Unlike the legendary sword in the stone, which could only be possessed by the rightful King of England, the mantle of a member of the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame is available to anyone who rises high enough in the profession to earn the admiration of his or her peers.
Since its inception in 15 years ago, the Hall of Fame has grown by adding new inductees nominated and selected entirely by existing members—the editors of Control simply facilitate the process, count the votes and write their stories. Together, the Hall of Fame members represent enormous knowledge across the world of process automation. Some are steeped in control theory, others in instrumentation technology, a few in application engineering, software and even marketing.
What they have in common is the willingness and ability to promulgate—to share, promote and disseminate their knowledge and ability to the benefit of others in the profession, the next generation, and to society as a whole. As you’ll see, this year’s new inductees are very different from each other, but each demonstrates unique strengths that add to the stature of the Hall of Fame.
Secures our future
What do you get when you take a small-town Canadian who wants to be an architect, educate him as a chemical engineer, expose him to computers at the dawn of the information age, and drop him into The Dow Chemical Co. for almost 40 years? In the case of Eric Cosman, you get a leader in integrating information technology (IT) in operations, a tireless champion for standardization, and this year’s first inductee to the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame.
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As a young man in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Cosman was the first in his family to attend university. His original goal was to become an architect, “But the architecture program in Halifax required two years of engineering, so I enrolled in an engineering school in my home town,” he said. “Even though I only planned to be there two years, they wanted me to select a specialty, so I put down chemical engineering, based on the fact that I enjoyed chemistry in high school, and people telling me that it was the most challenging program.”
Like most universities in the early 1970s, the engineering department at the University of New Brunswick was increasing its involvement with computers, and so did Cosman. “I'd developed an interest in computer science in high school, so I did a lot of that,” he says. This included a summer position working as a research assistant, developing software for the analysis of experimental data.
On graduating with a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1976, he joined Dow Chemical Canada as a process engineer. “I thought that the calculations required would be easier using computers, so I tried using it for engineering,” Cosman says. His managers saw his interest and success, and put him on a project to develop a process information management system. “This was before historians were commercially available,” he says. “My focus became supporting and developing software, networking and hardware.”
Cosman’s focus led to greater interest in networking technology, communications and information management, and increasing involvement with architectures and standards. “I did this in Canada for several years, then in 1993, I came to Dow’s facility in Midland, Michigan as a process automation systems architect. This led into process automation software portfolio management, and defining and supporting standards for all the engineering disciplines.”
He became a member of an internal consultants network consisting of senior technical experts in a variety of subjects. “My particular area of expertise is in the application of IT in a manufacturing and engineering context, with a concentration on those aspects that are specific or unique to an operations environment,” Cosman says. “This included developing and managing partnerships with internal and external IT service and solution providers, as well as a full range of technology and expertise centers across the company.” He led a team of experts that shared the overall accountability for the functional and infrastructure architecture that supported IT tools and solutions for all manufacturing and engineering disciplines.
Local to global
Part of the fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack was increased concern about and focus on security. “Cybersecurity got really hot,” Cosman says. “Dow put me with a program to define chemical sector standards for industrial cybersecurity, and I helped to form the ISA99 committee.” Cosman has co-chaired that committee since 2006.
Cosman was ISA vice president, standards and practices, from 2013 through 2014, where he took responsibility for providing volunteer leadership, and worked with the board that oversees and manages ISA’s ANSI-accredited open-standards development process. In 2015, he was named to the ISA Executive Board, where he helps establish the society’s strategic direction and serves as its champion for the cybersecurity strategic goal.
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Cosman is also a founding member of the Chemical Sector Cyber Security Program of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and chemical sector representative to the Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group (ICSJWG) set up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).
He's written several articles and spoken at conferences on topics ranging from industrial systems cybersecurity to IT lifecycle management and management of industrial IT systems.
Over the years, Cosman’s scope has grown from site to company to industry to national to international, increasingly managing technology at the intersection of IT and process automation. During the past 10-15 of those years, he specialized in industrial automation system security, where he's made a significant difference. “I’ve been fortunate to participate on teams formed to influence policy with senators, congressmen, the executive branch,” he says. “As a team effort, it’s been extremely satisfying.”
Cosman’s second main accomplishment has been promoting automation as a discipline. “It’s still not a specialty at most universities,” he says, and he’s working with the Automation Federation and ISA to raise its stature. In his role on the ISA Executive Board and service on many committees, he works to make ISA more global. “Process automation may not be a discipline, but it’s definitely a profession,” Cosman adds. “I like to think I’ve made a contribution in those two areas.”
In 2014, Cosman retired from his role at Dow as an Operations IT Fellow. “But I wasn’t ready to hang up the spurs,” he says, so he formed a consulting business, OIT Concepts, where he provides consulting and research services on a project basis in the area of operations IT. His clients are end users, emerging suppliers and new startups in IT and cybersecurity. Cosman continues to contribute research and consulting services as part of ARC Advisory Group, and lately, is exploring the application of automation cyber standards to other industries, such as medical devices.
Information and automation technology used to be separate, and still require different skillsets. “Now the environment is so complex and involves so many technologies, that success requires effective partnership. You don’t want automation engineers doing Windows updates.” Similarly, managing their integration takes a combination of leadership and facilitation skills. “I have a foot in each area,” Cosman says. “I’m neither an IT expert nor a detailed design engineer, but I can talk with both.”
On personal growth
In his spare time, Cosman likes to read and learn, “and travel a little more now that I’m retired,” he says. “My wife accompanies me to conferences in other countries, and we take in the local attractions. Last year we were fortunate to spend St. Patrick’s Day in Cork, Ireland.” He and his wife Nancy are now considering where they may wish to retire.
But mostly, he likes to read, and he reads a lot—fiction, non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction and more. “I discovered the library at nine years old,” he says. “I like to read company stories, how they developed and grew, like Good to Great. As I made the transition from single contributor to leadership, I was inspired by the things I read—biographies, psychology. I particularly enjoyed a book called Influence Without Authority—how to make a difference without having to climb the management ladder. How to succeed through team leadership vs. organizational management, not budgets and 'administrivia.' ”
Cosman advises the next generation to, “Find out what you’re good at, where your interests and aptitudes lead you. If you have STEM inclinations, you don’t have to be a geek. Be an engineer with heart, in medical sciences, industrial, whatever you choose. It may change in 15 years.”
His own heart may have grown because he was involved with Big Brothers of Sarnia-Lambton during the early part of his career at Dow. He volunteered for eight years, and became president of the agency. “Mentoring was foreign to me when I was younger,” Cosman says. “I was heavily involved in developing technology and was very focused on that. Now I’m much more people-focused—more involved in systems and their adoption.”
Cosman credits his success to “outstanding mentors,” he says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. I had the privilege of working with Maggi Walker, then vice president of engineering at Dow. “She’s the one who taught me the necessity of balancing the hard side and the soft side of your skills.”
Brings chemical engineering to life
This year’s second inductee hails from the academic side of the profession, but made his marks by paying homage and building bridges to the practical applications of industry. Dr. Charles Moore, professor emeritus and former head of the Chemical Engineering Dept., University of Tennessee in Knoxville, lists his major accomplishments almost entirely in terms of their impact on operations of industrial facilities.
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“My main contribution has been in four areas: principles of plantwide control; integration of statistical process control (SPC) with the more traditional engineering process control; monitoring batch processes; and chemical engineering (ChE) education,” Moore says.
Over his career, he realized that, “By far, the main issue in a well-controlled plant is how internal inventories, including recycle streams, are managed and controlled,” Moore says. “Controlling flows and levels are not considered to be difficult control problems; however, the challenge is in how well-conceived the inventory control schemes are from a plantwide perspective. Important questions are: how is the throughput set? Where in the plant is variability most costly? When the plant is upset? And what are the main paths of variability?”
In the early 1990s, chemical process control was challenged by a new technology, SPC, which provided a completely different framework for controlling processes. “There was a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of process control,” Moore says. “I used my position as technical director of the Measurement and Control Engineering Center to bring together engineers and statisticians from our member companies to identify and discuss issues. We sponsored several industrial meetings with equal representation from both sides. And as you can see from my publications, I wrote extensively about my observations.”
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Late in his term as technical director of the Measurement and Control Engineering Center, Moore was persuaded to work on the control of batch chemical processes. “We focused on developing techniques for indirectly monitoring the development of a batch using profiles, such as temperature, pressure, agitator speed, etc. Our research showed that big-data techniques could be used to improve the understanding of within-batch and batch-to-batch control,” he adds.
Educator and mentor
However, Moore is proudest of his role as educator. “I've graduated 17 Ph.D candidates, who have all had careers in process control,” he says. “But more than that, I've had the honor to introduce more than 2,000 undergraduate students to chemical process control. Some of them went on to jobs in process control areas, but most left the university with a good, solid understanding of process systems.
“What I enjoy the most about teaching process control to young chemical engineering students is seeing lights go on, as they did for me, when at last they understand where their education is taking them. If done well, process control brings chemical engineering to life in a way that no other course can.”
Moore’s most rewarding activity was the Process Control Internship Program he ran with Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn. “About 38 years ago, I approached Eastman about sponsoring a special cooperative program in the area of process control,” he says. It became an honors class open to a limited number of ChE seniors. Each new group was introduced to a problem (or two) currently being worked on by the Advanced Control Group at Eastman. With background material, P&ID charts, process data and lengthy discussion with Eastman engineers and operators, the group worked on the problems independently, with an occasional field trip to Kingsport.
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“Each study concluded with a presentation to Eastman of our results and recommendations,” Moore says. “I must say that sometimes we missed, but most of the time our recommendations were accepted and included as part of the Eastman study. This was a very popular class. It was a lot of work but we were working on something real and important.
“I think most students who went through my internship program listed this as their favorite class. It certainly was my favorite. I learned something from every group and every project. It is with sadness that next fall will be the first time in 38 years that I will not offer the process control internship.
Path to process control
Moore earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Louisiana State University, where he also played football. “I was the first person from our little town to win an athletic scholarship to LSU. I played cornerback on the famed defensive squad called ‘the Chinese Bandits.’ We finished in the top 10 every year, and I played in four post-season bowl games (Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Blue Bonnet) and against several football legends (Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Steve Spurrier and Jim Brown),” Moore says. My biggest accomplishment other than surviving five years was being named to an Academic All-American squad.”
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Among Moore’s inspirations, “I must acknowledge the influence that Dr. Paul W. Murrill had on my professional development,” he says. “As a junior ChE student, I took a process dynamics and control class taught by Dr. Murrill and was immediately hooked. His course brought chemical engineering alive for me. It helped me better understand all the bits and pieces of chemical engineering that were taught in other classes: thermodynamics, mass transfer, heat transfer, reaction kinetics, etc. It was clear to me then that I wanted to do work in that area after I graduated. It was also clear to me that I needed a Ph.D to help ensure that I could.”
In graduate school, he studied under Murrill and Dr. Cecil Smith. Both would become known for the first process modeling and control textbooks written specifically for chemical engineering curricula. At that time, Murrill and Smith were building a research program aimed at the early use of digital computers in control. Moore’s Ph.D dissertation was titled, “Selected Topics in Direct Digital Control,” dated December 1969.
“From the very beginning of graduate studies, my intentions were to work in industry—to be on the ground floor of some company with ambitious plans for using computers to control processes,” Moore said. But at the end of his graduate studies, he decided to explore the possibilities of an academic career. “I interviewed with five universities and immediately fell in love with the possibilities at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I feel very fortunate that 47 years ago, UT and the hills and mountains of East Tennessee became my academic and family home.”