2013 Process Automation Hall of Fame

The Kings of Control. Four Automation Leaders as Varied as the Suits in a Deck of Cards

By Walt Boyes

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"I must have had an inkling I would end up in the automation field because in college I took all but one of the chemical engineering program process control courses offered. This was the core of the chemical
process control curriculum after it was announced as a specialization a few years later," he says.

"In the final year of college, I was also the University of Alberta mascot, and in my final term met Michele just as she was finishing her nursing degree at U of A. We were married upon the completion of my first year engineering.

"After graduation, I took a field engineering position in Wainright, Alberta; Michele became a stay-at-home wife; and we had our two daughters, Ashley and Madeleine. By then we'd moved to Syncrude and Fort McMurray.

And here's where hockey comes in. "I started playing recreational hockey in Wainright, and after a number of years I switched over to the other side of the whistle and became a referee, something I continue to enjoy doing today," adds Verhappen.

Peter Martin adds, "I have been married to my wife Liz for over 38 years. We have a son, Derek, and a daughter, Erin, both married. We have two granddaughters.

"Throughout high school and college, I enjoyed sports, playing football, basketball, baseball and hockey. I played hockey through college and was the captain of my college team. I still enjoy all kinds of sports, but lately I spend a bit more time cheering on others than playing—although I still ice skate on occasion."

John MacGregor says, "I have two sons, one a chemical engineer and the other in business. The whole family has always been very active in sports, and we still get together at Christmas to play pond hockey."

There's that hockey thing again.

Dennis Brandl is married to Diane, with four sons who all graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Diane and I had always wanted to live in this area," Brandl says, "because we wanted a place where it did not snow, close to the beach, close to the mountains and with great schools and universities. Our four sons all are working in engineering and software. In fact, I just finished writing a book with my son, Donald, for Momentum Press called Plant IT: Integrating Information Technology into Automated Manufacturing."

Major Contributions to Automation

Each of the inductees has made major contributions to the automation profession, but it is interesting to note how different those contributions have been. Verhappen is a process analyzer guru and an industrial networking and fieldbus expert. Brandl is a manufacturing IT expert. MacGregor is a past master of engineering statistics and the use of advanced mathematics in process control. Martin is recognized for his contributions to controlling processes through real-time business variables and analytics. Between them, they cover the entire field of automation from the plant-floor devices to the boardroom in the enterprise.

"I think my greatest impact has been my work on developing multivariate latent variable methods for the extraction of information from large industrial databases for use in the analysis, monitoring, control and optimization of processes," says MacGregor. "My research on the advanced control of batch processes has also been quite unique in the systems engineering area—both from the use of fundamental models for polymer reactor control, and the use of empirical multivariate latent variable models for the analysis, monitoring and control of batch processes."

Martin believes his contributions "include the invention of dynamic performance measures, real-time, activity-based accounting, enterprise control systems, mathematical models for asset performance measurement and profitable safety. I suppose I would have to say that the invention of dynamic performance measures has realized the greatest contribution to this point."

Verhappen says, "The largest and most rewarding contributions I have made are as a result of sharing. Through ISA and the Fieldbus Foundation, I was able to share both my process analyzer experiences and industrial networking learnings. Being an end user willing to share my experience—another name for mistakes— to help others have a successful project is what provides me the greatest satisfaction. I am now working as a mentor for new engineers here in Alberta through the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). I hope to be able to continue to assist others to understand the importance of the field sensor, final control element and controller communications relationship as the foundation on which all control and automation is based."

Although Dennis Brandl was the chairman of the ISA88 Batch Standard Committee and the co-author of B2MML and BatchML XML schema standards, he says, "I am most proud of the development and market acceptance of the ISA95 standards for Enterprise/Control System Integration and Manufacturing Operations Management. These five standards have made a major impact in improving manufacturing productivity in all industries. The ISA95 standard and the associated MESA B2MML schemas reduced integration project times by over 80%, and helped to revitalize the MES/MOM industry. This has helped companies around the world improve their manufacturing productivity by 3% to 5% per year, resulting in billions of dollars of savings and in substantially improved use of natural resources." 

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