Interactive Opportunity Assessment – Introduction

When I first started teaching process control to junior and senior chemical engineers at Washington University in Saint Louis after retiring from Solutia, the students were less than receptive to my introduction of stuff they actually needed to know on the job. Except for the couple of students who were summer interns at Anheuser-Busch, my attempts of adding relevance were viewed as just being disruptive to the traditional task of learning frequency response and state space matrices. When I introduced the virtual plant for a weekly lab of hands-on learning, the attitude shifted from annoyance to enthusiasm. The skill and interest in using new computer tools and the fact the process simulations and graphics made the experience all seem real resulted in the labs becoming the highlight of the week. Several students decided to go on to careers in process control. One former student I met at Interphex became the manager of an automation group of a major pharmaceutical company. Even if the students didn’t become process control engineers, the labs helped develop skills needed in industry. The distributed control system (DCS) is the window into the process and the ability to use and get the most out of the powerful tools and industrial standards in the DCS is important to anyone working in the process industry. This excitement and feeling that I was doing something significant to help students on “Day 1” of their prospective job, led me to think what can I do for bridging the gap between the leading edge research at universities and the opportunities for process control improvement in industry? The virtual plant to me seemed to be the way for universities and industry to get on the same page. This concept is summarized in the ACC 2009 paper ACC2009-BridgingtheGap.pdf.

The next step was to make labs as a self-learning experience available over the web with the idea that an employee could spend a few hours a month at a convenient time (e.g. lunch and learn) trying out the latest in PID control capability for various process and automation system designs and objectives. These labs provide a chance to find process control improvements by setting up scenarios that are of particular interest. Since the user interface employ operator graphics, knowledge of the particular DCS is not required. The capture of the last and best scores in terms of key performance variables (KPI) should help promote recognition and competitiveness for finding the best solutions.

I think we have barely scratched the surface of the true capability of today’s PID controller with all of its features (e.g. structures, integral deadband, dynamic reset limit, and nonlinear gain). This spring and summer I will focus on generic control loops. This fall I will move on to the control of unit operations such as crystallizers, evaporators, extruders, neutralizers, and reactors. We hope users will twitter their results. The potential for learning and sharing is enormous and may be a way of getting the next generation of engineers to not only benefit from past expertise but take process control to a whole new level (see January 2010 Control article “The Future is Now”)

I will conduct live seminars and demos twice a month to show how to use the labs. The connection and the topics and dates for the first 4 months are:

Recorded Live Seminar and Demo Series

To attend the event, go to http://bit.ly/JC-LiveMeeting

Use the information below to connect (if you’re not using the available computer audio):

• Toll-free: +1 (877) 771-7176

• Toll: +1 (225) 383-1099

• Participant code: 264679

(1) PID Control of Sampled Measurements (How to Eliminate Oscillations from Analyzers and Wireless Measurements with a PID Enhancement) – April 7, Wed 1:00 pm CDT

(2) PID Control of Valve Sticktion and Backlash (How to Eliminate Continual Oscillations with the “Integral Deadband” PID option) – April 21, Wed 1:00 pm CDT

(3) PID Control of Slow Valves and Secondary Loops (How to Eliminate Bursts of Oscillations with the “Dynamic Reset Limit” PID option) – May 12, Wed 1:00 pm CDT

(4) Web Lab Access and Use Instructions (How to Use Free Online Process Control Labs for Fun and Profit and Become Famous by Friday or at Least Saturday) – May 27, Thurs* 1:00 pm CDT (* – Thursday date is to avoid conflict with the World Batch Forum)

(5) PID Tuning for Self-Regulating Processes (How to Compensate for Nonlinearities in Flow and Liquid Pressure Loops) – June 9, Wed 10:00 am CDT

(6) PID Tuning for Near-Integrating Processes (How to Reduce the Tuning Time for Column and Vessel Temperature and Pressure Loops by 90%) – June 23, 10:00 am CDT

(7) PID Control of True Integrating Processes (How to Reduce the Batch Cycle Time for Temperature and pH Loops by 25%) – July 14, 10:00 am CDT

(8) PID Control of Runaway Processes (How to Improve the Performance of Exothermic Reactor Temperature Loops) – July 21, Wed 10:00 am CDT