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Thread: Opinions on "Intelligent MCCs"

  1. #1
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    Opinions on "Intelligent MCCs"

    I am in the midst of a project where we are proposing, and promoting, the use of "Intelligent MCCs", i.e. with an Ethenet network inside, connected to all starters (with smart OLs), VFDs, Soft Starters and Meters. The Ethernet network will be redundant (ring topology) and will then tie the MCC directly into the DCS (Distributed Control System) for the plant so that all control and monitoring will be done via the network connections, no "hard wiring" of Inputs and Outputs back and forth between the two. Each bucket will of course have a Local - Off- Remote switch so that they can be manually run for testing. The Smart OLs will be advanced enough to be able to tell virtually anything you need to know about the functioning of the starters via the network connection, so nobody will need to open the doors and be exposed to the hazards that ensues.

    In this process, we have given the user plenty of data on how wonderful these things are and all the great benefits they will get. But the interesting thing they asked today was, "What are the down sides?" I have to admit, the EE part of me wants to think it's all Up side, but the electrician in my knows that's not true.

    So what are your opinions? What would you NOT like about working in a factory with something like this? I can think of a few myself, but I've been out of the field electrician game now for too long to trust myself not to have biases. I'm more interested in the opinions of people who would actually WORK with them in the field.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jraef View Post
    I am in the midst of a project where we are proposing, and promoting, the use of "Intelligent MCCs", i.e. with an Ethenet network inside, connected to all starters (with smart OLs), VFDs, Soft Starters and Meters. The Ethernet network will be redundant (ring topology) and will then tie the MCC directly into the DCS (Distributed Control System) for the plant so that all control and monitoring will be done via the network connections, no "hard wiring" of Inputs and Outputs back and forth between the two. Each bucket will of course have a Local - Off- Remote switch so that they can be manually run for testing. The Smart OLs will be advanced enough to be able to tell virtually anything you need to know about the functioning of the starters via the network connection, so nobody will need to open the doors and be exposed to the hazards that ensues.

    In this process, we have given the user plenty of data on how wonderful these things are and all the great benefits they will get. But the interesting thing they asked today was, "What are the down sides?" I have to admit, the EE part of me wants to think it's all Up side, but the electrician in my knows that's not true.

    So what are your opinions? What would you NOT like about working in a factory with something like this? I can think of a few myself, but I've been out of the field electrician game now for too long to trust myself not to have biases. I'm more interested in the opinions of people who would actually WORK with them in the field.
    You will end up with screen touchers vs button pushers and no one in the field will really be able to work on them. The upside is also the downside. I can't get much further away from what you are doing but we are progressing in the same direction. Just the way it is.
    Tom
    TBLO

  3. #3
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    I would presume that in order to be fail safe, any loss of network connection would result in a shutdown. The topology mitigates that to a great degree, but does not entirely eliminate the possibility.

    I also agree that this is the future.

  4. #4
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    Well, you got answers from two guys who will not be working on anything close to it. What does the PLC forum have to say? They would be closer to that level.
    Tom
    TBLO

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptonsparky View Post
    Well, you got answers from two guys who will not be working on anything close to it. What does the PLC forum have to say? They would be closer to that level.
    Most likely they will be on the Upside column. If you've ever gone onto the forum at Control.com, their motto at the top of the page is "Nerds in control". They live for that...

    I suppose it's not a bad idea to check in though, they may have some down side experiences to share. Thanks for the suggestion.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptonsparky View Post
    You will end up with screen touchers vs button pushers and no one in the field will really be able to work on them. The upside is also the downside. I can't get much further away from what you are doing but we are progressing in the same direction. Just the way it is.
    LOL, as I think about your response, it makes me realize that I am trying to help another customer through an issue right now wherein their experienced electricians are aging out and the city won't hire replacements until after they leave, so the newbies don't learn how to troubleshoot. Then with this customer, I might end up creating the same problem in a different way...
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  7. #7
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    I am a fan of this kind of thing but the goofy way AB implemented it makes me suspicious of its long term reliability. Way too many ethernet cables. Too many switches.
    Bob

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    We used these "smart MCCs" in offshore rigs for years. Based on application, there is a lot of automation (software development, component integration, etc.) needed but complexity is always a trade off for advanced technology. There is almost no limit to monitoring and control capability.

    Our clients were pretty happy because orders kept coming (I no longer work there).
    "Because it's there!"
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by petersonra View Post
    I am a fan of this kind of thing but the goofy way AB implemented it makes me suspicious of its long term reliability. Way too many Ethernet cables. Too many switches.
    Just FYI. They changed that last year. Fewer switches, more ports per switch (10, 20 or 30), but now the switches consume unit space, where before they were in the wireway of each section. Still, I like it better this way.
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  10. #10
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    I am in the early stages of such a project right now and intelligent MCCs are the definite choice. Might as well - the days of relays and hard-wired interlocks have been long gone ever since PLCs came into widespread use. It actually makes my job somewhat easier (fewer wires to terminate) and guarantees full employment for system integrators. IT Departments will rule everything before long!

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