In the ISA Mentor Program, I am providing guidance for extremely talented individuals from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. This question comes from Danaca Jordan.
Danaca Jordan’s Question
How should the need for manual operation be handled?
Greg McMillan’s Answer
If at all possible, manual actions should be eliminated to remove the discontinuity, inconsistency, and delay inherent in any human correction. The fastest and most abrupt and unpredictable disturbance is an operator action. The best of the operator actions can be automated and from increased pattern recognition from a consistent response be continuously improved. The magnitude of the opportunity was exemplified in the Control Talk column Show Me the Money – Part 1.
Operator manual activity is most intense during startup, transitions, and abnormal operations. The more an operator says a manual action cannot be automated the greater the opportunity as discussed in my modeling and control blog from yesteryear Exceptional Opportunities in Process Control – Startup and Abnormal Operation.
ISA Mentor Program Posts & Webinars
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Given that there is a manual action required, consider slowing down transitions in manual operations by the use of velocity limits on the setpoints of PID and analog output (AO) blocks. Be sure to use the PID dynamic reset limit option in any controller trying to manipulate a velocity limited valve or flow setpoint to prevent the burst of oscillations when a PID output tries to change faster than the final control element or secondary loop can respond.
For an example of the importance of the dynamic reset limit see Shinskey’s article in Control magazine, The Power of External-Reset Feedback. Please refer to the ISA blog PID Controller Tuning Rules and click this link to download the accompanying PID Tuning appendices for information on how to get the most out of your PID controllers.
Additional Mentor Program Resources
See the ISA book 101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career that grew out of this Mentor Program to gain concise and practical advice. See the InTech magazine feature article Enabling new automation engineers for candid comments from some of the original program participants. See the Control Talk column How to effectively get engineering knowledge with the ISA Mentor Program protégée Keneisha Williams on the challenges faced by young engineers today, and the column How to succeed at career and project migration with protégé Bill Thomas on how to make the most out of yourself and your project. Providing discussion and answers besides Greg McMillan and co-founder of the program Hunter Vegas (project engineering manager at Wunderlich-Malec) are resources Mark Darby (principal consultant at CMiD Solutions), Brian Hrankowsky (consultant engineer at a major pharmaceutical company), Michel Ruel (executive director, engineering practice at BBA Inc.), Leah Ruder (director of global project engineering at the Midwest Engineering Center of Emerson Automation Solutions), Nick Sands (ISA Fellow and Manufacturing Technology Fellow at DuPont), Bart Propst (process control leader for the Ascend Performance Materials Chocolate Bayou plant), Angela Valdes (automation manager of the Toronto office for SNC-Lavalin), and Daniel Warren (senior instrumentation/electrical specialist at D.M.W. Instrumentation Consulting Services, Ltd.).