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Industrial automation is largely based on PLC-based control systems. PLCs are today mostly programmed in the languages of the IEC 61131 standard which are not ready to meet the new challenges of widely distributed automation systems. Currently, different solutions are available from industry and research: an extension of IEC 61131 which includes object oriented programming, the adoption of the new standard IEC 61499 or the implementation of supervisory control. All these solutions present different problems which are briefly recalled in the paper. To overcome some of these problems in this paper it is shown that a novel approach based on supervisory control and IEC 61131 can be immediately used to meet the new requirements.