Posts from the ‘Expert System’ Category

We still like filling forms


This is 2012 and we are still filling forms. At the doctors, at work, for credit, at banks, schools, colleges and probably even at play.

The least pardonable is at work. Inspire of the advances made on corporate databases we still seem to love entering data multiple times. We then check them, edit the, correct them. We get so engrossed in this and forget the ultimate goal.

Agile is a very popular document managing system. Why can’t we use it to generate the reports for us. All that we have to do it give the relevant input. As engineers we love to think that an expert system will not fit the needs. But all things we do fit a pattern.

Custom furniture is not custom any more if you break it down to the basic component and give it the 3 dimensions.

We thought the heavier the report the better the score. Is that still true in today’s world?


Android Mobile Phones, QR Codes and Manufacturing Engineering

QR codes provide a great opportunity for manufacturing engineers.

Take a highly automated piece of equipment and embed QR codes on the HMI for spare parts, SOP’s, maintenance procedures and trouble shooting aids.

QR code generators are available free from the World Wide Web and can be generated in the form of *png,pdf & jpeg images.

Your Android phone can download free QR code readers (Apps) from the Android MarketPlace.

Generate codes for URL’s holding the required information and embed them in the alarm screens of the HMI

When an alarm condition occurs scan the 2D barcode with the QR scanner app and take the user directly to the URL giving the required information for corrective action.

Have Android will Six Sigma ūüôā

Remote or Site Trouble Shooting Modern Automated Manufacturing Equipment – Introduction

Remote or on site trouble shooting of modern automated manufacturing equipment is fairly straight forward if one follows a structured approach.

You will need to have a functional understanding and access to

  • Human Machine Interface (HMI)
  • User & maintenance manuals
  • Electrical schematics
  • Hydraulic schematics
  • Pneumatic schematics
  • PLC ladder logic
  • Principle of operation and setup of sensors
  • Spare parts inventory
  • Functional modules of the system
  • Process flow
  • Machine vision systems
  • SPC
  • Have mechanical & electrical skills
  • Be computer literate

Trouble shooting methodology starts with problem definition

  • System has stopped with a fault condition
  • System is running but producing excessive rejects – Got to SPC screen and center process
  • System does not start – Check for input power and air, blown fuses.

System has stopped with a fault condition

This is one of the most common faults

  • Look at the alarm screen on the HMI
  • Check cause and then clear alarm
  • Find the alarm which does not clear

Alarm does not clear

The HMI will give the functional input required to be in an on/off state for the system to go to the next sequential state of operation

These could be

  • Guard doors not closed
  • Processing modules not ready
  • System stopped due to excessive rejects – Check reason for excessive rejects
  • Servo faults – Check servo driver, any mechanical obstructions and clear fault
  • Communication error – ¬†Reset PLC to see if connection is made
  • Waiting for supply of input components – Refill required supply components
  • Air pressure low – Go to source
  • Vacuum pressure low – Go to source or check for blockages
  • Input voltage low – Go to source
  • Functional module not turned on – Turn on
  • Scrap bins full – Empty

Guard doors not closed

  • Step by step trace the guard door which is not closed
  • If alarm is still on check for loose fit condition of guard door
  • Check for guard door lock malfunction
  • If necessary use key to simulate close condition of guard door to check function

Processing Module not ready

  • Inspect the functional module
  • Trace the input the functional module is waiting for to continue
  • If it is a sensor check the function of the by simulating an on off condition and check the state in the ladder logic, HMI or indicating LED’s
  • Replace sensor if defective
  • Check if HMI fault condition still exists and go over the check again till this module is ready.
  • Check for bent brackets, loose sensor mountings
  • Check for air & vacuum within limits

This will continue with more detailed approaches on the various functional areas

Till then happy trouble shooting and feel free to post your problems

Smart Cities – Traffic Signal Timing – Benefit Study

We talked earlier about Smart Cities and benefits of traffic signal timing study and optimization. Kindly read the following link for a more detailed explanation of conducted studies.

It is done by SRINIVASA SUNKARI,P.E., is an associate research engineer at theTexas Transportation Institute in College Station,TX, USA, where he conducts research in traffic operations and intelligent transportation systems applications

Next is a link to RITA , Research and Innovative Technology Adminstration, Intelligent Transportation Systems. Quoting from their summary information below as a low hanging fruit strategy for Smart Cities

Optimizing traffic signal timing is considered a low-cost, high-benefit approach to reducing congestion. Signal timing strategies include the minimization of stops, delays, fuel consumption and air pollution emissions and the maximization of the traffic progression through the system.

Looks like it does not take much to make Smart Cities

Virtual Worlds – Applications for automated manufacturing lines – Making American Manufacturing Competitive Again

This article on the applications for virtual worlds in industry has been inspired by Irving Wladawsky-Berger.

You can view his articles at

The best way to understand it is to enjoy a visit to The Forbidden City by registering at the link given below, downloading the application and literally playing with it.

This is a user interactive virtual tour of the Forbidden City and an introduction to how we could set up a Virtual World Application

This technology would be a great tool to model an automated factory where we could

  • Build training applications to simulate the factory and its day to day operations.
  • Use to hire staff and conduct interviews in an interactive environment
  • Model the equipment with it and simulate the actual operation
  • Simulate faults and train personnel on trouble shooting
  • Use to monitor the running of the equipment
  • Use to predict malfunctioning as well as lead us to root cause
  • Run quality programs
  • Use Design for Six Sigma & Design Thinking methodologies

Obviously there is considerable amount of work in achieving this level of sophistication.

I believe CAD Tools like SolidWorks have already started in a small way towards this effort.

Again we are looking at some mind boggling applications we could dream up to make American manufacturing competitive again.

I would challenge readers to suggest application for this neat Virtual World modelling concept. We will continue to scour the globe for interesting applications.

Google Wave – A tool for Co-Creation & Project Collaboration

Well, I have been playing a little with Google Wave to look at its capabilities.

What is a wave? I am quoting directly from Google

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.
A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

For those who would like to check it here is the link.
You can apply for the Beta version and Google will send you one. It is free.
I also have a few invitations to send to those who are interested.

Lets say for example we have started work on a new Service Design Project or for that matter any project. Lets assume our project team consists of 5 collaborators.
We start a new wave and include all the players on the wave.
In simple words the wave is like one long tape which can be replayed at any time by any of the members to go over previous plans, designs, discussions, meetings, research material, pictures etc.

Ultimately when you make the proposal you have all required research material easily accessible. On completion of the project you have a trail for reference.

Wave allows us to have real time phone and video conference calls and we can be making notes in real time for all to see if required.

I believe Wave is a natural for Design thinkers as we can
“Start Anywhere”

I believe any project may have quite a number of face to face or on site meetings. But at some point it becomes impractical to keep travelling. This is where Wave will come in handy.

For those of you who already have Wave it is an excellent opportunity to play a Design Thinking Project or even use it on a real one.

Last but not least it can be customized.

And as usual in a system like this we may find neat things to do with Wave which the original builders may not even have dreamed of. One of the suggestions I gave to a business school professor was that his students could do a course on Design Thinking on Wave.

For that matter it could be the university of the future ūüôā
Well that is a subject for another blog ūüôā

Go ahead, Google Google Wave