Master of Space and Time

The lack of space and time kills process control innovations. The lack of space for new cables, I/O card, and new sensors and the time required for the implementation does more than just slow down implementation, space and time prevents the genesis of new ideas.

As I was giving a talk to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), I found from the questions and discussion after the meeting that process engineers were excited about the use of wireless for trying out ideas for process control improvements, online process metrics, and process troubleshooting, just a few of the many opportunities listed on slide 8 of AIChE-New-Orleans-Wireless-Measurement-and-Control.pdf. Right now, process engineers don’t think of possibilities because input and output cards, interface terminations, cables, and conduit would need to be installed. In many cases there is no room for all of the additions required. The concept of being able to use plant spares of wireless transmitters to develop and prototype ideas like we did with plant spares of pressure and temperature gages to investigate problems is particularly attractive to process engineers. Process engineers are an incredible resource to take advantage of existing process understanding and create new process knowledge with portable measurements. The use of integral mounted wireless DP transmitters and Annubars enables flow measurements to be almost as portable as integral mounted wireless temperature transmitters on thermowells creating the opportunity for energy and material balances.

Space and time are interrelated according to the theory of relativity. This is true for automation innovations as well. My favorite “Far Side” cartoon shows Einstein concluding after filling a blackboard with equations that “time is money.” For processes, increased revenue or reduced operating costs may never be found. Wireless can be the master of space and time for more efficient and productive manufacturing.

I am feeling more creative about wireless opportunities listening to “Back to the Island” by Leon Russell, the self-proclaimed master of space and time. Sand dunes and ocean create space in my mind and slows down time and music lights up the creative side of my brain.