January 2008

your letters | Readers Respond

Automation and eBay

I agree in part with the concept offered in Frank Hurtte's The Final Say, "Automation and eBay: A dangerous mix," (InTech, September 2007), however, it is unfair to lump all third party activities into the generalist bucket.  There is an element of the automation equipment world that, with safety and foresight, deals in mature equipment including hardware, software, and firmware.

Industrial Process Control is an industry dedicated to the processes related to the conversion of raw materials into finished or semi-finished goods, i.e. crude oil to gasoline, pine trees to paper, iron ore to steel, etc.  The use of "third party" suppliers within this industry is a common and understood practice.  Third party suppliers provide a useful and economic service to both the OEM and the end user.  The end user can extend the life of his/her installed base and usually at a reduced rate.  The OEM can reduce their repair centers as well as their inventory while keeping their name and products in front of the client.

We have successfully operated a third party service business in this industry for 25 years.  Our success is directly related to providing our customers with what they want and need.  We have agreements in place with some of the larger OEM's in the business to provide both component level repair and onsite service/startup.  We have always given a one-year unconditional warranty on any part we repair or sell.  To further our commitment to our customers, Process Control Services is: ISO 9001-2000 Certified; our testing lab is ISO/IEC-17025 Accredited; field personnel are (ISA) CCST certified.

In conclusion, while I do not agree with purchasing potentially dangerous items from eBay or another unproven source, I firmly believe you cannot make a general statement depicting all non-OEM based transactions as bad business.  If end users are reduced to buying automation equipment on eBay, then I would suggest their problems are worse than the transaction itself.

Ronald Borgman, Process Control Services, President and CEO, Plymouth, Mich.

Differential pressure measurement

I think you have a slight problem with the November InTech CCST question. The question you ask would be for a pressure tap on a pipe to measure line pressure. I believe the question should read, "What is the most common connection to measure flow using DP?"

The picture you include is good for gas flow measurement but would be bad for liquid or steam flow since the sensing line would drain whenever the pipe is shut down.

Ronald H Johnson P.E., Michigan City, Ind.  

Internal information structures

In your November InTech article "Untapped knowledge, hidden sweet spot" one method of empowering employees is through availability of information. 

One of the problems I deal with providing custom system documentation and training is the limited availability of information within an organization.  The informal pipeline is quite efficient as long as you know who to call. From small to multi-international organizations, the organization and distribution of information usually exists in varying degrees.

With system and product applications, unique application, along with diagnostic and troubleshooting, procedures developed during the checkout and startup phase of a project are rarely documented. 

Because of this untapped knowledge, system and product applications are reinvented.

Although well-managed units within an organization usually have an internal information structure, gathering and categorizing useful information onto an information network should be an organizational goal. The structure of information and accessibility issues may be unique to each organization, but it needs to be addressed.

The push for productivity to meet or beat project budgets, lack of interest to document, therefore not reusing the knowledge gained from past projects, cuts into profits.

Bill Jezak

Alternate sources of fuel

Dear Dr. Baumann:

I read your latest offering for the November issue of InTech's "The Final Say." In general, I enjoy your writings.  I have a personal copy of Control Valve Primer, 3rd edition.

However, I think your emphasis in the latest article is missing a key point.  The western societies are heavily dependent on oil for transportation.  Having alternate sources of fuel for transportation is very important in this very insecure world.  I believe the book I am currently reading says this and much else, very well.  I would recommend you read Freedom from Oil by David Sandalow.  It has a lot of details on the plusses/minuses of various alternatives.

I look forward to reading further articles from you.

Linda Hess P.E.

Response:

Dear Ms. Hess:

Thank you for your kind message. You are quite right; transportation is a prime concern for all of us, and I would like to see more emphasis on mass transportation. The point I tried to make in my article is we should not support schemes that have a negative energy balance; that is where the energy input exceeds the energy that can be utilized. This is a wastefulness that we can ill afford.

Hans D. Baumann