This post was written by Greg McMillan, industry consultant, author of numerous process control books, 2010 ISA Life Achievement Award recipient and retired Senior Fellow from Solutia Inc. (now Eastman Chemical).

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.

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

More Humor by Greg McMillan

Want more musings from Greg McMillan? Check out his ISA books: The Life and Times of an Automation Professional – An Illustrated Guide and The Funnier Side of Retirement for Engineers and People of the Technical Persuasion.

Also at the end of each of Greg’s Control Talk Column is a Top 10 list.

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


About the Author
Gregory K. McMillan, CAP, is a retired Senior Fellow from Solutia/Monsanto where he worked in engineering technology on process control improvement. Greg was also an affiliate professor for Washington University in Saint Louis. Greg is an ISA Fellow and received the ISA Kermit Fischer Environmental Award for pH control in 1991, the Control magazine Engineer of the Year award for the process industry in 1994, was inducted into the Control magazine Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2001, was honored by InTech magazine in 2003 as one of the most influential innovators in automation, and received the ISA Life Achievement Award in 2010. Greg is the author of numerous books on process control, including Advances in Reactor Measurement and Control and Essentials of Modern Measurements and Final Elements in the Process Industry. Greg has been the monthly "Control Talk" columnist for Control magazine since 2002. Presently, Greg is a part time modeling and control consultant in Technology for Process Simulation for Emerson Automation Solutions specializing in the use of the virtual plant for exploring new opportunities. He spends most of his time writing, teaching and leading the ISA Mentor Program he founded in 2011.

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