Machine Builders Use Alternative Resources to Solve Problems

Oct. 31, 2012
Engineers Interact With Other Technical Professionals Through Social Media
About the Author

Jim Montague is the Executive Editor of Control.

Branching out from their mainstream counterparts, there are many social media websites, subgroups and forums where engineers and other technical professionals can get answers to their industrial networking problems and help with their projects. is the granddaddy of all control and automation email discussion groups and social media websites. Its communities include Modbus, motion and OPC, and its discussion topics include applications, business, communications, engineering, HMI, languages, motion control, networking, open control, PCs, PLCs, power generation, process control, sensors, software and its just-launched automation safety forum.


LinkedIn has more than 1.4 million groups for pretty much every topic imaginable, especially jobs and marketing. It's viewed by many North American users as more oriented toward professional purposes. Though visitors can search for groups that suit them best, some representative control and automation groups include Automation & Control Engineering, Industrial Automation and Controls Network, Control System Integrators Group, ISA — International Society of Automation, Motion Control & Industrial Automation Network, and SCADA/Control System Security Professionals, as well as Control Design and Control Global.


AutomationDirect Customer Forums is one of the many active, web-based, customer-driven, supplier-hosted groups. Its forums include general applications; communications; operator interface; and ac drives, stepper and servo applications. 


National Instruments Forums is another active, web-based supplier group. It includes 10 software boards (including LabView, with more than 690,000 posts), nine hardware boards, 34 product boards, six special-interest boards, nine idea exchanges, two French boards, and boards in Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese and other languages.


OptoForum has discussion areas for applications and software, code samples and tips, products and hardware, suggestion box, and a code contest with prizes this past summer, in which users shared OptoScript programs that turned a PAC into a web server, or performed telemetry, data logging and linear interpolation. The forum presently has 3,500 members and more than 1,000 posts.


YouTube might not seem like a social media site, but its video posting and viewing format allows many users to not only provide instruction, but also demonstrate problems and provide crucial details to ask the right questions.


Facebook is perceived as more personal and family-oriented. However, many users outside North America use it to discuss professional and technical issues.


Twitter is also seen as more for personal and mainstream use, but it has potential to be useful for asking questions and pointing the way to other social media discussions and tools, and could potentially be used to alert operators and managers.


This article is part of Industrial Networking's 4th Quarter cover story: "Can Machine Builders Solve Social Media?"

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor, Control

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. He can be contacted at [email protected].