5 Questions for Operational Certainty Consultant Tiffany Tang - Emerson Automation Experts

5 Questions for Operational Certainty Consultant Tiffany Tang

Emerson’s Dr. Tiffany Tang joins our continuing series, 5 Questions for an Emerson Expert. As an Operational Certainty Consultant, Tiffany works with manufacturers and producers to optimize their processes to improve production, energy & emissions and overall robustness.

We hope you’ll enjoy this episode and will consider subscribing to the whole FIRSTHAND: Operational Certainty in Pod series on your iOS or Android mobile device.

Transcript

Jim: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Cahill and welcome to Five Questions for an Emerson Expert. Today I’m joined by Tiffany Tang. Tiffany is a digital transformation and production optimization consultant on our operational certainty consulting team. She has an automation degree from Beijing University of Chemical Technology and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Texas Tech University. Welcome, Tiffany.

Tiffany: Hi, Jim. It’s a pleasure to join you for the podcast today.

Jim: Well, it’s great that you’re here. So, let’s start out. I like to ask all our Emerson Experts, so what made you decide to pursue a STEM-based education?

Tiffany: Well, I love math. When I was a child, you know, when I was 5 I can add and subtract the numbers within 100 within seconds just in my head. My mom was really impressed about my capability in doing math and she told my talent in math to our friends and families. As I grew up I had a lot of encouragement and praise from my family, my friends, and my teachers. That was what made me go further and further along the way in engineer.

Jim: Well, that’s interesting. So, from an early age you recognized that talent, and everyone around did all that. And through your university work that you pursued the field of automation, so what led you into automation and then ultimately with Emerson, a process automation company?

Tiffany: So, you know, I have been always interested in doing engineering work and I’m always passionate with process automation. I majored in automation during my undergraduate study. As I learn more and more about automation I found myself falling in love with it. And I want to learn more and more about the technology side and how to apply automation skills into our daily life and change the way things works. And it was a cornerstone that I made the decision to go study abroad to pursue a higher degree in automation. And I came to United States about 11 years ago to pursue my Ph.D. in chemical engineering in Texas Tech University and my focus was on advance process control, process modeling, and simulation. I really love to see how automation technology apply to our daily life and to the world we live in. You can see automation systems everywhere from the small oven you use to cook the cookies and cupcakes for your kids. Those are automation systems. Even an automation pen, that’s an automation system involved, and the big to the aerospace control system. You can see automation everywhere in your daily life.

I fell in love with this area and straight out of school I started my first job in an oilfield service company in Houston, Texas. In my first job I designed a state-of-the-art automation system for hydraulic fracturing treatments. It’s really a sophisticated and top-tier world-class software automation package which I won two patents on that design. After I accumulated my experience from the oil and gas industry and I joined Emerson as a control performance technical consultant in the advanced control team. And I got a lot of experience working with client from different industries like refining, chemical, and oil and gas. And now I’m a consultant in the operational certainty team and doing production optimization, advanced process control, and the digital transformation projects with our client.

Jim: Well, that’s a great background. And as part of our operational certainty consulting team, I mean, our consultants look at a wide range of operational challenges from improving safety to reliability to production optimization, to emissions and controls. So given all the things that you as an operational certainty consultant are involved with, can you tell us about a recent challenge that you’ve been working on to help one of our customers solve?

Tiffany: Thank you for bringing that question up. I went through a tough challenge recently. I led my first project with my client for an APC project for a specialty chemical company. And the process they have is a carbon black formation process which is not a standard process that advanced process control technique would apply. It’s a very fast process, finishing within seconds and the total residence time is about 15 to 20 minutes. Well, the model predictive control, which is the most popular advance process control technique that we use in the industry is normally applied to a slow process with large deadtime and long residence time.

For this kind of fast process, it is not your standard application for MPC. So we went through a special design and consideration how to implement MPC in such a process based on customer’s needs. They want to automate the process by looking at a sample rate of the Iodine number (of the carbon black) and then to automatically adjust the feed oil rate. They do it in a manual way currently. And we try to automate this process by using MPC to add a constraint optimization to solve their problem. We did a good job in designing the technical part, and another challenge in this project is that one of the key people in the plant was not supportive for our APC project.

During my first visit what I heard is that that key person doesn’t believe our APC solution would work. And I didn’t get a chance to meet with him during my first visit. But through my first visit, I did establish a good reputation and credibility. Everyone talk about the good work I have done. And during my second visit, I did get a chance to meet with the key person and we had some good conversations to gradually establish my credibility and reputation as an APC expert. And by showing him that I understand your system, your problem, I’m bringing value to solve your problem. He bought in to my expertise and he started to trust me that I’m going to do a good job for them. So we kind of started to build good relationships and then he worked with me for three days to build the basic configuration on the control loops that will be involved in the APC design. As I won his trust and the support, the project went much smoother and we collaborated in a very pleasant way and made the project move forward.

Jim: Well, that’s great. Sometimes it’s not only overcoming the technical challenges, it’s overcoming some of the people and personalities, and all that, and it’s great to hear how you won them over and showed that we not only bring technology to solve problems, we bring our expertise to combine for a solution. Well, that’s enough about all this world of process automation and solving challenges and everything. I always like to find out from our experts a little bit more about them personally. So outside work here at the office and at customer sites, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Tiffany: I love to spend time with my kids. I love to take them out for outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and play tennis. When I was a child I always loved to climb mountains with my dad. And I live in a city which is very famous for its mountains and rivers. I live in a place which is 5 minutes walking distance to the biggest park in my city. It has a lot of mountains. I used to work out with my dad by climbing mountains in the early morning and I really enjoyed the feeling climbing mountain. And when I was in middle school and high school I used to climb mountains with four of my best friends. We enjoy climbing mountains. And when we reach the summit we really enjoyed the joy and to relax ourselves from heavy study burdens and speak to the sky. It was exhilarating.

After we conquered the mountains with established pathways. We start to look forward to conquering the mountains which does not have steps and that we need to find a pathway how to get into the summit. And then we tried different ways. We really enjoy taking new challenges and overcome different type of mountains and reach to the summit and shout it out to the sky, “We reach our goal, we are here.”

That was a very good experience and it’s always in my memory about my childhood and I also want to give my child that kind of memory and enjoy their childhood and enjoy life.

Jim: Well, that’s great, the challenge of climbing mountains and, you know, being out there with your dad and everything, that’s a great story. Okay, let’s wind it down with one final question, and that would be, you know, we have a lot of new people coming into manufacturing and automation and production and all these different industries, so what advice would you have for someone new coming into the field?

Tiffany: That’s a very good question. Actually, I had the confusion and that question when I first started my career. So my first advice to people coming to the company, I would suggest them to discover themselves, to have a true understanding of your expertise and what you’re really good at and what you’re really interested in doing, and how you fit your expertise to the business goal, to the team, and work together to find your value that can be added to the team.

The second advice I would tell them is that find a good mentor if possible, the one who knows you and you also feel comfortable to speak to. And have them to help you understand yourself from a different perspective and help you refine the road map to your career, to your goal. I found this very useful personally. I used to wander around and spent efforts and energy in different areas as I speak to the mentors I really like, admire, and they give me advice how I should prioritize my work and focus my energy to the thing will really build my personal brand with, build myself as an expert. So that’s something I would like to give to new hires.

Jim: Well, that sounds like really good advice. Don’t scatter it all over the place, focus in some areas, get really known, build your personal brand in those areas. And, yes, that’s something I’ve even preached to my kids about taking ownership for your personal brand. So that’s great advice. I love that advice. And, Tiffany, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tiffany: Thank you, Jim. I had a great time with you today. Thank you.

End of Transcript

Visit the Operational Certainty section on Emerson.com to learn more about developing strategies to improve business performance in safety, reliability, production, and energy & emissions. You can also connect and interact with other optimization experts in the Services group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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