Who will be in your control room in 2016?

Demographic inevitabilities are going to cause huge changes in our workforces over the next few years. Are you ready?

12/03/2012


Take a look at the people in your control room: you probably see a lot of gray hair. How many of those individuals are still going to be there in another three or five years? To answer this question, we need to look at the retirement rate of the baby boomers that are now between the ages of 55 to 65. On January 1, 2011, the first baby boomers turned 65. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, dated January 30, 2008, the retirement of baby boomers will affect the overall economy and our industries until the year 2020. The industries affected most will be those that have been part of the structure of the U.S. industry buildup: steel and primary metals, power generation, paper makers, forestry, and so on.

Every day, 7,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65. If you look at the makeup of the control room, you will see that the average age in the control room is probably in the 50 to 65 year range. That is a lot of life and process experience that we don’t want to see walking out the door. But, if we just look at this fraction of the population in the larger picture, we will see a marked decrease in the number of old timers in the control room. So, the inevitable question arises, how do managers and human resource departments keep the knowledge level in the control room at a level high enough to ensure optimal operation? 

With the number of control systems in our industries that are projected to become obsolete (and requiring upgrades), the best solution would be to use the in-house knowledge available now and develop documentation on how the current plant operates. And, you should do this as soon as possible. This documentation, developed by your in-house experts, will ensure that their knowledge will be preserved and relayed to operators coming up through the ranks. 

The only problem with this idea, as I have heard from people at several power stations, is that at current manpower levels, experienced people simply cannot get free from the panels in the control room long enough to do this. One solution is to use an engineering firm to come in and develop the documentation. Hopefully, those people will talk to the operators and get the low-down on operational requirements that have been passed down from operator to operator. The engineering firm can then develop the logic from the current configuration for the migration. 

So, let’s rephrase the question and ask, who do you want sitting in your control room in 2016? Hopefully, with due diligence and research, you will find an engineering firm that specializes in control system migration and has an excellent record for ensuring that experiences from the operators are placed in the documentation and built into the upgraded control system. Migrating to a new control system should not be a kind-in-kind replacement. Some systems have been operating for 20 or more years and things have changed considerably since their inception. To help your company and yourself, it is best to start with a clean slate and incorporate all the tribal knowledge from the operators into the new control system. With this, you will end up with a well-documented control system, including the ability to train the up-and-coming control operators.

This post was written by Bill Tolrud. Bill is a senior engineer at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading system integrator providing industrial automation, operational support, and control systems engineering services in the manufacturing and process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, and business process optimization. The company provides a full range of automation and controls services – ranging from PID controller tuning and HMI programming to serving as a main automation contractor. Additionally MAVERICK offers industrial and technical staffing services, placing on-site automation, instrumentation and controls engineers.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
The true cost of lubrication: Three keys to consider when evaluating oils; Plant Engineering Lubrication Guide; 11 ways to protect bearing assets; Is lubrication part of your KPIs?
Contract maintenance: 5 ways to keep things humming while keeping an eye on costs; Pneumatic systems; Energy monitoring; The sixth 'S' is safety
Transport your data: Supply chain information critical to operational excellence; High-voltage faults; Portable cooling; Safety automation isn't automatic
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Synchronizing industrial Ethernet networks; Selecting protocol conversion gateways; Integrating HMIs with PLCs and PACs
Why manufacturers need to see energy in a different light: Current approaches to energy management yield quick savings, but leave plant managers searching for ways of improving on those early gains.

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.