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To solve this dilemma, the plant engineers must first explain their reasoning behind the statement of expected failure. This explanation may be to you, your team, or management. During the explanation, you need to determine which of the two reasons above are governing. If the engineer has a valid point, then they should become part of the team to solve the new issue.
If reason #2 is found to be controlling, then the job gets tougher. There are a number of methods to working through this issue, but first I like to see if the engineer really understands the previously successful control logic. If they do not, then careful coaching is required to guide them through the learning curve. If they understand the logic, then you must find another way to dissuade their dissent. My favorite tactic is to "Make It Their Idea." Let them design the control logic, but work with them, and continually ask leading questions, until the final design looks a lot like your previous version.
Get your spouse their very own copy at www.isa.org/books -- ED.
Greg: We also had an excellent summary from Hunter Vegas on top batch control opportunities, which in response was to the October puzzler, “The Case of the Batch Unicycle.”
Hunter: At my company, we do a great deal of batch automation for a wide variety of industries. I would say some of our biggest cycle time reductions have come from:
The batch automation package usually provides process trending data that was never available before. Based on that information and a recipe software package that is easy to adjust, the process engineers can fine tune the process to achieve greatly improved production and product quality. Because this time period is so crucial, I try to discourage plants from attempting multiple automation projects, one right after another. This method of project management overwhelms the engineering staff, and nobody ever gets a chance to tweak the process until much, much later, when the round of automation is finally complete. Spacing the projects out a few months allows the staff to regroup between projects, learn from their mistakes, so future projects will run more efficiently. Most importantly, this time allows Production Engineering the time they need to get the most out of their new control system.
Greg: If the process permits going from sequential feeds (traditional batch) to simultaneous feeds (fed batch), there can be a huge time savings, particularly if an override or model predictive control system is used to continuously maximize the feeds. Ratio control, Lambda tuning, and mass flowmeters can be used to keep the total masses charged to the batch in the right ratio. The key here is to let the control system do its job and not weave a complex web of discrete process actions. The proper implementation of a feedback control system is more effective, reliable, and easier to maintain than a heuristic set of preprogrammed process actions.
Unfortunately, most process engineers think in terms of setting a feed rate based on batch time or the proximity of a process variable, such as temperature, to an operating limit. They come this way out of college. All of the textbooks on control and the entire curriculum are centered on steady state operation, which doesn’t exist in a batch. I know, because I tried to teach process control to senior chemical engineers. Even when discrete process actions are not interfering, controllers in batch processes often exhibit an on-off response because of a too-large controller gain or a too-small reset time. The bizarre tuning settings commonly found in controllers are partly due to the limited time window of a batch phase and the moving target of a batch profile. However, there is plainly a lack of understanding of the basics of feedback control by the process and configuration engineers in charge of the control definition and the operators who set the tuning requirements.
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