The Human Element
The key to your S88 success is people, as the following postulate describes.
Technology is not the challenge as often as you might think. If you take care of the people issues, the technology will almost always work.
What people are we talking about? These four groups:
- The project team
- Your customers (users)
- Management (or sponsors)
- Vendors (OEMs or SIs)
General View of Automation
Not all people look at automation the same way and will behave differently. Your first critical task may be to:
Convince people that automation must move from a cost that must be managed to an investment opportunity.
There are people barriers to treating automation as an investment. The table below lists the barriers and how you might be able to break them down.
|Barrier||Breaking It Down|
|Gap in technology understanding||Invest in education|
|Misunderstood automation benefits||Tie automation benefits directly to business results|
|Underestimating effort needed to implement and support automation||Communicate successes clearly and loudly…and what it took to succeed|
Investing in education means that at every opportunity you should spend a couple of minutes helping to convince someone that automation is good for business (of course, if applied correctly in the appropriate instances).
Tying automation benefits directly to business results is all about understanding your market, your business drivers, and your business challenges, and seeing how automation can help. The previous sections on benefits to end users and benefits to OEMs provide ideas.
Engineers tend to be very humble, and often we expect others to naturally see the wondrous results of our labor. However, that doesn’t happen automatically. So, we need to communicate successes clearly and loudly. And do this by tying our good work directly to positive business impact. Maybe you can even throw in some additional education at the same time. (Don’t forget to explain the effort it took to succeed.)
Standards and consistency
If you are an end user with several sites or you are an OEM or SI that manages several projects simultaneously, then trying to standardize technology, architectures, or business (work) processes across these various organization units can be very challenging.
S88 can help out with it’s common terminology and models that gives everyone an absolute reference point. The reality is that sometimes it’s a lot easier to agree to use a common industry standard than it is to get several organizational units to develop standards or agree to a common approach among them.
The HMI effect
Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) attract a lot of attention. This is because:
- HMIs are often all your customers will see of the control system. (Many people consider valves, pumps, solenoids, instrumentation, etc. as part of the equipment and not control system.)
- Automation professional have an emotional attachment to their favorite HMI. If you want to raise the ire of an otherwise quiet and calm engineer, try forcing the person to use a different HMI. Be prepared to duck for cover.
So, when dealing with HMIs, choose a product that will work well for the job. (Hint: most HMI products are functionally the same and can all fit your needs.) Then get everyone to agree to use that particular brand. (Company standards help a lot with the organizational change management on this one.)
When rolling out your HMI solution, make sure that all of your screens:
- Are clean, crisp, and not cluttered
- Make good use of contrasting colors
- Have all fields properly aligned
- Have consistent navigation and command inputs
- And (for crying out loud) have no spelling errors
Remember, your HMI may provide the first impression to your users and to your management. Make that first impression a good one.
Fear and politics
We link fear and politics because fear often leads to political behavior and politics can succeed by people invoking fear. The best way to combat this situation is with education and data (facts). Tie benefits to business results, and clearly state the challenges you expect to face when implementing your project. Become the expert in automation, demonstrate how you understand the business, and show how you always put the needs of the business first. This will circumvent fear, starve political fuel, and deter others (often ignorant others) from making decisions for you.
Well, that’s our approach on selling S88. Got some success (or horror) stories that you would like to share? Please contact us. The stories will be just as valuable without individual or company names, so feel free to submit without names or places. We will also certainly honor any request for anonymity.