1660238328261 Jimmontague0609

Control report from Jim Montague: Don't dismiss

Feb. 1, 2022
A little patience can yield a rich return on investment

You've probably heard that a little knowledge is dangerous, but plenty of know-how and lots of experience can have drawbacks and even be hazardous, too. As I've often mentioned, I don't have a fraction of the knowledge and experience of the process control professionals that I cover and write about, but I have picked up on some common threads in the topics I've covered in Control, and remembered to observe them evolved over the years. These topics include all the usual suspects like industrial networking, fieldbuses, Ethernet, wireless, process safety and cybersecurity, wireless, edge and cloud computing, and other incarnations and combinations.

In the beginning, learning all these definitions and concepts is purely a survival skill in the familiar quest to stay employed. Over time, if we can hack it, we get familiar with and maybe begin to master the environments and fields we're in—and hopefully get the chance to breathe a little easier. All well and good.

Competence should permit some comfort, too. However, the price of familiarity, experience and comfort can quickly and unexpectedly turn into the slippery slope of overconfidence, inflexibility and willful ignorance.

For instance, I've covered more than a few distributed control systems (DCSs) and migrations over the years, and I thought I knew what they were all about. So, I was skeptical when I started working on this issue's "Hold'em to consistent gas processing" feature (p. 50) about BXG Systems standardizing on PlantPAx DCS software to simplify natural gas plants. At first, it seemed like just another straight-ahead DCS upgrade story, and back when I covered system integrator BXG's presentation as part of Rockwell Automation Fair 2021 last November in Houston, I didn't think it was possible that I could learn anything new.

However, I was quickly reminded that midstream natural gas processing relies on multiple operations to clean and prepare the gas for transportation and eventual sale, and these operations are traditionally controlled by multiple systems and software that can't talk to each other and don't let users coordinate their efforts. Settling on and implementing unified DCS software removes many of these barriers, enables BXG to save huge amounts of time and optimize processes.

Sadly, I still hadn't learned my lesson. So, more recently, I was again jaded, suspicious and dismissive when I was assigned to write this issue's "Ready to where" feature (p. 53) about the omlox open locating standard for real-time locating systems (RTLS), which is administered by Profibus & Profinet International. Seriously? Was another networking protocol really needed for automatic guided vehicles and other mobile devices? Couldn't all the other existing network protocols do the job?

Well, once again, I wished I had that well-worn nickel for every time I've been wrong because omlox goes way beyond simply tracking AGVs and other mobile devices. It starts by defining open interfaces for interoperable localization systems, and enables interoperability and flexibility among different trackable sources in one or multiple tracking zones. However, its APIs provide a bridge that communicates down to mobile tools, production equipment and other location-related technologies with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Wi-Fi, ultra-wideband (UWB), global positioning systems (GPS) and 5G wireless. It also enables communications up to devices and software, such as MES, warehouse management, ERP and supply chain applications, and gives them geo-referenced positioning data with centimeter-level accuracy.

Just like BXG's unified DCS, omlox provides information that can greatly simplify and streamline many process operations and facilities. What scares me is I could have easily missed both if I'd dismissed them as I was initially inclined to do based on my lengthy but still incomplete experience. This is why patience and not being too quick to judge are still crucial, and must be practiced regularly, especially by those with a lot of knowledge that could hold them back from something new and possibly useful.

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.