The Difference Between Process Control & Management

According to Webster control is “to exercise restraining or directing influence over” whereas manage is “to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of”.  Subtle but distinctly different.  While process control may be necessary to ensure safety and proper operation it is process management that makes money for the business.  Not to say that process control is not valuable, failure to exercise proper process control can certainly cost the business money.  But just controlling the process is not sufficient.

Control engineers need to elevate their sights and focus on going beyond good process control and think about good process management.  At the recent MRO Symposium I attended the recurring message was “use process information” to improve the maintenance and reliability of the equipment.  This is an excellent example of moving beyond simple control towards process management.  Process control is keeping the process on setpoint, process management is keeping the process’s setpoint at a profitable point. When we use the information we are gathering to control the process and apply it towards operating the process profitably it is adding business value.  

The tie-in to the asset management perspective is that we need to ensure that we are not contributing to the unwarranted deterioration of the process when we control the process.  One of the worst things we can do as process control engineers is perfectly control the process as it accelerates towards self destruction.  As I’ve stated numerous times in the blog, as engineers we need to think systemically.  Which process control vendor do you think is showing signs of systemic thinking?  Let me know.

Dan Miklovic is blogger contributor for Control's blog Manufacturing 2010. You can email him at or check out his Google+ profile.