What do New Automation Engineers Want to Know?

The questions submitted by the 10 worldwide participants in ISA Mentor program are refreshing and cause one to stand back and think about how we do things and how can we convey knowledge we take for granted. We have posted the answers to the 18 questions to date to help the emerging new generation of automation engineers and give the mentored some recognition for their participation in this endeavor. For leaders in the automation industry whether users or suppliers, the Q&A enables us to better understand how we can provide the information and tools needed.

I am fortunate to have the help of Hunter Vegas whose expertise in project management and execution complements my skills in technology. We share a sense of humor as evidenced by our top ten lists in the three part series of Control Talk columns “Successful Retrofit and Automation Projects” in the last quarter of 2010.

To see where I am coming from, it helps to know a little about my career. While I spent the first 8 years in the field in E&I construction and doing E&I design at Monsanto, the last 36 years have been in process control improvement seeking the best measurement, valve, controller, and simulation technologies for modeling and control. There have been some side trips into expert systems, neural networks, and model predictive control but the mainstream for me has been first principle simulation and PID control keying on the books by Shinskey and handbooks by Liptak who I had the honor of being inducted with into the Process Automation Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.

Hunter and I draw on the knowledge of others as needed such as Ram Ramachandran who has considerable expertise in measurements in oil, gas, and petrochemical plants. For an idea of what Ram brings to the party see the Feb and Mar 2012 Control Talk columns “Radar Love” and “Going with the Flow” If you would like to be a resource, please contact Susan Colwell at ISA who has graciously volunteered to administrate the program and do the posts on the ISA Interchange site.

The announcement of the ISA Mentor program with a description of the expectations and qualifications for participants is at:

The ISA Interchange site (lower left corner on isa.org home page) has had the following posts to date for the ISA Mentor Program. A post of a question and our answers is now done every Friday. In the following Q&A posts the question is in the last part of the link.

Q&A #1 post is "How Do You Combine Statistics With Control Techniques?"

Q&A #2 post is "MPC, Fuzzy or PID?"

Q&A #3 post is "How do you know when feed-forward is needed?"

Q&A #4 post is "Auto-Tuning Takes Too Long – Now What?"

Q&A #5 post is "What is the best way to document the control system?"

Q&A #6 post is "What is an automation migration project best path forward?"

Q&A #7 post is "What are the opportunities in distillation and reactor control modernization projects?"

Q&A #8 post is "What is the effect of the pump on control valves at lower rates?"

Q&A #9 post is "What are the best packed column temperature(s) for control?"

Q&A #10 post is "Are changes in pipeline pressure affecting your loop?"

Q&A #11 post is "How do you determine a measurement is good enough for control?"

Q&A #12 post is "How do you handle manual operations?"

Q&A #13 post is "What are the best practices used for sizing a pump recycle valve?"

Q&A #14 post is "What is the proper back pressure control valve type?"

Q&A #15 post is "Annubar or orifice meter?"

Q&A #16 Part I post is "Part I – What are the important criteria for selecting a system integrator?"

Q&A #16 Part II post is "Part II – What are the important criteria for selecting a system integrator?"

Q&A #17 post is "What goes on a P&ID?"

Q&A #18 post is "What are the factors that affect VFD rangeability?"