed we have more to do to get the word out about what can already be done: “Create redundant wireless safety fieldbus.” That already exists and we have application stories that date back a ways.

There’s one we can all agree with: “Make it more prevalent in the field.” Yes, all new projects should be using a fieldbus!

And my personal favorite: “order pizza for everyone and suggest that we all just get along.” This is kind of in contrast to some comments to bring down the number of fieldbus choices to one. Personally, I believe in competition. But that doesn’t mean the fieldbus organizations shouldn’t agree on the importance of promoting fieldbus use, while disagreeing on the merits of each other’s technology.

Speaking of disagreeing, I got my print copy of Automation World today and stumbled again across the comments that set my FUD meter over the limit. Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell responded to my rant in his blog.