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With the move to open technology, control system suppliers have been faced with a question. How should systems be applied to process control?

Companies no longer make judgements on system spec and one-upmanship. Industry knows that purchasing new technology as a pioneer may not be the right decision; it needs appropriate technology.

Historically, solution partners came from sources like control equipment manufacturers, software houses, system houses and system integrators. Of these, system houses and system integrators are the most experienced in applying appropriate technology.

Integrators have in the past occupied a niche at the small system end of the market. They undertook work which required a high degree of customisation using a variety of third party products. Now, they have become partners for systems where there is often a large IT element. This is due to the drive to ‘open-systems’ and the acceptance of NT, UNIX and OpenVMS.

The advantages of using system integrators are clear; they employ standard and widely accepted technology to arrive at the most cost-effective process solutions. They do not have a ‘box-shifting’ mentality; products are only a means by which software can perform its objective; and they offer the best-cost solution.

Another benefit is the methodology used. In the ‘manufacture’ of a process solution, software can be the most difficult part of a project to manage. However, by applying ‘structured methods’, systems can be constructed in a modular fashion, based on object technology. This ensures that software ‘manufacture’ is both managed and documented.

Structured methods enable user and implementor to define software functionality. They provide an opportunity to actively participate in defining its structure to meet the process objectives.

When all projects are implemented in this way it will truly herald the arrival of fully open and flexible solutions.