Many of today’s process manufacturers face an uphill battle as global competition continues to increase. Each performance improvement engineers squeeze out of their systems can mean significant gains in both competitive advantage and in meeting today’s most important goals—goals like sustainability benchmarks.
One technology provides more process improvement than most. Advanced process control (APC) uses software logic to capitalize on the full value of modern process control, increasing efficiency and making it easier to meet goals. However, as a recent Emerson expert article in Control Engineering magazine illustrates,
“Perceived complexity has convinced many operations teams APC is beyond their means and capabilities, especially as plants struggle to retain fewer experienced personnel due to ongoing retirements.”
Many of these concerns, however, are based on misconceptions. APC is beneficial for plants of all sizes and experience levels. The main benefit of APC is that it reduces variability in operations. This can have a wide range of benefits, from improving quality, to reducing energy use and material waste. This is exactly what happened for an Emerson customer who implemented APC on electric arc furnaces. The results speak for themselves,
“By tightening the span of control around the amount of energy for the furnace, engineers reduced process energy consumption by 15 to 20%. Energy reduction quickly demonstrated return on investment and reduced the plant’s energy footprint to drive more sustainable manufacturing.”
Implementing APC on arc furnaces is a perfect example of a small, targeted application of advanced control. One of the best places to start is by finding examples of process variability in operations. These variations often lead to the “firefighting” that eats up operations and maintenance team hours that could be better spent in running processes.
Plants can first implement APC in small, targeted instances to eliminate the sources of variability. Typically, this will create a demonstrable return on investment. Then, when they have individual unit operations optimized, they can look at bigger-picture advanced control, applying an overarching APC strategy to tightly control multiple units simultaneously. Every step lays a foundation for better overall control, with incremental improvements delivering fast ROI, while simultaneously building the foundation for better long-term operations.
Even if a process manufacturer doesn’t have enough experienced people to commit to an APC initiative, they can still take advantages of the APC capabilities built into their control systems. Service providers can help identify, design, and even execute an advanced control strategy, and can often do it faster and more efficiently, leading to quicker return on investment.
“Expert service providers will wrap project design in an outcome-based plan to help build the business case for the project, and to help the on-site team clearly demonstrate its wins and the value of the project, building momentum for future advancements.”
You can learn more about the benefits of APC and the questions you should ask yourself before undertaking an advanced control project by reading the article in its entirety at Control Engineering. Moreover, Emerson experts will be showing off the newest APC technologies at our annual #EmersonExchange customer event from Oct. 24-28 in Grapevine, Texas. I hope to see you there!