Archive of Process Expertise - MAVERICK Rethinking Automation

Who Will Be In Your Control Room In 2016?

Posted by Bill Tolrud on December 5, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

Control SystemsTake a look at the people in your control room: you probably see a lot of gray hair. How many of those individuals are still going to be there in another three or five years? To answer this question, we need to look at the retirement rate of the baby boomers that are now between the ages of 55 to 65. On January 1, 2011, the first baby boomers turned 65. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, dated January 30, 2008, the retirement of baby boomers will affect the overall economy and our industries until the year 2020. The industries affected most will be those that have been part of the structure of the U.S. industry buildup: steel and primary m...

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Intersections of Manufacturing and Process Control

Posted by Sergei Kuznetsov on June 12, 2012 @ 9:06 am

Have you ever thought about how many average families have been changed by having GPS devices in our cars? Just think back to the (not so) good ol’ pre-GPS days when you pretended you knew where you were going, only to find out you didn’t, and you never heard the end of it. When those wonderful gadgets came along, they put a stop to all the arguments about directions. Yet the change snuck up on us so quietly, it went mostly unnoticed. I see the same thing happening in our industry with variable speed drives (VSDs), including variable frequency drives (VFDs) and inverters. Yes, we all know you can reduce energy consumption while improving efficiency and process control by using VSDs to drive pumps and blowers instead of using flow restriction devices. But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to focus on is how much the cost of modern VSDs has dropped in recent years....

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Expecting The Unexpected: The Risks That Didn’t Make The Project Plan

Posted by Brad Ems on May 1, 2012 @ 8:58 am

If you’ve been in controls long enough, it’s happened to you: a project that seemed to be going well suddenly hits a wall that was unforeseen and whose effects threaten to derail it irreversibly. My Waterloo came with a project to automate a press that made abrasive bars for honing pipe welds, compressing sand-like material into rectangular “sticks” that were then baked to produce the final product. The automation portion was reasonably straightforward, applying mechanical and controls equipment that would feed the raw material into the die cavities, compress it and automatically offload the pressed sticks to small pallets. The usual risks were identified and hedged: subcontractor performance issues, equipment delays, personnel scheduling, etc. What doomed the project was my failure to heed a small, offhand comment made by the client even before the project began about how dif...

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Why Process Control Migration Projects Fail

Posted by Brian Batts on April 18, 2012 @ 11:37 am

Is fear of failure haunting your upcoming migration project? Engineers are pretty good with band-aids and bailing wire, so absolute failure is rare. But in process control, pitfalls like exceeding budget, operations rejection, and maintenance headaches could constitute failure. In migration projects, most of these pitfalls originate not from incompetence but from missed opportunities. Let’s take budgeting as an example. You didn’t want an unfundable, fat “budgetary” estimate, so you warned the vendor, “I need a realistic, FUNDABLE budget!” Unfortunately, your vendor’s interpretation was, “Give me the bare minimum.” After the project, you’ll have a functioning solution, but your operations team will be missing features they use every day in your current system. Was it avoidable? Could you realistically have noticed something was missing from the proposal as you went...

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Protecting Your Plant Floor Investment in the Post-Stuxnet Age

Posted by Erik Goode on March 15, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

Everyone’s heard of Stuxnet. But what does it mean to us now? In any economic climate, businesses desire reliability and predictability in their processes. Thanks to Stuxnet, there’s now more awareness of security improvements on the plant floor. Since insecure systems are a threat to predictability, and unpredictable systems are not safe, this is definitely a good thing. So, if your management threw money at you and said, “fix our processes,” what would you do? For that matter, what would you do if they left out the money part? Here are some actionable thoughts to consider in the areas of design, operational monitoring and incident response. Design Design to minimize the unexpected. Use physical network isolation and access control lists to control communication to and from your different SCADA control networks. Do not share physical networks with no...

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