This Friday is Book Review Day! #pauto #automation #SCADA #safety

Jan. 1, 2000

Book reviews: The History of a Safer World  by Gary L. Wilkinson; SCADA and ME, by Robert M. Lee; The Distributor's Fee Based Services Manifesto, by Frank Hurtte

Making the world a safer place

Self publishing is wonderful—to a point. Gary L. Wilkinson’s labor of love, The History of a Safer World  is a paean to two Southern California companies that he believes changed the way automation is done, and made the world safer. The two companies are Triconex and Wonderware. His book is fascinating for historical reasons, and it even is instructive for entrepreneurs who want to avoid the mistakes the founders of the two companies made. 

Wilkinson, who still works at Triconex, notes that the two companies had come from the same roots. Dennis Morin worked at Triconex until he was let go—and founded Wonderware shortly thereafter. Both companies are now owned by Invensys, which was recently sold to Schneider. 

Wilkinson conducted over 250 interviews with past and present employees of both companies.  If you’ve been hanging around the industry for any length of time, lots of the names will be familiar—Eddie Habibi, Peter Martin, Luis Duran, Troy Martel, Herman Storey, Jon Wimer, Dennis Morin, Robin McCrea-Steele, Bob Adamski and many others from the early days of Triconex. Morin resurfaces in the Wonderware half of the story, as do Phil Huber, Peter Pitsker, Linda Ellison, Rick Bullotta, Pankaj Mody,  Rashesh Mody, Mike Brooks, and more. 

Did Triconex change the world? The evidence says yes. Did Wonderware? Even though Dennis Morin wasn’t first, or even second, to build a graphics based HMI (Steve Rubin who built Intellution, was first), he was the first to use high level marketing techniques to bring his product to the attention of the market. After Wonderware, every HMI needed to be a “look-alike for Wonderware,” and Morin’s use of Microsoft Windows began the drive to the COTS systems we have today, whether you start from the DCS or from the PLC. So yes, Wonderware changed the world too. 

The book could use a good editor, and a good copy editor, like many self-published volumes can. But if you want an affectionate and realistic look at the early days of both companies, this is the book. 

A Book for Children and Management

Robert M. Lee is a serving Air Force officer, a professor at Utica College and a recognized expert on cybersecurity and cyberwar, with a specialty in securing SCADA systems.

He’s produced a children’s book, of all things, called SCADA and ME. The book is subtitled “a book for children and management” so it is pretty obvious that some or all of the book can be read tongue in cheek, and probably should.

“Why aren’t they built with something to protect them?” says little Bobby about SCADA systems. “You’re learning quickly, little Bobby! That question remains a mystery!” answers the adult who is probably Lee’s analog in the story.

Without going into any detail, Lee raises questions that need to be answered, and shows that the Auditors, the Politicians and the Beltway Bandits aren’t the answer. 

Illustrator Jeff Haas does a nice job of keeping it light. The illustrations complement the simplicity of the story very well.

While the book can be read for children, you should give it to your favorite CEO.

Distribution in a perfect storm

Third party distribution is one of the oldest methods of selling products in existence. Distributors have been in existence since prehistory, and some of them use a business model that would make you think they were personally there and haven’t changed since their office was a cave, or the back of a camel. 

But huge changes have been happening in third party sales channels, and a perfect storm is building. Now that the Internet has given customers the ability to access products and services directly everywhere in the world, what is the territorially-based distributor to do? Frank Hurtte, of River Heights Consulting, believes he knows, and explains in The Distributor's Fee Based Services Manifesto.

Frank Hurtte, a renowned consultant who specializes in third party channel management, believes that distributors should get into the services business. Of course, they always have been, but those services have always been loss leaders, in an attempt to cadge an order.

Hurtte believes that distributors must make a real play in the services business, and charge for those services, just the way the principals do.  Considering that every principal or vendor I’ve talked to in the past ten years believes that the way to profit in the next few years is services, Hurtte is undoubtedly right. Having the perfect suite of “pick, pack and ship” products is no longer a differentiator. Having the expertise and capabilities to provide an extensive suite of services to complement those products certainly is. And a distributor can do it locally, with less overhead than a major vendor can. 

This is a great book if you are a distributor, or you use distributors in your channels.