The key to a much brighter future of our profession depends upon management providing the funding and support and millennials seeking to improve process performance by the use of the best automation and process control. There are some common approaches to these seemingly very different groups.
Management is focused on the bottom line that may be as short term as quarterly results. If management has only business degrees, this may be the primary and perhaps the only motivation. If management also has a technical degree, there can be an additional motivation to advance the knowledge and technology used to make processes safer and more productive. Technical people are intrigued and attracted to new more powerful developments in technology. An upcoming Control Talk column with Walt Boyes will give considerable insight into how management thinks.
Millennials choose engineering as a major because they were interested in technology and having a positive impact on people and systems by using and advancing the latest technologies. Unfortunately, students have a negative image that industry is seemingly low tech, routine, and “down and dirty”. Peter Martin aptly discussed the negative view by engineering graduates of working in industry and the missing understanding of opportunities that meet their altruistic motivation in his July 2017 ISA Interchange post “The Challenges of Attracting Millennial to Industrial Careers”. Another goal of engineers may be to make money and seem important by moving on and becoming a manager.
The use of the best and highest tech hardware and software in automation and process control can yield impressive improvements in process safety and performance that are much faster and less expensive than changing process equipment. Unfortunately, management is often not aware of this as discussed in the May 2017 Control Talk column “The Invisibility of process control”.
What can possibly work to impress both management and millennials are demos that show the benefits and use of new technologies. The “before” and “after” cases should show benefits of increases in process performance in terms of dollars with a running quarterly total moving forward showing continuous improvement from knowledge gained. Since time is precious and concentration spans are short, the summary of dynamic runs can be presented in terms of trend charts of benefits for changes in demand and supplier feeds. “Seeing is believing.” The reality of being able to adjust to a dynamic world is inspiring. For engineers, a chance to see live demos may increase interest because of the dynamics. The emphasis should be on how fast and beneficial are the results from using the best technology. See the August feature article “Virtual Plant Virtuosity” for how to develop high tech solutions that impress the M&Ms satisfying altruistic and monetary motivations.
I love M&Ms and there are so many flavors now. See if you can enjoy the M&Ms that determine our profession as much as the M&Ms that satisfy your cravings. Maybe M&Ms can be a totally sweet deal.