Leading Lights

The Process Automation Hall of Fame Adds Four New Luminaries

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By Walt Boyes

Every year, the Process Automation Hall of Fame members select new inductees from among their peers. This year, the Hall of Fame voters have selected four giants of process to be inducted into the Class of 2010. They are Joseph S. Alford, John Gerry, Willy Wojsznis and Yutaka Wakasa. A fifth nominee, Les Driskell, declined his induction on the grounds of advanced age. Driskell is 93. Many of the members of the Hall of Fame are senior citizens, and one of the inductees, Vernon Trevathan, passed away in 2009.

We created the Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2001 to immortalize the contributions of the very best of our profession. It is our hope that by recognizing these people on whose shoulders we stand, some of their knowledge and experience will be preserved for younger process automation professionals. As Hall of Fame inductee F. Greg Shinskey said in 2008, "I think it is great to have you all thanking me for being your mentor. When I started this thing, there weren't any mentors." We need to preserve and extend the knowledge and experience of these men and women.

Due to the economic collapse, the Process Automation Hall of Fame induction ceremony was not held last year. So this year, we'll induct both the Class of 2009 and the Class of 2010 at the WBF North American Conference in Austin, Texas, on May 24, 2010.

Joseph AlfordJoseph S. Alford
ROTC, Computer Dating and a
Distinguished Automation Career
Joe Alford says, "When I interviewed at Eli Lilly & Co., the manager guiding the plant tour showed me the production fermentors making penicillin. The only automatic feedback control (pneumatic) at that time was for broth temperature. The way that operators and scientists could tell approximately how well the fermentation was proceeding was by looking through the tank sight glass and observing the color and texture of the foam layer on top of the broth. The manager indicated that the monitoring and control of fermentations was mostly manual and was about 90% art and 10% science. He challenged me to change some of the art to science. I ended up spending most of my automation career trying to do just that."

Alford served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, earned a B.S. in chemical enginering from Purdue and a M.S. and Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He is a member of the Purdue ROTC Hall of Fame (for contributions to the Naval Reserve) and is a Fellow of both ISA and AIChE. He and his wife, Marti, have been married for 41 years, and have three sons and four grandchildren. "We met at the first computer match dance held in the Midwest (in front of network regional TV cameras)," Alford recalls.

He spent 35 years at Lilly, including 10 years as head of the company's Advanced Process Technologies Group and several years as the company's chief QA computer systems auditor. While at Lilly, Alford helped establish the company as industry leader in the automation of bioprocesses such as the fermentations he first saw as a prospective new hire. He applied several advanced technologies to optimize fermentation productivity, and developed tools and techniques for bioprocess scale-up and environmental monitoring. He is known for his pioneering work in bioprocess automation, as well as mathematical modeling, alarm management and the use of on-line analysis in pharmaceutical processes. He's written several book chapters,  published over 35 publications and co-authored Automation Applications in BioPharmaceuticals (2008).

Alford believes his important contributions include advances in on-line availability of information about microorganism activity and their bioreactor environment, and advancing the state of the art of bioprocess control, productivity, abnormal situation management and variability reduction. "This has been accomplished," he says, "using online analytical systems, virtual sensors and online artificial intelligence."

He adds, "Most commercial process control systems began with a focus on continuous processes and are still evolving to accommodate the nuances of batch processes. Those nuances are so significant that ISA88 is evolving further to help vendors and users configure, program and manage batch processes. And there's a new Technical Report being prepared by the ISA18 committee on Alarm Management that will adapt and apply the ISA18 standards to batch and discrete processes. So, clearly," he concludes, "the future of batch process control will bring greater compliance to existing and evolving applicable standards.

"The future," he adds, "will hopefully also see some needed enhancements in vendor-provided systems that monitor and control batch processes, including the ability to display graphs in relative time, not just calendar time; including batch lot numbers as a part of all data or alarm records; further development of model-predictive control theory for use in batch processes; greater customizability and configurability of embedded PLCs; improved alarm management functionality; and improved HMI guidance for operators in abnormal situations."

John GerryJohn Gerry
Loop Tuner Extraordinaire
John Gerry decided he wanted to have a career in "computer control of chemical processes" when he was an undergraduate in the 1970s. As an instrument tech for Eastman Kodak, an instrument engineer at Eli Lilly, a senior engineer for SC Johnson, and then a research and applications engineer for The Foxboro Company (now Invensys Operations Management), Gerry has done exactly that.

At Lilly, he supported fermentation and purification operations. At The Foxboro Company, he designed and started up pH control systems, and wrote control system design software for compressor anti-surge. He configured Foxboro Microspec, Videospec and SPEC-200 product lines. He researched self-tuning controllers, PID algorithms, digital filtering, and model-based controllers. At SC Johnson, he managed a control system project using a Fisher PRoVOX DCS and Allen Bradley PLCs for a polymer plant. He initiated automated start-up and shut-down for the plant, and configured the Fisher PRoVOX.

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