The Future is Here – Part 1

My core dump of myths went on longer than intended because there were so many stuck in my brain, it was so freeing, and it was so easy to unload them when pressed for time.

My recent spike in work load has put me in danger of being kicked out of various retirement associations including the Retired Automation Professionals (RAP). Apparently, my excursion into 40+ hour weeks means I not retired. Personally I think this is a bad rap. I still take 12 weeks off a year to visit friends, relatives, national parks, and beaches. I am having too much fun being part of the future to give it all up. Plus there are the benefits of active membership in the Adorable Automators Association as noted in my April 2008 Control Talk. http://www.controlglobal.com/articles/2008/118.html

The myths provided a reality check and a basis for looking forward to new tools that address many of the issues raised. Friendlier and more proficient versions of all of the process control technologies are being embedded as standard tools in a DCS. Now you can explore, discover, prototype, justify, and deploy process control improvements in the same configuration environment used for the basic control system. Adaptive tuning, a rich spectrum of PID enhancements, fuzzy logic control, loop performance monitoring, model predictive controllers, neural networks, on-demand tuning (auto tuners), and process dynamics identification are presently embedded. Soon online data analytics (multivariate statistical process control) and process modeling capability will be added. Terry Blevins (principal technologist) and Mark Nixon (chief architect) had this vision at Emerson Process Management and made it happen in DeltaV.

This comes at a turning point in industry where most of expertise in the application and understanding of the value of control opportunities are becoming full time members of RAP. Also, most of the opportunities are now overseas. The change in demographics is obvious when you look at the weekly questions on process automation submitted to Liptak where 95% of the questions are from overseas and cover a wide range of practical and essential application issues.

When I was helping the Instrumentation Systems and Automation (ISA) society in the early stages of the development of the Certification of Automation Professionals (CAP) program, I realized that it was difficult to find a book that addressed the day to day needs. I realized that publications in our field including my own were at too high a level and assumed too much for the new workplace where mentors and company training programs are scarce. Also books on process control were too mathematical and theoretical and the books on instrumentation were often a rote description of the principles of operation. Not much was offered on selection, application, installation, performance, and maintenance for the extensive range of process types and conditions needed by relatively inexperienced professionals to do their job. The Automation Book of Knowledge (ABoK) developed as part of CAP and various handbooks by Liptak, Boyes, and myself help but much remains to be done. Toward this goal, I am looking forward to working with Terry Blevins and Mark Nixon to provide a hands-on learning source/guide employing a full suite of embedded technologies in a virtual plant. This book focuses on the opportunity of doing a better job of process control for both batch and continuous processes.