Project delays: Identify the issue and keep the customer happy

Posted by Bruce Brandt on July 1, 2014 @ 10:01 am

Every person working on a project should be able to answer these five questions: Who? What? When? Where? and Why? If you have ever studied the newspaper business, then you have probably learned that every story must answer these five questions: Who did the deed? What did they do? When did they do it? Where did it happen? Why did they do it? The same is true of working on projects; every person working on the project must be able to answer those same five questions about their role on the project in order to be successful. They should also be able to answer those questions for the other people on the project to prevent gaps and overlap. So let’s break this down a bit. There’s very little difference in saying to a customer “I forgot” and “It’s someone else’s mistake”—in their mind, the “who” is you. Either way you have a disappointed and often unhappy custome... Continue Reading

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Cyber security: Trusting your source for drivers, software tools

Posted by Bruce Billedeaux on June 24, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

Some of the most published cyber security events have been traced back to malicious content embedded on a trusted user's laptop through an e-mail or downloaded document. Is your process control network safe? Its two o’clock in the morning and the control system is down. Production has stopped. An automation technician has just arrived. He is reviewing the system status as we read this post. He finds the issue in a few minutes. He knows the solution, but needs to reload the controller. Unfortunately, he finds that this new laptop does not have the right drivers. He is stuck. He goes to the manufacturer’s website to get the new drivers, but since its 2:00 a.m., the website is “under maintenance.” He feels intense pressure to get the plant up and running. He scours the web for the driver and finally finds it at a “divers.ru” website. A warning pops up in his browser saying th... Continue Reading

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The value of field engineers

Posted by Mike Robb on June 18, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

A good field engineer can help improve the process controls based on knowledge and experience, potentially saving money by being able to quickly diagnose problems.

Have you ever worked on a process that was designed based on a computer simulation model? The model can be a very effective design tool to predict how mechanical systems will react with one another. These predications can then be used to help with the design process to allow you to make control philosophy changes and correct problem areas within the control scheme. The models are typically used to assist in the feasibility of large scale process control changes to validate a new control philosophy but can be an expensive investment. There are also limitations—the model can only account for the variables that you know, and the more variables that are present the longer the model will take to ... Continue Reading

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PID math demystified, part 4

Posted by Scott Hayes on June 11, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

You’ve see the equations, but have you thought about how those elements work together? Part 4: Feed forward

In the first three blog posts (see Part 1Part 2, and Part 3) we covered the basics of PID math. We started with the basic proportional-only controller and worked in the integral and derivative components. Well before get too far, let’s review the proportional-only controller... Continue Reading

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Growing recent graduates into controls engineers

Posted by Bruce Brandt on June 5, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

Too many recent engineering graduates have never set foot inside a process plant before, or they have very little experience with process control systems. An old friend of mine tells a story about his first project meeting after joining an engineering company fresh out of school. The lead engineer kept saying that it was a “grassroots project,” so my friend finally asked “How do you make paper out of grass roots?” We’ve all been there in one way or another, but what we do isn’t brain surgery. It isn’t even rocket science—though it’s closer. So how do we teach our new graduates to be controls engineers? Many newly minted engineers have never set foot in a process plant or if they have my experience is they got very little exposure to the process control system. The many control theory classes, from my experience, don’t seem to be very tied to the real world but focu... Continue Reading

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