May 2008, Vol. 20, No.5

From the Editors

Operations Forum Editor's Note


Steve Spicer

Remember the days when the VCR clock would mock us by blinking 12:00 regardless of what buttons we pushed? I don’t see that type of thing happening much anymore. (Actually, I don’t see VCRs much anymore either.) Sure, the newest and most advanced devices can be a little confusing. But, overall, today’s gadgets are easier to use. Perhaps manufacturers have started making more intuitive products. Perhaps we as a society have become a little more technologically savvy. In all probability, it’s a little of both. Along the way, the anxiety about learning to use new devices has been overwhelmed by the benefits these devices can provide us. In short, we’ve all become a little technogeekier.

Combining this growing comfort with electronics and old-fashioned ingenuity is how great new solutions are devised. That’s just what happened in “Odors Get the Chute”; the operators at the Vallejo (Calif.) Sanitation and Flood Control District designed, built, and tested a new way to load biosolids into their trucks and control odors at the same time. The project was a group effort. The mechanical maintenance staff designed and built the hinged pivot and installed an air ram to move the pivot. The electrical and instrumentation staff installed solenoid-operated air valves to actuate the air ram and connected it to the plant’s distributed control system, which linked the weight sensors from the biosolids hopper to the air ram function. Finally, an odor control hood was installed and the entire project was complete.

The other side of this growing acceptance of technology becomes evident when things don’t work quite right. Troubleshooting a complex system can be daunting, but often a willingness to check things out can save the time and effort needed to bring in an expert — or at least narrow down the possibilities before you call the expert. That’s the idea behind “Troubleshooting Your SCADA System.” Jeff Erlanson has created a set of do-it-yourself tips for maintaining and troubleshooting your supervisory control and data acquisition system’s power supply, battery backup system, analog loops, discrete digital inputs and outputs, and communications.

As technology advances faster and faster, it surely will become difficult to know all of what’s possible. While it might be difficult to keep pace with the evolution of technology, hopefully the effort needed to keep the cutting edge in sight will remain small in comparison to the benefits we reap.

Steve Spicer, editor