BlogAutomation Projects and Simplicity

Automation Projects and Simplicity

By Gary Stokes
January 18th, 2019

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

“Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.”

Edsger Dijkstra

We recently read Automation World’s “Automation Project Survival Guide”.    Find it here  One of the tips for project managers reads as follows.

Keep simplicity top-of-mind.

Engineers tend to make systems too complex for non-engineers to deal with. Make sure expectations are established early that will keep the needs of the people who will have to operate and maintain the systems a priority. 

This is a thought with which we agree heartily. When you’re “into” tech, you sometimes make the mistake of thinking others love it, too.  Executing automation projects, you often deal with people that have a similar mindset.  But the people that operate the system under construction have very different ends in mind.

If you are an employee in a large fulfillment center, you have production targets to meet, and anything that stands in the way of achieving your targets is a problem. A maintenance tech in the same facility is under pressure to fix problems fast.  Overly complicated automation projects stand in the way.

Pendant Keys to Simplicity

Pendant engineers are trained to design control systems with the end user in mind. This means doing the extra work and taking the extra time required to take a complex process and make it simple and useable. The goals include:

  • Clear and precise CAD drawings
  • Well-thought-out control panel and device layouts
  • Concise and effective PLC programs
  • Only as much “stuff” as necessary

What we don’t do is strip out useful functionality. The real trick is in making the project as simple as necessary, but no simpler. That takes effort. The reliability of the system and the productivity of the team are inevitably better as a result.

Think about your own automation projects. For what end and for whom were they designed? If they often end up overly complicated, why not give Pendant a shot?

I’d like to build a simple system that works