The following insights are part of an occasional series authored by Greg McMillan, industry consultant, author of numerous process control books and a retired Senior Fellow from Monsanto.


Humor can provide insights by opening the mind to the strange but true aspects of ourselves and our profession. Successful humor can cause a smile before the participant realizes the full nature of the situation. The humor in my books tends not to be slapstick in your face humor but more cerebral in nature. Hopefully the ideas bounce around in our brains finding many avenues to make us smile and relax. I express my humor most concisely in Top 10 lists over the last 30 years. Here are some of my favorites in terms of gifts with the extended view that a distributed control system (DCS) can be a gift.

keys saying lol on keyboard key


Top 10 Reasons Why an Automation Engineer Makes a Great Spouse or at Least a Wedding Gift

(10) Reliable from day one
(9) Always on the job
(8) Low maintenance (minimal grooming, clothing, & entertainment costs)
(7) Many programmable features
(6) Stable
(5) Short settling time
(4) No frills or extraneous features
(3) Relies on feedback
(2) Good response to commands and amenable to real time optimization
(1) Readily tuned

Top 10 Reasons I Use a Virtual Plant to Optimize a DCS

(10) You can’t freeze, restore, and replay an actual plant
(9) Imagination rather than culture is limitation
(8) No waiting on lab analysis
(7) No raw materials
(6) No waste
(5) Virtual instead of actual problems
(4) Bioreactor batches done in 14 min instead of 14 days
(3) Plant can be operated on a tropical beach
(2) I don’t have $100,000K for an actual plant
(1) Actual plant doesn’t fit in my briefcase

Top 10 Reasons for a BBQ DCS

(10) Automated recipes
(9) Predicted BBQ times
(8) Five-course meal no problem
(7) Don’t have to watch cooking shows
(6) So much feedforward control you eat before you are hungry
(5) Process control comes home
(4) Children want to become automation engineers
(3) Spouse finally appreciates your expertise
(2) Griller not grilled
(1) More time to drink beer



Top 10 Things A DCS Consultant Shouldn’t Say When Entering a Control Room

(10) Does this hard hat protect me against the school of hard knocks?
(9) At the last plant I was in we always did it this way.
(8) I added alarms to each loop.
(7) Does that flare out there always shoot up that high?
(6) Ooooh! Did you mean to do that?
(5) Can’t somebody do something about all those alarms?
(4) We just downloaded the version released yesterday.
(3) Here, I will show you how to operate this plant.
(2) Are you ready to put all your loops in Remote Cascade?
(1) We want a “lights out” plant!

Top 10 Apps as Gifts from Spouse to Automation Engineer

(10) Translate common speech to engineer talk
(9) Translate engineer talk to common speech
(8) Explain automation without causing glazed eyes
(7) Guide for grooming
(6) Guide for clothing
(5) Learn to be as funny as “Big Bang” characters
(4) Chill out
(3) Enjoy mindless fun
(2) Forget about logic for a moment
(1) Anticipate and understand needs of spouse


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