Just One Way to Find a Gotcha

It’s Impossible for Vendors to Know All the Subtle Gotchas That Occur When Their Products Are Applied to Machine Automation

Dan HebertBy Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor

All of the best articles in this magazine and in any trade publication are written by readers like you, either directly or indirectly.

Direct input happens with case studies describing a machine- or robot-builder automation application. We try to run at least one good case study in each issue. Indirect input happens multiple times in every issue, since we interview our readers for input to the cover story and to feature articles.

As content creators, our goal is to interview our readers and edit their input to produce a finished piece. No matter how experienced the editor, his or her detailed knowledge of current automation hardware and software application issues never can approach yours. We’ll never pretend it does.

Who are these readers? They are automation professionals working for machine builders or for system integrators that serve machine builders. Vendors that serve the machine builder industry read our magazine, but they are not audited subscribers and they’re not our primary audience or primary source of article input. We also don’t let them author case studies. Those must be bylined by machine builders or system integrators.

Our readers are our best source of input because they work day-to-day, applying control system hardware and software to meet their automation challenges. It’s impossible for vendors to know all the subtle gotchas that occur when their products are applied to machine automation. This is especially true because most of their automation products are integrated with products from other vendors to create a complete machine automation system.

Vendors know their own products inside and out from a lab point of view, but you’re not interested in stand-alone performance in a controlled environment. That’s why we don’t do any product testing at Control Design. You’re instead interested in how a product performs when installed in your particular application, and you and your peers determine that better than any vendor.

As editors, we interview people like you to find the gotchas, the gap between lab performance and actual performance in machine automation applications. We then strive to assemble these gotchas into a coherent article so that you can learn from the experiences of your peers.

A failing of some editors, hopefully none at this magazine, is to think they know more than their readers. No matter how much industry experience an editor has, he or she can never duplicate your up-to-date real-world knowledge. That’s why we incessantly hound you for input to Control Design.

There are three main reasons why some readers are reluctant to contribute to our magazine. The first is time constraints. We understand this issue and try to accommodate contributors.

The second is a perceived lack of writing ability. Don’t sweat it. It’s our responsibility as editors to make sure that reader input is properly vetted for grammar, spelling and other literary niceties. Don’t worry about the grammatical quality of your writing. We’ll make it and you look good. That’s our job,and we’re good at it.

The third reason is one that should be dispelled by this article. Some of our readers are hesitant to respond to inquires for input to articles because they think they don’t have much to add. They believe others know more than they do about a particular area of automation, even when they have extensive and relevant hands-on experience.

These hesitant contributors seem to think that vendors or even editors know more than they do when it comes to the application-specific performance of machine automation hardware and software. Rest assured that this is never the case.

You and your peers are world-class experts when it comes to machine automation. As a group, our readers know more about machine automation than any other resource in the world. Editors speak to vendors, other editors and machine-builder automation professionals daily. We know vendor or editor expertise doesn’t approach your level of knowledge when it comes to application-specific performance.

The most interesting gotchas can only be found by someone like you, a machine automation professional working day-to-day with machines and robots. That’s why we strive so hard to feature your input in Control Design.

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