How do you avoid solving the same problem? How do you move up to the next level of performance? How do you maximize the value of your experience? How do you become more creative and open minded?
For me the answer has been concepts that employ fundamental relationships with a clear path to applicability in process control. The fundamentals are rooted in physics and chemistry with numerous productive branches in the major engineering disciplines.
Side benefits for me have been:
(1) Freeing my mind by realizing every problem is not a special case
(2) Avoiding making the same mistakes by seeing through the disguises
(3) Not being fooled by hype through recognizing the fundamentals at play
(4) Enjoying a sense of humor having fun with absurdity as noted in the post Wireless Benefits of Humor
We are faced with thousands of details in automation engineering. Our profession integrates knowledge in many major fields such as biochemical, chemical, mechanical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, and systems engineering. Often one doesn’t have the background or time to seek the underlying principles and wider implications.
The top ten concepts on slides 4-26 in the ISA-Saint-Louis-Exceptional-Opportunities-Short-Course-Day-1 offer a good summary from an automation systems approach. For my areas of expertise, what is missing are the biochemical, chemical, and mechanical engineering fundamentals that feed into these control concepts. The best most extensive resources I have found for the integration of process and control systems knowledge have been Greg Shinskey and Bill Luyben. Unfortunately many of these classics are out of print. The hefty price for used copies shows the significance of the knowledge not realized by the publishers. Time is running out. Many young engineers don’t know who Shinskey and Luyben are or what knowledge is missing in their career. Shinskey at age 80 and Luyben at age 77 are not traveling much. For ISA Automation Week Shinskey has graciously agreed to an interview by me at his home that will be recorded and presented by Jon DiPietro in a tribute session titled “Shinskey and the Best of Process Control.” Nick Sands and Terry Tolliver will join me in providing examples of Shinskey’s impact on our career and profession.
There are many opportunities to learn from others who integrate process knowledge. Chemical Processing magazine is publishing articles by Cecil Smith, such as “Cascade Control” and Control magazine is offering interviews of exceptional practitioners via my Control Talk columns, such as “The best of the best, part 1”. The use of concepts, publications, and social media will be the heart of the “ISA Mentor Program: A Guide to Success”.