Listening – An Engineer’s Greatest Skill

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Listening – An Engineer’s Greatest Skill

PLCs, HMIs, and SCADA Systems are all great tools. On their own, each has plenty to offer. PLCs have massive sets of I/O and specialty cards, support large memory formats with advanced features for the most demanding control applications. SCADA systems and HMIs have a dizzying array of finely developed 3D objects, clean high-performance graphics, advanced trend and alarm objects, and slick new navigational methods. You can hardly go wrong selecting products from any of the major players: Rockwell, AVEVA, Schneider, Siemens, and GE, not to mention several lesser-known names. And while chock full of all that there is to technically offer, typically a system’s success hinges not on the tool themselves, but on the skills the operations teams possess and how they use each tool. In fact, your most important tool might be your listening skills!

So why do we still believe the success of a project is based on the selected automation tools? Don’t get me wrong, choosing the tools that you’re comfortable with is important. However, how those tools are implemented, how the Systems Integrators package and present the tool’s features, and how the system owners maintain a support group to troubleshoot and update features that present efficiencies and better decision-making in real time are far more important to a project’s success. Good design and implementations center on making the best of the operations teams’ needs while running the process automation system. Listening to what’s important to the operators and working with them on how they’ll utilize the tools will lead to acceptance and ownership, resulting in a team that’s motivated to keep the system running at peak efficiency. It’s not the software or hardware platform du jour; its communication and team work that ultimately determine the success of a project.
It is a great time to be an engineer and have a vast selection of tools to do the job. Sharpening our listening skills may be the biggest advantage we can bring to a project’s success. Listen we shall!
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