Masters of All the Tools

These Hall of Fame Inductees Are Multi-talented in the Interdisciplinary Field of Automation

By Walt Boyes

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February 2011 CoverIt's time, once again, to introduce you to the new inductees into the Process Automation Hall of Fame. It's a truly international group this year. This year's inductees are John Berra, former chairman of Emerson Process Management, Sigurd Skogestad, professor of chemical engineering at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, and Maurice Wilkins, former Honeywell fellow, WBF chairman and now vice-president for global marketing services at Yokogawa Electric Corp. It is a diverse and eclectic group, as you can see, but there are themes that run through the lives and careers of all three.

These masters of the process automation arts have come to the field in sometimes unusual ways. Automation is a multidisciplinary set of skills, and these skills are hard to acquire in any one place, be it university, trade school or on-the-job training. These three men managed to acquire their exemplary skills and then work their entire careers to extend the skills and the reach of automation in manufacturing and especially in the process industries.

The Business Visionary
John Berra

"I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in system science in June of 1969," says John Berra, former chairman of the board at Emerson Process Management. "At that time, there were two paths you could follow with this sort of degree—aerospace and process control. I interviewed with many companies and came to the conclusion that the space program wasn't going to be as active once a man walked on the moon. So I decided to join Monsanto as an instrument engineer."

Berra worked in the corporate engineering group at Monsanto and received excellent training in what process control was all about. Monsanto's training program of that era has produced a significant number of inductees into the Process Automation Hall of Fame. Berra's first projects were pneumatic instrumentation and some very early analog electronic control loops.

"Monsanto was good," he says, "but I wanted to move faster, so I took a job with J. F. Pritchard, an engineering contractor in Kansas City. I learned a lot there and got to spend time in the field on start-ups. I spent a lot of time ringing out wires!"

From there, Berra took a sales engineering job at Beckman Instruments (now Beckman Coulter Inc., www.beckmancoulter.com) and then joined a company called Rosemount (now the Rosemount Measurement Division of Emerson Process Management, http://www2.emersonprocess.com), which had some radical new pressure-sensing technology.

"The rest, as they say, is history," Berra recalls. "I grew up with the company and was promoted several times before becoming the president of Rosemount."

When Emerson, which had acquired Rosemount just a few months after Berra joined, decided to purchase Fisher Controls from Berra's alma mater, Monsanto, Berra became head of the combined Fisher and Rosemount controls business, then called Fisher-Rosemount.

"We ultimately launched DeltaV during my time as president," Berra says modestly. Other Emerson employees, though, recount stories of his deep and intense involvement in the design and creation of DeltaV, which became the model for the second generation of DCS products worldwide, and one of the most successful.

At the same time, Berra was responsible for the development of two of the most successful digital communications busses in process automation. "I am a geek at heart," he says.

First, under his direction, Rosemount developed HART, which has now over 30 million devices installed. Then, after personally working with the ISA SP50 standard committee, he helped launch (and became chairman of) the Fieldbus Foundation (www.fieldbus.org)—which is, especially in the petrochemical industry, growing as a powerful vendor-non-specific communications and control platform.

Berra has been a champion of the independent standards movement, personally in his involvement in ISA standards, as well as in his role as business leader providing the impetus for Emerson's involvement in standards work.

After Rosemount developed the HART protocol as a proprietary technology, Berra led the development of the HART Communication Foundation (www.hartcomm.org), and deeded the patents on the HART technology over to this not-for-profit organization. "The HART protocol was conceived at an offsite meeting that I chaired," he says.

"OPC also began on my watch," Berra notes. "I remember going to Microsoft and meeting with Mike Maples, who was then head of technology there. We were trying to stir up some interest at Microsoft in process automation."
"More recently," he continues, "I was associated with wireless technology and was proud to launch wireless products and WirelessHART during my time as business leader."

"Clearly no single person does all of this, and I am not the engineer who did the technology," Berra says. "But I am very proud of my leading role in all of these things that changed our industry. Automation is better because of these innovations, and it is very gratifying to know that I have been a part of it. My other source of pride is the people that I've hired and developed over the years."

Berra has been married to his wife Charlotte for 41 years, and they have three children and three grandchildren. "The grandchildren are the highlight of our life," he says. "I was a pretty decent tennis and basketball player in my younger years, but now my sport is golf."

Berra's idea of retirement is typically busy. He sits on the board of directors of two public companies, Ryder and National Instruments, and is a trustee of the Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas. "I sponsor four scholarships each year at the Washington University School of Engineering, [where he and Charlotte did their undergraduate work, and where they met—ed.]," he said.

The Academic Visionary
Dr. Sigurd Skogestad

Dr. Sigurd Skogestad took three classes from the electrical engineering department at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, when he was in the Norwegian army. "However, these were rather theoretical, and during my following three-year career in the process industry, I did not find any use for these courses."

He was much more interested in thermodynamics, so when he decided to go for his Ph.D., he directed his studies towards that or process systems engineering.

"I had no plans of getting into control engineering," Skogestad recalls, "but then Professor Manfred Morari of CalTech came to visit our company [Hydro, www.hydro.com] and gave some lectures on the pinch method for heat exchanger network design. I was very impressed with him, and I joined his group at CalTech. The main focus of his work was control, and I became fascinated with the power of feedback control."

Skogestad relies on his four years of experience at Hydro's research center in Porsgrunn, Norway, to shape his work. "I have always had a strong interest in doing work that engineers may find useful in their daily work," he says, "and my first control paper was a paper on PID tuning that was written during my first year as a Ph.D. student." In fact, this paper has been so useful that it is still Skogestad's paper with the most citations in other works. "Presently at 365 citations," Skogestad says.

Skogestad was born in the small town of Flekkefjord, Norway, but moved to South Africa with his family for the next five years. Moving back to Norway, he finished high school in Porsgrunn, certain that he wanted to study engineering. "I ended up in chemical engineering because my father was a chemical engineer and working in large chemical plants seemed interesting and challenging," he says.

Sigurd married Anne-Lise when he was still a student, and they have two boys and two girls. Since he returned to Norway in 1987, he has been a professor of chemical engineering at NTNU and has been head of the chemical engineering department for some time. He is an avid cross-country skier and hunter, mostly of grouse. He is also a fan of orienteering, or "running with compasses." Skogestad is also active in local politics, as well as being a coach and umpire for girls' baseball.

"I think my main contribution," he says, "and one I am still working on, is to take control theory and make it workable in practice. As you can see if you look at my home page (www.nt.ntnu.no/users/skoge/bio.html), ‘the object of our research is to develop simple, yet rigorous methods to solve problems of engineering significance. We would like to provide the engineer with tools to assist in problem solving.' "

Skogestad has been working on plant-wide control for 25 years. "I am trying to find a systematic approach for finding the right control strategy, especially for finding the best controlled variables (CVs). I expect to keep working at least for another 15 years."

You can find his paper, "A Systematic Approach to Plant-Wide Control" at www.controlglobal.com/plantwidecontrol.html. "The paper summarizes my efforts so far…" he notes.

The Batch Wizard
Dr. Maurice Wilkins

"It was 1978," says Dr. Maurice Wilkins, vice-president of global marketing services for Yokogawa Electric of America (www.yokogawa.com/us/), "and I was just finishing my Ph.D, when a friend of mine who had graduated the year before to join Esso Chemical Ltd. in the New Forest area of southern England called to tell me about a cool new project he was working on using a new control tool called a DCS."

It was a Honeywell TDC2000 with eight loops and a single data entry panel.

Wilkins continues his story: "At the time I knew nothing about process control—we had done some on the chemical engineering course I had taken—but not much, and my Ph.D. studies had been on the control of water pollution using activated charcoal cloth. He said that Esso was looking for one more control engineer and 17 process engineers, so I decided to apply, and got the job. I was on a Honeywell training course while still writing my Ph.D. thesis. I remember my first day at Esso Chemical—my boss pointed to a line of columns and told me that I would be responsible for putting all of them onto TDC2000 and adding advanced controls—and so began my first project."

"Esso was very good at giving basic control training to its engineers," Wilkins says, "and then throwing them in at the deep end—and boy, did I learn a lot quickly." Like Berra, Wilkins spent lots of time working on every type of process unit. Then he was sent to Esso's additives plant called Paramins, and this changed his life. He was sent there to learn the ins and outs of batch control.

"It was seen as 'relegation' by the continuous control ‘elite,' " Wilkins remembers, "but boy, did I have some fun there."

Wilkins took his new found batch expertise on the road, teaching process automation for KBC Process Automation's (now Honeywell Process Solutions) batch group for the next three years. He spent 18 months working on a huge batch project for Shell with Foxboro NL, the Dutch subsidiary of Foxboro (www.foxboro.com), and while there he learned about Easybatch, a Foxboro product far ahead of its time that used subroutines to control operations in the way ISA-88 later used phases. Moving to Honeywell (http://hpsweb.honeywell.com), he became involved in creating Modular Batch Automation, which was a forerunner to ISA-88.

"During this period, I became a Honeywell Fellow—a position bestowed on very few people in their organization," Wilkins said. "In 1993, I was transferred to Honeywell's EU HQ in Brussels to head a European Batch Center, and while in this position, I attended the inaugural World Batch Forum "Meeting of the Minds" held in Phoenix in mid-1994, which was another event that would eventually be life-changing."

After a period of time as a global consultant for Honeywell, a short engagement at SimSci just before its acquisition by Siebe, and a stint with his own consulting company, Wilkins bumped into Tom Fisher at the 2000 WBF North American Conference. "Tom Fisher was really the father of ISA-88 and revered in the batch community. I had never met him but he said, 'so you are Maurice Wilkins! I have read several of your papers on modular batch automation!' It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Following the conference, Tom asked me to join the WBF board, where I eventually became chairman."

Wilkins cycled back to the end-user side of things next, with a position at Millennium Specialty Chemicals (now part of LyondellBasell, www.lyondellbasell.com) in Jacksonville, Fla. At the same time, he served as WBF chairman from 2004 to 2009. "I am still the longest-serving chairman," he said, "having seen the organization get to the brink of extinction, and then with the help of a great board of directors, pull it back to viability once more."

In 2006, "consulting came calling again," and Wilkins joined ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com) as vice president of consulting services. He had always wanted to have an influential position at a DCS vendor, and in 2008 such a position came up at Yokogawa. "I could not say no," Wilkins says. "I thoroughly enjoy working for Yokogawa and being an internal consultant for the organization."

In addition to his role at WBF as "Chairman Emeritus," Wilkins is also co-chair of ISA-101, the HMI standard committee, and he is a member of the Standards and Practices board. He is co-managing director of ISA-88 and ISA-95, and was instrumental in the formation of the ISA-106 standard committee for procedural automation. With ISA-88, the issues around the automation of batch processes had been addressed, but although ISA-88 could apply, it had not addressed purely procedural operations in continuous processes—start-ups, shutdowns and grade changes, for example. "So, along with Dave Emerson and Walt Boyes," Wilkins says, "I did some market research and found that there was a need for this standard, and we cajoled ISA into launching ISA-106 in April 2010."

Dr. Wilkins is married to Sara and lives in the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas. "I have two daughters living in England, and three stepsons living in Belgium—and we also have two of the most adorable dogs in the world, both rescues," he said. "Sara and I love to run together, and we both enjoy traveling together and eating good food and drinking good wine."

Three Visionaries See the Future

"It was 1978," says Dr. Maurice Wilkins, vice-president of global marketing services for Yokogawa Electric of America (www.yokogawa.com/us/), "and I was just finishing my Ph.D, when a friend of mine who had graduated the year before to join Esso Chemical Ltd. in the New Forest area of southern England called to tell me about a cool new project he was working on using a new control tool called a DCS."

It was a Honeywell TDC2000 with eight loops and a single data entry panel.

Wilkins continues his story: "At the time I knew nothing about process control—we had done some on the chemical engineering course I had taken—but not much, and my Ph.D. studies had been on the control of water pollution using activated charcoal cloth. He said that Esso was looking for one more control engineer and 17 process engineers, so I decided to apply, and got the job. I was on a Honeywell training course while still writing my Ph.D. thesis. I remember my first day at Esso Chemical—my boss pointed to a line of columns and told me that I would be responsible for putting all of them onto TDC2000 and adding advanced controls—and so began my first project."

"Esso was very good at giving basic control training to its engineers," Wilkins says, "and then throwing them in at the deep end—and boy, did I learn a lot quickly." Like Berra, Wilkins spent lots of time working on every type of process unit. Then he was sent to Esso's additives plant called Paramins, and this changed his life. He was sent there to learn the ins and outs of batch control.

"It was seen as ‘relegation' by the continuous control ‘elite,' " Wilkins remembers, "but boy, did I have some fun there."

Wilkins took his new found batch expertise on the road, teaching process automation for KBC Process Automation's (now Honeywell Process Solutions) batch group for the next three years. He spent 18 months working on a huge batch project for Shell with Foxboro NL, the Dutch subsidiary of Foxboro (www.foxboro.com), and while there he learned about Easybatch, a Foxboro product far ahead of its time that used subroutines to control operations in the way ISA-88 later used phases. Moving to Honeywell (http://hpsweb.honeywell.com), he became involved in creating Modular Batch Automation, which was a forerunner to ISA-88.

"During this period, I became a Honeywell Fellow—a position bestowed on very few people in their organization," Wilkins said. "In 1993, I was transferred to Honeywell's EU HQ in Brussels to head a European Batch Center, and while in this position, I attended the inaugural World Batch Forum "Meeting of the Minds" held in Phoenix in mid-1994, which was another event that would eventually be life-changing."

After a period of time as a global consultant for Honeywell, a short engagement at SimSci just before its acquisition by Siebe, and a stint with his own consulting company, Wilkins bumped into Tom Fisher at the 2000 WBF North American Conference. "Tom Fisher was really the father of ISA-88 and revered in the batch community. I had never met him but he said, ‘so you are Maurice Wilkins! I have read several of your papers on modular batch automation!' It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Following the conference, Tom asked me to join the WBF board, where I eventually became chairman."

Wilkins cycled back to the end-user side of things next, with a position at Millennium Specialty Chemicals (now part of LyondellBasell, www.lyondellbasell.com) in Jacksonville, Fla. At the same time, he served as WBF chairman from 2004 to 2009. "I am still the longest-serving chairman," he said, "having seen the organization get to the brink of extinction, and then with the help of a great board of directors, pull it back to viability once more."

In 2006, "consulting came calling again," and Wilkins joined ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com) as vice president of consulting services. He had always wanted to have an influential position at a DCS vendor, and in 2008 such a position came up at Yokogawa. "I could not say no," Wilkins says. "I thoroughly enjoy working for Yokogawa and being an internal consultant for the organization."

In addition to his role at WBF as "Chairman Emeritus," Wilkins is also co-chair of ISA-101, the HMI standard committee, and he is a member of the Standards and Practices board. He is co-managing director of ISA-88 and ISA-95, and was instrumental in the formation of the ISA-106 standard committee for procedural automation. With ISA-88, the issues around the automation of batch processes had been addressed, but although ISA-88 could apply, it had not addressed purely procedural operations in continuous processes—start-ups, shutdowns and grade changes, for example. "So, along with Dave Emerson and Walt Boyes," Wilkins says, "I did some market research and found that there was a need for this standard, and we cajoled ISA into launching ISA-106 in April 2010."

Dr. Wilkins is married to Sara and lives in the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas. "I have two daughters living in England, and three stepsons living in Belgium—and we also have two of the most adorable dogs in the world, both rescues," he said. "Sara and I love to run together, and we both enjoy traveling together and eating good food and drinking good wine."

More Thoughts from Our Masters of All the Tools

We know that there are fewer students choosing manufacturing (process or discrete) as a career, and even engineering and science career choices are down. What do you think we should do about this?

Maurice Wilkins: We HAVE to get younger people interested in the subject and convince them that automating huge industrial processes is "cool." I had a chat a couple of years ago with some younger relatives of mine and explained to them what I have done over my career, and they thought it was very interesting. But if you ask many of them what they want to do―they want to work with games and the Internet. "Older" people like me need to engage younger people and be given a platform to let them know just how much fun our profession can be. We also need support from the management of the industries we work in―to show the true value of automation to EVERY process operation these days.

John Berra: Engineering enrollment surged in my day because the Russians launched Sputnik and the United States realized it needed to get going technically. Kennedy announced the goal to put a man on the moon, and there was a huge push for students to go into engineering. There is no equivalent sense of urgency in the United States today. Engineering enrollment throughout the world, however is not ailing anywhere near as much—particularly in Asia. Overall, engineering enrollment follows a supply and demand cycle with a fairly long lag.

In my view, a more serious problem is that however many engineering students we have, very few of them choose process automation. This problem is global. I have often called automation engineering a noble profession. People who do this are the unsung heroes of their companies. No other engineering field requires more depth and breadth of understanding. Students don’t go into it today because it just does not have much visibility or sizzle. It is much more fun to hitch your wagon to the Google/Microsoft/Apple world or to the SAP/Oracle world. ISA was supposed to be one of the groups pushing for automation visibility, but that has not been very effective. Our industry has no one with the star power of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

We need to go to schools to convince them that automation is something they should promote. Vendors and end users should donate money, time and equipment to make sure that students get to work with real automation implementation projects. The industry press needs to exert its influence outside of the normal circle of people that read their publications. We also need to educate politicians on the importance of this field.

If you could do your career over, would you do the same things? What would you say to your son, daughter or other young relative about process automation as a career?

Maurice Wilkins: I didn't plan to work for as many companies as I have – but I wouldn't change anything. I have been a user, supplier and consultant twice over and have chaired one of the best associations in our industry. I have traveled all over the world and gained a wealth of experience. I have made some wonderful friends over the years, many of whom are leaders in our industry who continue to inspire me.

John Berra: The one thing I would have done differently would have been to take an assignment outside the United States. I have a lot of international experience, but have never lived outside the U.S. Everything else I would do the same way. It was a wonderful career.

None of my three children are engineers. I did not push them to anything except excel in their chosen field. I would recommend process automation to them, and I also would recommend that they look at bio-medical engineering. My guess is that if I were starting over again, I would probably be attracted to that field.

Sigurd Skogestad: I would do the same things again.

What other comments would you have for the readers of Control?

Maurice Wilkins: Ours is a stimulating industry and vital to our future as skilled workers start to leave in large numbers (On the plus side, there will hopefully be work for us people with gray hair a lot longer than we thought!). It will only get more interesting as we are challenged to keep processes running ever more efficiently in a safe and environmentally friendly way with fewer people. To the older people I would say, promote the good we do to younger people. To the younger people I would say automation is a "cool" career, but as with everything in life it is only what you make it. Seek out experienced control engineers and LISTEN to what they have done. You should be inspired.

John Berra: First, I want to thank them for being part of a truly important and exciting industry. Second, I would tell them that innovation should be high on their list. Too many engineers today like to take the safe route of doing what has been done before. Our industry is justifiably conservative, but it is really too conservative. It should not take a decade for new technology to get a toehold in our market. There are some truly wonderful things being done by the innovators today which are delivering great benefits to the companies they work for. Unfortunately, the ranks of the technical evangelists are thinning.


The Process Automation Hall of Fame

The Process Automation Hall of Fame was established in 2001 to honor pioneers of process automation technologies and luminaries of the discipline. Each year, the previously inducted members nominate and select three to five automation professionals whose contributions to the profession have made them significant. Anyone can propose a nominee, but only the inductees vote on the final selection.

Here are the members of the Process Automation Hall of Fame in the order of their induction:

  • Marion "Bud" Keyes
  • Béla Lipták
  • Greg McMillan
  • F. Greg Shinskey
  • Terry Tolliver
  • Harold Wade
  • Karl Astrom
  • Lynn Craig
  • Charles Cutler
  • Terry Blevins
  • Thomas M. Stout
  • Ted Williams
  • Richard H. Caro
  • William G. "Bill" Luyben
  • R. Russell Rhinehart
  • Edgar Bristol II
  • Richard E. Morley
  • Wyman "Cy" Rutledge
  • Kathleen Waters
  • James H. Christensen
  • Thomas F. Edgar
  • Angela Summers
  • Vernon Trevathan
  • William M. Hawkins
  • Dale E. Seborg
  • Hans D. Baumann
  • Renzo Dallimonti
  • J. Patrick Kennedy
  • Carroll Ryskamp
  • Cecil Smith
  • Joseph S. Alford
  • John Gerry
  • Willy Wojsznis
  • Yutaka Wakasa
  • John Berra
  • Sigurd Skogestad
  • Maurice Wilkins
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