The automation community mourns the passing of controls legend F. Greg Shinskey

Oct. 25, 2021

When F. Greg Shinskey was inducted into the inaugural class of the Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2001, he was already an icon to more than one generation of process control practitioners. Many have personally benefitted from his acute intellect, genial manner and creative problem-solving, while legions more learned the tools of our trade second-hand from the series of seminal textbooks and articles he penned in a publishing career spanning more than five decades.

So, when on Sept. 25, 2021, Shinskey died peacefully at age 89 at the retirement home in North Smithfield, R.I., where he spent his last years, word travelled quickly through the process automation community.

“As I started my career in automation, there were some stars to guide the way,” says Nick Sands, senior manufacturing technology fellow, DuPont Water & Protection. “Two that guided me through their writings were F. Greg Shinskey and Greg McMillan. Shinskey’s Process Control Systems captured so much practical knowledge that it changed how many plants operated, including where I worked, as I found solutions to longstanding problems in his book.

“It was amazing to meet Greg at an ISA conference and find him so approachable and willing to talk with an aspiring controls engineer,” Sands adds. “With Greg’s passing, a star is lost, but his knowledge lives on in his many books. His passing is also a reminder to appreciate the stars we have.”

“The loss of Shinskey is exceptionally sad for our profession and to me personally,” says McMillan, currently a senior principal software engineer with Emerson. “Shinskey has been my most extensive source of process control knowledge since I started my career over 50 years ago. He was able to show how process knowledge affects the dynamics, design and performance of the control system. He detailed how PID excelled at closed-loop control particularly in rejecting load disturbances.”

“Greg was my idol, a guru, an icon, a remarkable author, a process control passionate!” gushes Michel Ruel, principal consultant, advanced control, BBA Consultants. “I met him for the first time at the end of the 1980s. I presented a paper at an ISA conference; he asked very good and acute questions at the end—I was already a fan.”

“Every time I hired a new process control engineer, studying Shinskey’s books and his clever control strategies was mandatory,” Ruel continues. “We all became such fans that eight years ago, with Greg’s permission, we named our main conference room for him.”

“In my mind, Greg Shinskey was the exemplar of a process control engineer,” offers George Buckbee, head of performance solutions, Neles USA. “He was fully steeped in the theory of control, yet grounded in the experience and practicalities of the industrial environment. I was most impressed by his ability to quickly whittle any problem down to its pure fundamentals, and state the ‘obvious’ solution in just one or two short sentences. He was also very interested to codify his knowledge, and pass it on to coming generations. I will be forever grateful that Greg chose to devote some of his time to share his insights with the rest of us in the process control world.”

“Greg would be amazed to know how many people he inspired to follow in his footsteps,” says James F. Beall, principal process control consultant with Emerson’s control and operator performance team. Beall was one of that number, having been inspired by a Shinskey session on process control at an annual Texas A&M Instrumentation Symposium. “That was it for me. I made up my mind to pursue process control for the rest of my career!”

Sigifredo Nino, a Shinskey mentee and now CEO of Summa Control Solutions Inc., summarized his mentor’s contributions to the profession in the legend’s own words on the importance of understanding one’s process before attempting to control it: “There is no substitute for process knowledge,” he wrote in 1994, “and certainly none for common sense.”

About the Author

Keith Larson | Group Publisher

Keith Larson is group publisher responsible for Endeavor Business Media's Industrial Processing group, including Automation World, Chemical Processing, Control, Control Design, Food Processing, Pharma Manufacturing, Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Processing and The Journal.

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