The need to educate newer process automation engineers has been a continuing conversation among the process automation blogs (examples here, here, and here.)
I caught up with Norm Ito, a variability management specialist who helps process manufacturers optimize the performance of regulatory control and instrumentation using the EnTech process.
Norm feels that the tremendous advancements in automation technology have caused the focus of education to be on the software, displays, and information integration. What has been missing is the focus on the basics of control, including effective loop turning methods and evaluation techniques required to optimize the process.
Through Emerson Educational Services, Norm has been trying to address this shortcoming by teaching a Modern Loop Tuning course. The course is designed for engineers, operations, and maintenance folks involved from design, evaluation, implementation, or tuning of the controls within the process. It begins with a basis for understanding the complexity and interaction of a process, its dynamics, and how to tune the controls to remove process variability. This variability can impact the quality of what’s being produced as well as the stability of the running process.
Norm believes the learning best happens by taking a very practical, hands on approach. His students use dynamic simulators to demonstrate and practice various loop tuning rules and see their impact on the simulated process. Through this process, a better understanding of the process dynamics and loop interactions is developed which is the first step towards selection of a suitable control strategy and tuning parameters.
With this basis of understanding of process control and process dynamics, the ultimate goal is to optimize the performance of the process. Norm and the team of variability management specialists take a holistic view to performance optimization by helping process manufacturers remove constraints and sources of instability though proper process design, control strategy application, effective instrumentation, in addition to this robust loop tuning technique.