Newsletter Insert November 2014

Drew’s Automation Insert

Drew Baryenbruch

Midwest Nice: Three Times You Need to Get Over it in Business

I’m probably the stereotype for “Midwestern Nice.” By nature I have always been eager to please, accommodating, and somewhat selfless. I think a lot of young professionals trying to make their mark in their companies can relate to these traits and tendencies. Don’t get me wrong, these traits are not a bad thing.

The problem is managing these tendencies when we settle into a company role. Agreeing to a project or opportunity is no longer just putting your time and energy on the line. These commitments now involve company costs and the time of entire departments. You quickly realize there are times you have to get over being Midwest Nice. Here are three prime examples.

When you are a square peg eyeing a round hole for a friend:
There will be customers that go out of their way to try to use your products and services. These loyal customers, with the best intentions, come up with very creative, but terrible uses for you and your products.

Example: You make dog toys. Customer X has a cat. Customer X deducts that if he can make his cat act like a dog with 3rd party training/components then he could use your dog toys that he likes so much on his cat.

In theory these harebrained ideas work. BUT, these are the high risk, house of cards applications you need to avoid. Yes this is a customer you know and it’s good you want to help them, but if you know the customer is better served with a different solution, you are helping them by not selling to them. Direct them towards the right solution. The customer is served and you are in one less high risk situation.

When discussing value:
Your company has X amount of resources to execute Y amount of projects. When the schedule gets full, you have to turn people away or let the laws of supply and demand take over. This second part is what used to shake my Midwest soul.

Example: Your Company makes a $5 cog. $5 is a fair price that allows your company to make a decent profit and deliver an “honest” value to your customers. A customer comes in with an immediate need for 5000 cogs. This is far beyond your standard capacity. You will have to pay overtime, rush in materials, push back some current orders and work your tail off to fill this order.

Midwest me would be crunching the numbers to see if I could still milk a small profit out of the $5 price. That is inaccurate thinking. You have to assure yourself that you are not responsible to maintain a price point when the customer puts unusual pressure on your delivery. You can, with a good conscience, charge this customer more. You should not take a marginal hit on your goods for their extraordinary need. The value of an on-time, short notice delivery is much higher to this customer. It’s OK to demand additional compensation when unusual demands are placed on you.

When you are down to your underpants:
It is admirable to be the person people come to for assistance. The guy/gal that will figuratively offer the shirt off his/her back to help a customer. People respond to these traits and appreciate them.

The problem is there will be leeches in life. These are the customers that don’t stop when they get the shirt off your back. They put unrealistic, unwarranted demands on you and your services because you are agreeable. After your shirt, they want your shoes, then your pants. Before you know it you are sitting embarrassed in nothing more than your underpants.

There is nothing wrong with saying NO to these people. As long as it’s not continually the first phrase out of your mouth it’s OK to say, “That’s not what I was hired to do.” Truly good customers will appreciate the extra things you do for them, and understand when they have asked too much and you graciously push back a bit.

A dab will do you:
I think everyone could benefit from a little Midwestern value, but be careful. The world has a way of creating a taker for every giver. Never hesitate to first be Midwest nice but don’t forget that nice has its limits. When you reach those limits its ok to say no, ask for compensation, or simply move along.

 

BACnet Demystified

Many of you have a background in industrial controls and protocols. When faced with a request for BACnet, many of you seize up to this foreign witchcraft. I get your calls, “I’m a (Modbus, Allen-Bradley, or Profi) guy, I don’t know elbows from hind sides about this BACnet and I need help.” This paper should give you a general overview and help eliminate some of your BACnet anxiety.

What is BACnet?
Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet). BACnet is an ISO, ASHRAE and ANSI standard protocol. It’s been around since 1987 and is now the leading protocol standard for building automation.

Flavors of BACnet:
There are formally 7 different network types: BACnet/IP, BACnet MS/TP, BACnet ISO 8802-3, BACnet over ARCNET, BACnet Point-to-Point, BACnet over LonTalk Foreign Frames, and BACnet over ZigBee. From a practical standpoint though, there are only 2 prevalent versions you are apt to run into in the market. The rest are niche based.

BACnet MS/TP – This is the RS485 based BACnet. MS/TP stands for Master Slave / Token Pass. It is primarily a token pass protocol. There are slave devices that can’t handle tokens but they are rare.

BACnet/IP – This is the leading Ethernet based version of BACnet. The communication is UDP/IP based and relies on BBMD’s to bridge different subnets.

Data Representation:
All BACnet data is modeled inside of simple information objects. Each Object is made up of properties.

Here is an example object with 5 properties.

Object_Name ROOM 3 TEMP
Object_Type ANALOG INPUT
Present_Value 68.3
High_limit 90
Low_LImit 60

Like most modern protocols, there are many objects to choose from. BACnet supports 54 different standard object types and proprietary objects, but most data can be represented as an Analog or Binary type.

If you are a Modbus guy or gal, then Modbus registers are a direct map to analog values in BACnet, and Modbus coils become binary values.

Services:
If you are designing a BACnet system, there are many cool services to work with from time synchronization to alarming. However, since your goal will be primarily to present data, we can gloss over most of the services. Just know a service accompanies every request and reply.

Going back to our Modbus reference think Services = Function codes.

The Unique Features of BACnet:
In comparison to industrial protocols, there are 2 primary benefits BACnet offers in all applications that are pretty cool.

Meta Data – Each point of data has a human readable ASCII name.

The Controllers can auto-discover devices and the data that those devices have to offer. No excel tables, EDS or GSD files to mess with.

These features greatly reduce many of the stresses we are used to dealing with when implementing and troubleshooting control applications.

Documents to Identify a Device:
If you have a BACnet device and have no idea what it is or what it does, there are two documents you will want to track down. The Protocol Implementation and Conformance Statement (PICS) and the BACnet Interoperability Building Blocks (BIBBs).

Closing:
You certainly aren’t a BACnet expert now but I hope this view of BACnet from 10,000 feet helps take some of the mysticism out of the protocol.

 

New Developments

-BFR3000 Modbus Router
Need to connect dissimilar Modbus devices and systems? We finally have a cost effective, extremely easy to use device that can handle all your Modbus routing.

  • Full support for Modbus RTU, Modbus ASCII and Modbus TCP/IP
  • Super Simple User Interface
  • Rugged Industrial Design
  • No software required browser based configuration
  • Releasing 12/1/14