Get smart with controls

Think Again: I didn’t see the movie “Get Smart” yet, but I remember how agent Maxwell Smart in the campy TV series managed to come out on top with a combination of technology, luck, and help from friends, despite bungling. Fortunately, in automation, controls, and instrumentation, plenty of smart applications of advanced technologies are helping smart people do great things together.


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I didn’t see the movie “Get Smart” yet, but I remember how agent Maxwell Smart in the campy TV series managed to come out on top with a combination of technology, luck, and help from friends, despite bungling. Fortunately, in automation, controls, and instrumentation, plenty of smart applications of advanced technologies are helping smart people do great things together. Here are a couple examples:


DTE Energy , formerly Detroit Edison, operates a 24/7 integrated controls and technology center, providing performance visibility to help optimize 11,000 MW of generating assets for 2.1 million customers. Sumanth Makunur, lead engineer for process controls and technology and a Six Sigma black belt, says expert systems, dashboards, Web tools, process controls, sensors, and other applications are integrated to create controllable performance indicators. SmartSignal software combined with OSIsoft PI historian, for example, identifies tiny deviations and helps predict when failures will occur.


Martin P. Catka, who interacts with DTE Energy operators, says a critical motor would have failed in summer 2006 and cost $100,000 or more to fix (not counting replacement power) without the early diagnostic capability. Catka had to earn the trust of operators, showing them how the system works. “Operators were skeptical at first,” he admits, “but tracking equipment degradation helps make their jobs easier. Before, it was like driving without a speedometer.”

In another application...


Bayer CropScience worked with Innovative Controls Inc . to replace six, vintage human-machine interface systems in Bayer’s Woodbine, GA, plant that were generating mysterious process trips, data conflicts, and 10 to 20 ghost alarms daily.


Disparate systems complicated training and documentation and increased reliance on third-party support, says William (Clyde) Johnson, control systems engineering for Bayer CropScience. In addition, limited flexibility made batch restarts difficult. Integration of a new Siemens Simatic Batch PCS7 system and new hardware enabled consistent improvement in average production by two batches, faster start-ups, and the freeing up of two maintenance persons, among other benefits.


“We’ll beat a four-to-five-year estimated payback by at least a couple of years,” Johnson says.


How much smarter is higher throughput and an extra $100,000?

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