Death by TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms)



Some BMA’s are being installed at one of factories, all part of the BIP. They’re being integrated via PLC to the DCS because the DCS can only support TCP. You not following? Think of TCP as the bridge between the I/O and the NIM. Unless you’re using FF then you’d use a FIM. Then your FIM is connected to your firewall, unless all your ports have been taken up by WDM’s or PCDI’s. Just think of the whole thing as a PCN, unless you’re on the old version then it’s called an OPC. Don’t worry if this looks complicated; the APM is a simple piece of software to take care of it all. Now, when you’re on the APM, make sure you specify you pick DACA from that drop-down menu when you configure the DD.Think yourself lucky: changing from TDC to PKS has really simplifed things.


Here, I have fitted in about half of the TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) and a few cheeky TLA’s (Two Letter Acronyms) mentioned in Wednesday’s meeting into a single paragraph. The beauty of acronyms is that a single one can have several different meanings.

For example: P  I  D

PID: Proportional, Integral, Derivative [control law]

P&ID: Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams

PID: Passenger Information Display

And these are just the PID’s that I have personally come across so far. I could go on to name the top results of my Google search such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease but you get the point.


What I’m really trying to get at here is how difficult it is to follow conversations and learn when dozens of different acronyms are being thrown around. A handful will be commonly used in the control world: PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and DCS (Distributed Control System) are two of the most common. The majority, however, will be specific to different products, companies, or industries. And with Engineering being a small fish in Google’s pond, it’s pot luck to whether a search will give you a meaning in the correct context.




So what needs to be done?

 We need to be aware how acronyms can form communication barriers. Many meetings will be attended by non-specialists whether that is an intern like myself; a different type of engineer used to a different working set of acronyms, or a representative from a different department such as Procurement or Sales.

Conversations can be difficult for non-specialists to follow at the best of times. Using a full name over an acronym can make the difference between knowing and not knowing what you don’t understand.

And if you don’t know what you don’t understand, without asking for the definition (which unfortunately doesn’t always happen for various reasons), the conversation might as well not have happened.