If real-time optimization has been around for the past 30 years, why aren’t more oil and chemical companies reaping its rewards? Charlie Cutler, president of Cutler Technology in San Antonio, Tex., examines this phenomenon during his keynote speech at next week’s ISA Automation Week and comes to a surprising conclusion: This isn’t a technology problem but a people problem. And the solution is to convince management to ditch its tried-and-true methods and to teach engineers to sell their contributions to the bottom line.

The key to companies seeing more use of RTO lies in multivariable predictive control (MPC). The key with MPC is it takes the solution from the real-time optimizer and implements it. What’s unique about MPC is it takes into account all interaction between the various control valves. “Think about it like this,” Cutler said. “What if you had 30-40 heads on your shower, and you try to adjust each one? Multivariable control figures that out and moves 40-50 valves, looking at 100 different variables.”

Cutler’s main objective during his speech is to help engineers understand they have to sell themselves better. This technology requires someone who understands analyzers, computers, and advanced control theory,” he said.

Another aspect is RTO is not viewed by management as a serious part of their business. “They themselves didn’t go through the learning process of understanding what RTO will do for them,” Cutler said. So in the long run, people who end up being managers don’t get exposed to it because their managers didn’t think it was important. And it continues down the line. “Since they didn’t learn it, they continue to do the same thing the guy before them did,” he said. “So it’s a self-propagating way of perpetuating continued ignorance.”

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