The WBF (www.wbf.org) cancelled its annual North American Conference in 2009, in deference to last year’s widespread travel budget restrictions, as well as the fact that the WBF organization itself was recovering from an ill-fated partnership with the International Society of Automation (ISA, www.isa.org). But the WBF 2010 North American Conference rebounded strongly this year with a May 24-26 program at the University of Texas in Austin. About 105 engineers and managers were on hand at the event, but many agreed that the quality of the presentations deserved several times that attendance.
WBF—The Organization for Production Technology (previously known as the World Batch Forum), is dedicated to supporting the process automation and operations needs of the technical and management professions in process manufacturing. WBF facilitates the interchange and development of information and knowledge in order to help its members succeed and to exert a positive influence on industry. It is known as a supporter of the American National Standards Institute ANSI/ISA88 Standard for Batch Control and for developing B2MML—Business To Manufacturing Markup Language (B2MML)—an XML (eXtensible markup language) implementation of the ANSI/ISA95 family of standards.
Do your part
Dr. Thomas Edgar, professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Texas (www.utexas.edu), gave the conference opening keynote on Energy Awareness. After reviewing the state of energy systems, he raised a number of points aimed at challenging attendees to contribute to the work of building a more energy-responsible world:
• Engineering departments need to increase the energy IQ of engineering graduates. There is no course taught, so few understand all the technology and issues.
• The chemical industry needs to use renewables.
• There are many opportunities for engineers to contribute to energy technology.
• It's a slow process; we need to start now.
• Further, we need to develop a culture of personal responsibility vs. personal freedom for energy consumption in the United States (referring to how there used to be a culture of saving vs. the current culture of consumption).
Patrick Kennedy, chief executive officer and founder, OSIsoft Inc. (www.osisoft.com), a San Leandro, Calif., supplier of historian and related software, gave the second day keynote. His talk also focused on energy, then moved to project management. One takeaway is this observation, “The new (smart) grid is really about bidirectional communication between electricity generators and electricity consumers. The problems of solar and wind are that they are intermittent and require peaker generation for instantaneous smoothing of the supply, so power control in the larger scope is a dynamic control problem.”
Beyond the energy focus, other speakers homed in a variety of topics of importance to process engineers. Following is a sampling.
Ed Brown, project leader, Avid Solutions Inc. (www.avidsolutionsinc.com), a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based systems integrator, spoke on "Implementing Manufacturing Operations Management." MOM is the ISA95 description of the older term MES, for Manufacturing Execution Systems. Big Bang is the usual implementation design, in which professionals swoop in and install a complete suite of MOM applications. This forces culture change in the organization; that is, it says to employees and managers, “You must change the way you work when you use this system.” It’s also expensive, running $250,000 for a plant and $10 million or more for a corporation.
But Brown provided an alternative to a Big Bang approach, suggesting that companies consider an evolutionary approach to MOM installations. The latter method has potential to reduce capital investment requirements. It allows companies to develop capabilities that best reflect business goals and objectives.
Jorgen Beck, automation specialist, NNE Pharmaplan, (www.nnepharmaplan.com) a Denmark-based global consulting and engineering company, talked on “Fast & Reliable ISA88 Implementation of a Greenfield Facility.” Some benefits of thinking about your design based on an ISA88 model include: equipment is always in a well-defined state; phases are easy to design; different unit classes can use the same phases (as designed); and, you don't have to think about common resources.
Wayne Gaafar, senior batch consultant at automation vendor Honeywell Process Solutions (http://hpsweb.honeywell.com), Phoenix, presented “Using ISA88 to Automate Procedures at Continuous Processing Facilities.” He noted, “Real knowledge is in the collective intelligence of the operators.” Continuous plants have elements of batch, Gaafer said—just don't call it that—that include sequence, phase and transition. Using ISA88 to define these helps document these pieces of the process, which is good, because out-of-date documentation is still a problem.
For example, when restructuring a distillation train start-up, breaking it into ISA88 analysis will help the engineer find opportunities for improvement of start-up time and other areas. You can make the process standard across the plant, Gaafar observed. You can capture intellectual property for standardizing and for reducing variability. The reason to capture this is not to get rid of operators through automation. “We never will get rid of operators, and we don't want to.”
Jerry Sandoval, consultant, GA Sandoval Consulting LLC, Saginaw, Mich., presented, “How To Implement MES Without Making a MESS.” Much of implementing MOM has nothing to do with technology, he said. Working with people and understanding processes is key.
Mark Weinmann, senior project manager for oil and gas company Chevron (www.chevron.com), and Eric Heavin, application engineer at automation supplier Yokogawa Corp. of America (www.yokogawa.com/us), presented “A Well Oiled Interface—A Lubricants Manufacturer's Slick B2MML Solution.” B2MML makes a reliable interface, changes are handled more easily, and interface and message data “openness” allows for re-use on other projects, said the pair.
Robert Wojewodka, technology manager at specialty chemical Lubrizol Corp. (www.lubrizol.com), Wickliffe, Ohio and Dawn Marruchella, Delta V Batch product marketing manager at Austin, Texas-based controls vendor Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com), discussed “Benefits Achieved Using Online Analytics in a Batch Manufacturing Facility.” There is much talk about alarm management, but what about analyzing the process to prevent alarms in the first place, the pair suggested. Use many statistical analyses, such as Dynamic Time Warping and other multivariate analyses, to send results back in single variables that operators and engineers can understand easily. In their project, the algorithms were done in the MOM software.
Chris Monchinski, director at systems integrator Automated Control Concepts Inc. (www.automated-control.com), Neptune, N.J., moved the conference direction to discrete manufacturing from batch and continuous, during his presentation, titled, “ISA95 Enables Flexible Discrete Manufacturing.” Conjuring shades of StarTrek, he dubbed ISA95 the “Universal Translator.” In a project he just worked on, Monchinski convinced a client’s engineering department that ISA95 was the way to go as the model for design, but then had to go to the information technology (IT) department. He said it took a little convincing, but noted that “when you can gather engineering and IT around a table and each sees the benefits of moving data this way, it's good for the company.”
David Strobhar, chief human factors engineer at engineering services firm Beville Engineering Inc. (www.beville.com), Dayton, Ohio, and a member of the Center for Operator Performance (www.operatorperformance.org), a consortium housed at Wright State University, in Dayton,) presented the results of some research in “Operator Performance as a Function of Alarm Rate and Interface Design.” Automation World provided an early look at that report in the May issue (www.automationworld.com/news-6951), with an additional podcast with Strobhar (www.automationworld.com/podcast-6946).
Other speakers at the conference included Dennis Brandl, BR&L Consulting Inc.; Dave Chappell, chief technology officer, Complete Manufacturing Associates; Niels Christian Andersen, specialist, NNE Pharmaplan; Ragunathan Kanagavelu, senior consultant, IBM; Marcus Tennant, principal systems architect, Yokogawa Corp of America; John Robert Parraga, global process technical consultant, Rockwell Automation Inc.; Joseph Maguire, lead automation engineer, Bristol-Myers Squibb; and Christie Deitz, senior principal engineer, Emerson Process Management.
Automated Control Concepts Inc.
Avid Solutions Inc.
Beville Engineering Inc.
Center for Operator Performance
Emerson Process Management
Honeywell Process Solutions
International Society of Automation
University of Texas
Yokogawa Corp. of America