Automation and controls design

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      I am currently collecting data and analyzing the pros and cons of motor and process control systems. Some areas of special concern are automation performance comparison; software friendliness and ease of use; local plant technical support availability; availability of personnel resources familiar with automation system; networking superiority; and price comparison. Any specific comments and or suggestions you may have would be highly valued by someone trying to decide on the design of which controls’ system to implement.


        Hi Wayne and welcome to the forums. There is a lot to unpack here, however, I can try to offer some guidance or suggestions.

        First, are you an OEM? Or are you an engineering staff at a particular plant looking to generate a specification for your facility? The reason I ask is if you’re an OEM, most plants will have a documented specification already and you should be reaching out to their internal engineering staff for some specific guidance with the questions you have.

        On the hand, if the latter is true and you’re looking to implement your own specification, then these are all important questions to be asking and documenting so you don’t end up getting a mishmash of any and every control system under the sun at your facility. This is not only difficult for internal teams to support, but also becomes difficult to source and stock all the different hardware and components your going to need, let alone the cost to do so.

        In terms of a back-end control systems, as you’re probably aware Rockwell and Siemens are the two big players in this arena. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, however, both are widely used and supported control systems. Of course, there are other lower cost automation vendors as well, but all will come with their own initial learning curve. As you suggested, it may be a good idea to survey your local plant support to get an idea of their familiarity with a given system, software or spec.

        As for networking superiority, most industrial networks are leveraging Ethernet technologies for local and distributed networks, and converging these networks with IT business systems. Rockwell has partnered with Cisco who is one of the biggest players in networking technologies. And since Ethernet is an open technology it is very well documented and supported.

        In terms of price, your local distributor is probably your best bet. If this is a new facility, then I’m sure all automation suppliers will be eager to get their foot in the door. In general, you will pay more for Rockwell/Allen-Bradley and Siemens control solutions, however, they have, in my experience anyway, some of the best documentation, are constantly pouring money into research and development, and are globally the most supported systems in terms of finding people who can service and support them. Both have a reputation of reliability in the harshest of environments.

        I can probably ramble on for days, but hopefully I’ve given you some things to think about without really knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish.


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