Process Automation's Future
I really enjoyed reading the article by Dave Beckmann, ("The Future of Process Management"). The key parts that hit home with me were 1) Everything is getting more complex and we need to change our thinking in dealing with issues facing us today; and 2) The need to be more creative in our approach to work and, more importantly, how to tap into the creative juices and ideas of all of our employees.
I just finished reading Dave Beckmann's article about the future of process management. I agree 100% with him. However, his remarks about ExxonMobil's OIMS system made me laugh a bit.
In the mid 1990s, I visited the ExxonMobil Basic Chemical Research Center outside Houston to discuss safety in experimental laboratories with the head of the laboratory. He gave me unique insight into the elements of the OIMS and ExxonMobil's procedures. Then I stopped in Sarnia, Ontario, at ExxonMobile's plant there. I visited with the site safety leader, who explained how the OIMS was implemented locally. For example, the six or seven unit managers each had one or two focus areas, which they had to follow intensively both with respect to new technological developement and with respect to possible regulatory changes for the site as a whole, and then share their findings with the other managers.
Before I left, he told me he could not give me a copy of the OIMS procedures, since they were considered company proprerty. However, he had printed a copy of the equivalent BP procedures freely available on the company's website.
My point is that it does not matter what management system you have in place. It's all in how you execute it.
Control Valves vs. VFDs
[Editor's note: Dick Caro's article, "Eliminating the Control Valve," (March 2011, www.controlglobal.com/articles/2011/ControlValve1103.html) generated far more responses than the two printed below. For the complete dialog, go to www.controlglobal.com/Feedback1105_VFD.html.]
Interesting article. It's always important to look at different ways of doing things. It's hard for people to change, but an article like this may prompt a few to try it, and then it snowballs. Some day in the future our great grandkids may ask, "What's a control valve?"
The Generation Gap
I recently presented your article, "Eliminating the Control Valve," in a course at New River Community College in Dublin, Va. It generated a lengthy discussion/debate that is still ongoing. What I found fascinating was that the instructors and older students who had some industry experience were very skeptical of replacing control valves with VFDs. When asked why, they couldn't really give a legitimate answer. They would launch into a story about the old days and what type of valves they worked on. I think therein lies the answer. As you pointed out, they love them because of the familiarity and tradition. The younger students can approach the issue from a purely mathematical perspective and see why it makes sense. Also, as you pointed out, installation and maintenance of VFDs would fall under the "human-created" category of electrical, not instrumentation. It seems to me that the lines between instrumentation, electrical and IT are getting more and more blurry. Your article was appreciated.