Wireless Hype, Technology Breakthroughs and Making it in U.S.A.

Aug. 30, 2010
Readers Chime In and Give Us Their Opinions on Current Issues and Articles

Wireless Hype Comes Back to Earth?

Congratulations on your article "Wireless Field Devices Are Shipping, but Adoption Questions Remain." (Aug. '10, Wireless?) I am also very pleased to learn that you now have come back to earth as far as "wireless at process control" is concerned. You remember my column "The Wireless Hype in Process Automation" 20 months ago in your magazine? (The Wireless Hype in Process Automation)

But, I think it's a pity that you still see the world only through American glasses. No remark on the massive intervention of the German NAMUR. No quotation from the lecture of Martin Schwibach at the ARC Forum Orlando 2010. No note on the brand-new NAMUR Recommendation NE 133 "Wireless Sensor Network—Requirements to a Converged Solution." Why not?

Anyway, good article. I think (hope) that it will give some people a headache.

Dipl.Ing. Dieter Schaudel
[email protected]

How to Make It "Made in U.S.A."

Mr. Boyes, you could not be more off base and out of touch with your myopic view of what it will take to return manufacturing to the U.S. ("If We Have the Will," July '10.)

Once again the call is to "outsmart" the foreign competition by more education and automated factories. I constantly hear how the workforce needs to be better educated, so we can compete.

So the "revolution in information handling and communications" is going to turn the U.S. factory into a worldbeater?

Well, please let me educate you about what has really doomed us in manufacturing: multinational, Wall Street-driven companies, who have lobbied for and gotten free trade agreements with countries such as China, and NAFTA.

NAFTA has devastated the industry I work in (plastics). We have even been pressured by our main customer to build a plant in Mexico. We were told that the pay for the workers there would be $2 an hour, which includes benefits. Now, if I made $2 hour I would be living in a cardboard box house. Less than $2 dollars an hour pay is poverty, even in Mexico.

Remember "light switch factory," where everything was automated, and the lights could be turned off while it continued to operate? Only one problem: Where do people work in this ideal world of manufacturing?

I'm at Ground Zero, and I can tell you that no amount of education or information will stop the race to the bottom.

I work in a highly automated factory— robotics, Six Sigma, ISO, Lean, SPC, we have and do it all—and we have been losing money for years. 

I'm sorry if I've insulted you. It's just that I perceive you as another journalist who is out of touch with the average Americans life and needs.

The answer to bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. is this: If something is made in a foreign country don't buy it.

Jock Stucki
Wabash Plastics, Inc.

"Breakthrough" Technology?

The March 2010 issue of Control, which is one of my favorite periodicals, had an exclusive article on p. 45 about the new, breakthrough Yokogawa TDLs (tunable diode lasers).

This appeared to be all fine and dandy except for one small fact. The Yokogawa TDL came from a company in Clear Lake, Texas, named ASI, and it was this U.S. company and technology that Yokogawa bought instead of developing it "in house." I know this because I have five of these TDLs presently operating in my plant under very harsh conditions, and three of the TDL Launch units have ASI on the outside, not Yokogawa.

When Yokogawa bought ASI, the ASI salespeople, who are very knowledgeable on the TDL, said, "Don't worry. The buyout will be transparent to the end user." Yet this is not my present reality. As of today, I still consider the ASI Yokogawa TDL superior to any TDL on the market, so much so that I am installing them in several more of my company installations in North America. It's just that dealing with the Yokogawa terms, conditions, technical support and parts has reduced my enthusiasm for the product.

Anyhow, I think Control should trumpet the fact that this was an American design by ex-NASA employees, which was developed in America, and then just bought by Yokogawa to further the technology. That said, it's not such a bad thing. I just though the article skirted the truth, and since I depend on unbiased reporting from Control, a proper response might be appropriate.

David Peltzman
Clean Harbors Environmental Services
[email protected]

The Chinese Powerhouse

I wanted to say I very much enjoyed this month's article. (Web Exclusive, "Walt Boyes' Excellent China Adventure"). We're a small company in upstate N.Y., and a supplier to Rockwell Automation here in North America. Softnoze also has a small office in Shanghai. In two weeks I'll be making trip Number 7.
You're right on with your observations. It's just amazing to witness the developments there. It's also just as tricky to find out how to best seize their opportunities.

Thanks and please keep up the good reporting!

Brett Truett
President, SoftNoze USA Inc.
[email protected]

All This for $40K a Year?

[This letter is from the "Our ISA" blog in response to Walt Boyes' post about a job ad by the Chicago Sun-Times for an "electrician," whose required qualifications were really those of an automation engineer. The complete exchange is at http://tinyurl.com/2dyzk88.]

"Don't forget about 'must be able to weld too,' all for about $40,000 per year. Don't be so quick to judge the potential candidates. I've been working 'electrician' jobs for 15 years now. I'm not the only BSEE/MSEE or BSEET doing the same. I've met plenty of them..."

I can't wait to leave manufacturing!!!

Kevin G. Karagory