How Do We Minimize Murphy Consequences in Automation?

Murphy is Alive and Well! Minimizing Risks Is Essential to Create Solutions That Minimize Downtime

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End Customers must learn that there are new solutions on the market, and need to work with System Integrators to design for Graceful Degradation.  That means modular systems and Parallel Systems.  Don't layer systems such that one failure at the foundation will bring down the entire solution.  In the past, "One Version of the Truth" drove designers toward tiered solutions, layering higher level analytics on a singular set of input data.  While this provides accountability, and the ability to know the contribution of each layered system, and proliferates the "Garbage In, Garbage Out" scenario, setting up the "House of Cards."

Instead, consider parallel paths that can offer you validation of your primary solution.  Brought to basics, that means Panel HMIs that communicate with controllers in conjunction with SCADA systems that communicate with Controllers.  Allow those communications to run in parallel, if bandwidth permits.  If one system fails, the other can act as a backup.  Think of this as poor-man's redundancy.  It is simply a logical architecture that enables you to have more than one way to operate your systems.

Avoid solutions that require a great deal of "Tribal Knowledge."  This can happen when an integrator uses "Tools" to develop your solutions rather than selecting Purpose Built products to solve a problem.  The drawbacks of engineered solutions are higher long term costs of ownership due to the higher costs to tweak solutions, and both QA and document the final outcome.  Heaven forbid you need to transition the maintenance of your solution from one developer to another, that has not had familiarity with the solution.

Rely on open and widely adopted standards such as OPC, for interoperability between products, rather than custom developed "Glue Code" to create interoperability between products and systems.  OPC is supported by virtually every vendor, and there are an abundance of toolkits enabling rapid development, when needed.
None of this is rocket science.  It is simply looking at the problem with a new perspective.  Perhaps I should be thankful for my failed Hard Drive.

As for Murphy, don't kid yourself.  He is alive and well, and when you are at your most vulnerable, he'll be knocking at your door. 


About the Author

Roy Kok is a 30+ year veteran of the automation industry.  Today, he owns and operates AutomationSMX, a Marketing and Sales Consultancy.  He is also an OPC Foundation Evangelist and is President of a new startup, Aware Technology.  You can reach Roy at

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