When Industrial Automation Goes Wrong

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The benefits of industrial automation for both the speed and ease of productive output are well known. Automation technologies and the process control software used to manage them ensure that automated industrial processes get smoother and more manageable all the time. Yet, as they say, even the best laid plans often go awry and there is the possibility of error in every system. Thankfully, while process control systems are never 100 percent infallible all the time, they are also armed with measures to anticipate, identify and correct problems.

At the shop floor level

As has been noted in an earlier article, process c control systems monitor industrial processes in three primary ways: measurement, comparison and adjustment. By keeping constant track of various production variables, comparing them to pre-programmed guidelines and adjusting levels accordingly, the process control system keeps the workflow rolling along as it should, correcting as it goes. PLCs (programmable logic controllers), in particular, include algorithms to handle these lower-level functions.

Monitoring the monitor

From time to time, things still go wrong.  In smaller-scale operations, working with a single PLC, most problems can be solved quite simply and quickly. Essentially when the PLC loses control of the process, its reading of the situation in the production line is “out of synch” with what is actually happening. For example, perhaps we are dealing with some industrial process that includes a row of silos, each containing specific production inputs. The PLC is programmed to signal an alert when the quantity of input in each silo drops below a certain level. At some point it signals that one of the silos is empty and halts production, pending a refill, but when staff go to check the silo, they find that it is actually still at a functional level. This communication disconnect is usually the result of corrupt data or some hardware problem, most often an issue with an input/output module, both of which are easily resolved.


Sometimes, however, the situation is a bit more complicated. In larger-scale processes, several PLCs may be in use with a higher level process controller such as SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) controlling all of them. SCADA systems enable a greater degree of control and interactivity across a bigger and more complicated process, allowing your staff to access and monitor live data throughout the process, across all active PLCs and with the ability to intercede immediately at any point in production.

NJCSI works with PLC and SCADA, as well as DCS systems, to keep automated industries running smoothly. Contact us to discuss your automation needs.