University labs round out theoretical education with practical process control experience

Greg McMillan and Stan Weiner speak with Dr. Kelvin Erickson of Missouri University of Science and Technology, regarding his approach to preparing students for the future of process control.

By Greg McMillan & Stan Weiner

1 of 2 < 1 | 2 View on one page

Greg: The future of the automation profession depends upon replenishing and revitalizing the expertise in process control. Nearly all of my protégés have retired without an opportunity to mentor and develop their sequels. There was a dearth of hiring automation professionals for 30 years. While there has been a recent increase, many if not most of these engineers new to the profession are not going to work for the plants or associated engineering departments of the process industry manufacturers. They are instead being hired by service providers, either in the application departments of system suppliers or their business partners, or by independent engineering firms. The challenge is how these new engineers go from what they learned in universities to what they have to do on the job. Since they are not starting out gaining extensive plant experience by being stationed at a plant and/or spending significant time checking out, commissioning and starting up the systems throughout their career like Stan and I did, they are challenged to learn what is really going on in the field. Further complicating matters is that university degrees in process automation are rare and the courses offered in control are oriented toward frequency response, emphasizing Laplace and Z transforms and Bode and Nyquist plots. While this knowledge is useful for advanced degrees and a deeper understanding for someone in research and development, the approach has little practical use for the automation engineer in the process industry. The courses in control theory largely reflect an original intent to educate potential aerospace engineers in the 1970s.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is making a difference principally as a result of the efforts of Dr. Kelvin Erickson. Kelvin worked at Fisher Controls in Marshalltown, Iowa, which was at the time owned by Monsanto. Among other projects, Kelvin helped develop the programmable logic controller (PLC) interface and a large database console for a distributed control system (DCS).

]Kelvin came to Missouri S&T in 1986 where he developed courses and labs that emphasize practical applications in automation. One of the courses is based on the book Plantwide Process Control, which he coauthored with a leading industry expert John Hedrick and focuses on a complete solution to maximize the scope and success of automation in both batch and continuous processes. Kelvin also teaches full and abbreviated lab-based courses onsite and online on using PLCs for automation in and beyond the process industry.

Stan: Kelvin, what is your approach?

Kelvin: Since 80% of the graduates end up providing services to the process industry (e.g., chemical, beverage, and wastewater) and to some extent in packaging, filling, assembly and small parts manufacturing, we developed labs to provide a practical and hands-on education of implementing automation in these industries. The focus is more on practice than the control theory that they can get with traditional courses in process control, which originated based on aerospace. Since PLCs are often used in these manufacturing processes, the labs extensively use PLCs.

Greg: I think this approach is critical because most will not have the advantage that Stan and I had of spending a lot a time onsite in labs and manufacturing plants as we progressed from university graduates full of theory to being specialists and eventually Fellows in process control. Also, the process industry is fraught with nonlinearities and deadtime not typically seen in aerospace.

Kelvin: The feedback we get from graduates and the companies that hire them is that they greatly appreciate the hands-on practical approach providing so many benefits including understanding the terminology and implementation details and seeing the reality of automation in action.

Stan: What do you cover in the labs?

Kelvin: The labs deal more with the operational aspects—controlling the loop mode, setting up the loops and getting the automation system to work. There are a lot of parameters you need to get right. A third of the students do this lab before I cover PID control in the lecture, so I don’t focus on loop tuning.

We have labs on ventilation system pressure/temperature control, pH control, and heat exchanger temperature control. These are all continuous operations. I use only one of these labs in a particular semester. Other lab exercises are discrete sequential in nature.

White Paper: The

To support the PID control labs, I spend a few weeks on PID tuning in the second half of the course using a simulator so we can look at more conditions and types of loops. Because it is referenced extensively, I start out with Ziegler Nichols (ZN) tuning but later show how tuning rules developed by H.A. Fertik and described in his paper, “Tuning Controllers for Noisy Processes,” in ISA Transactions Vol 14, No 4, provides more robustness and a compromise between the load and setpoint response.

Greg: ZN tuning is widely recognized as being too aggressive. We have learned to provide robustness with other tuning methods and to minimize setpoint overshoot courtesy of Greg Shinskey, using good load rejection tuning by the simple addition of a setpoint lead/lag with the lag time equal to the reset time and a lead equal to ¼ the lag time. Alternatively, we have learned to set the beta and gamma factors equal to 0.5 and 0.25, respectively, in a two-degrees-of-freedom (2DOF) PID structure.

Stan: How do students get to see what is happening in the process and complete the lab within the limited time available?

Kelvin: The response of the ventilation system is a few seconds and the pH system is about two minutes. The temperature response of the heat exchanger is much slower.

The ventilation system consists of two loops: pressure control by manipulating the variable-frequency drive (VFD) speed and temperature control by manipulating a heater coil through time-proportional control.

1 of 2 < 1 | 2 View on one page
Show Comments
Hide Comments

Join the discussion

We welcome your thoughtful comments.
All comments will display your user name.

Want to participate in the discussion?

Register for free

Log in for complete access.


  • Nowadays guiders and parents want to go into their kids in the manufacturing field rather than one more, because there are lots of ways to start anybody and will have turn out to be a perfectionist and get a bachelor degree with no trouble. Assignment Help, If anybody starts this course from online so they can anytime. Since 80% of the graduates end up as long as services to the development industry. The center is more on performing than the manage theory that they can get with customary courses in course control.


  • The criticism we obtain as of alumnae and the organizations to contract them is to facilitate they extraordinarily value the tender on down to earth approach giving such a large number of advantages together with accepting the wording and execution subtle elements and considering the truth of computerization in real life


  • It is a sensational way to teach your students with the technology of lab-based courses. It's clear the picture of students' imagination on the appropriate issue. Students also require completing their writing projects with Assignment Assistance because it is the best service with the aid of technology.


  • Nowadays, more and more students would like to have their kids with something which is related with engineering. Firstly, it's one of the degree where you can invent something which turn over the whole world and make them use your product. Secondly, here you can really achieve success in your life. Me, personally, I on my B.A. now. Currently, as I'm on my second year's of studying, I can't say that I dislike doing. Once, when I had a lot of homework assignments, it was easy to find online help. If you are in need of assisyance, there you can order a PhD paper even or a whole dissertation paper.


  • The customary way to deal with control instruction in Universities has been to improve understudy learning with equipment style tests Assignment expert The related tests are constantly obliged by the way that equipment must be given.


  • During the study I usually face difficulty to do my assignment, search for someone who can do my assignment for me or do my assignment online. My friends help me during my busy schedule write my assignment for me but I don’t get satisfy easily. pay someone to do assignment to get easy , quick & satisfactory answers.


  • The Associated Press have attempted survey about jobs lost due to new technology. UK essay help They analyzed data from 10 countries plus interviewed experts, software developers plus CEOs.Economists and futurists know revolution of Artificial Intelligence will replace the jobs of millions.


  • Technology has been developing so much in the Last decade and It's changed the way of learning and education in 2005 I start press release writing service but now we can see we have so many facilities where we can write press release easily and there are so many ways where you can Start your online writing work.


  • Education and expertise are the two equally important things required to shine in a profession. The future of automation profession is in the hands of those who have expertise in process control. Essay writing service, where you can find shortcuts to become a good professional.


  • Application of learned theories - It's not that easy. What we need is practical knowledge and experience gained and ideas earned from labs. Essay writing service, you can find experts here and get to know their knowledge level and experience.


  • Practical knowledge have great value than theories in professional life. To brighten the entire professional life, we must be a expertise in process control. Give more importance to practical education. Read out more essays from essay writing service reviews to brighten the professional life.


  • Instruction hypothesis tries to know, comprehend and endorse instructive strategy and practice. Instruction hypothesis incorporates numerous subjects, for example, teaching method, essay help andragogy, educational modules, learning, and training arrangement, association and initiative.


  • Now there are the latest Online learning courses is running. Udemy learning courses coupons which provide best online education courses with latest discount coupons and save maximum money.


RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments