Let’s continue our 5 Questions for an Emerson Expert podcast series with our guest, Riyaz Ali. You may recall Riyaz from numerous posts about digital valve controllers and final control elements in safety instrumented system applications. He has almost 40 years’ experience in process control instrumentation and holds numerous patents related to use of digital valve controllers for process industries.
Please leave me a comment or send me a LinkedIn message if there is an Emerson expert you’d like me to interview—and questions you’d like me to ask them—for a future podcast.
Jim: Hi, everybody. This is Jim Cahill and welcome to “Five Questions with an Emerson Expert” podcast series. Today, I’m lucky enough to be joined by Riyaz Ali. And Riyaz is a chemical engineer as a background, and he has extensive experience with digital valve controllers as part of our Fisher brand. He’s been with Emerson since 1993. He is my go-to person when I have questions about final control elements and process safety. Riyaz, welcome.
Riyaz: Thank you, Jim. Appreciate for your time.
Jim: So, let’s start out. As you were growing up, what led you into the field of STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, specifically chemical engineering?
Riyaz: Oh, when I was growing, I was very keen, specifically, on the mathematics. That was one of my very interesting subject…it’s not that because I was doing excellent, but I had some kind of leaning towards mathematics which made me so comfortable when I started thinking about the science and engineering and correlating, specifically, with physics and chemistry.
Jim: Oh, okay. So, I guess after you graduated with a degree, what got you into the field of process instrumentation and automation?
Riyaz: That’s an interesting question. Because when I graduated, I was thinking that I would be working in a chemical plant having distillation, absorption, adsorption, and these were one of my very keen topics. But the moment I started working on chemical engineering distillation columns and all, I found that those things require much precise control. In each stage of the distillation, I need to be having a better control on the pressure, temperature. All those kind of things led me to believe that why don’t I go into more in-depth of the instrumentation field? And that’s how I had attachment towards not only control instrumentation, but towards the final control element because that was the main heart of the process control whenever you do a precise advanced control.
Jim: I guess, as you speak with some of our customers, are there any interesting challenges you’ve heard recently from them that you’ve discussed?
Riyaz: Generally, nowadays the main challenges from the customers are in the digital world, the technology obsolescence is very, very rapid. And right now, what we are seeing that lot of the field assets are migrating towards digital kind of protocol communication because the diagnostic is a key, and advance predicting the life of the asset. It is a very major component for the maintenance and operation team. And that, it looks like that the digitalization to keep apace is becoming a big challenge in the industry. And that’s what I find from the customer mind whenever I talk to him, and they think like iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, this if you’re sick of it. How do we keep our process control plant life running which is more than 25 years? So, in those challenges, I find very interesting discussion that how do we keep the development in the software in the pace with the hardware?
So now, what I find from this kind of discussion, a learning curve from us, that whatever the hardware we develop, it should be in the keeping in mind for 25 years’ life, keeping the software to be upgradable or the line in the line when the process is running, and at the same time keep the pace with the microprocessor based technology digital advancements.
Jim: That’s an interesting challenge because you’re right. Technology just marches on so quickly but you got to balance something with that type of life cycle. So, that is a challenge. Now, as you get outside of our world of process control and automation. So, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of work?
Riyaz: Certainly, I do have extracurricular activities, and I do make a balance between my work, technical, as well as my leisure time. But even sometime when I get spare time, I do get attracted towards reading a lot of new developments which is coming. Because keeping in the pace with the technology makes me really feel comfortable and mentally satisfied. So, though I have a spare time, sometimes I do not spend on the technical side but then ultimately, I get something to read on news development, I get really attracted, and I do enjoy going into those articles, reading on the newspapers, not only on the articles, on the websites and other places.
Jim: Yeah, that’s very interesting because, you know, having a fascination with technology can be a leisure activity for keeping up. It’s definitely challenge for it. So, that’s great it’s something you enjoy doing and are able to do. As my final question for you, for new people coming into the field of process instrumentation and automation, what advice would you have for them to help them accelerate their learning curve?
Riyaz: I think the best possible, my advice will be, they need to have some field time in the real-life experience rather than reading through the books and rather reading through their academic courses. Certainly, academic courses make a person much more approach of a logical reasoning out. But at the same time, unless you have a field touch or you’re on hand, experience of those field assets, then only you can realize the benefit of the science and technology.
Jim: All right. Well, that is great words of wisdom for the new folks joining us. Riyaz, thank you so much for joining us today.
Riyaz: Thank you very much, Jim. Appreciate for your time and it’s great working with you. Thanks a lot.
Post transcript: You can connect and interact with other valve controller & positioner, and safety instrumented systems experts in the Valve Controllers & Positioners and Safety Instrumented Systems groups in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.