Continuing education advances process control, instrumentation productivity

Process control productivity requires education for optimal technology specification, integration and use. Industrial suppliers are among those doing the educating.

By Mark T. Hoske September 10, 2019

Hands-on training with actual process control hardware and software provides more realistic and memorable experiences, exposing seasoned veterans and next-generation digital workforce to real-world situations to improve productivity and decrease training requirements.

To help process, batch, and hybrid industrial processes accelerate digital transformation and teach related workforces, Emerson has constructed three interactive plant environments (IPEs). The Minneapolis Interactive Plant Environment located in Shakopee, Minn., provides a safe training environment using more than 400 automation devices and products and more than 500 input/output (I/O) points, according to Steve Tooley, senior global customer and service training manager, global education, Emerson.

Training for pressure, flow, level, temperature, valves, wireless

Measurement points on site include pressure, flow, level, temperature, corrosion, flame and gas, liquid analysis, and gas chromatography. The facility allows instructors to set up realistic situations with hardware and software after classroom and bench training using 15 tanks and vessels, in three levels. Students can emulate production processes by moving water and mineral oil, avoiding interactions with hazardous chemicals or process interruptions at their sites.

The three IPE sites are among 24 Emerson regional North America Training Centers offering on-site instructor-led courses, virtual classroom, eLearning and blended-learning options.

Tooley said each facility helps recent graduates and industry veterans learn or review critical skills in process manufacturing and operations using actual process units and instrumentation. Tooley added that hands-on learning helps students learn quickly and effectively.

Training: from theory to practice

After learning (or reviewing) practical controls and automation theories in a classroom, and at a benchtop setting, students can receive work orders and go into the plant environment to perform what they’ve learned. Putting theory into practice with real-world scenarios, Tooley said, can expose students to common and rare situations to practice appropriate actions and responses.

Courses can include device commissioning, calibration, and figuring out if a challenging measurement point is valid. They also review safety permits and required tools to complete different work orders and operate plants more efficiently.

IPE helps by limiting distractions engineers and technicians might experience in their facilities, providing a wider vision of how a plant operates, explained Blaine Williams, global education manager, Emerson. Instructors, using years of field service experience, also mentor students to increase their skills. Beyond formal or customized training, some customers schedule time in the facility to integrate and try various combinations of devices, equipment, systems, or software prior to purchase.

“Once students experience what we can do here, they often ask to stay longer and work on other things,” Williams said.

The company’s first interactive plant environment facility opened in 2014 at Emerson’s Service Center in Charlotte, N.C. The second facility, in Shakopee, is co-located with Emerson’s “innovation headquarters for Rosemount products and services.”

Classroom, benchtop, hands-on training

Device and control system training can include tasks and scenarios such as:

  • Setup and use of process control networks and communications, such as 4 to 20 mA, Wi-Fi wireless (IEEE 802.11), and FieldComm Group’s WirelessHART, HART, and Foundation Fieldbus.
  • Work on pressure, temperature, level, and multivariable flow in classroom, bench, and in-plant settings
  • Using a handheld device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to stroke a valve or view control system parameters and operations
  • Force a 4 to 20mA output on devices
  • Advanced troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Error identification and reengineering of settings and measurement points
  • Bleeding a valve
  • Batch tank overfilling
  • Radar sensor disruption
  • Transmitter calibration and troubleshooting
  • Corrosion measurements
  • Safety instrumented systems (SIS) and firewalls
  • Setup and use of variable frequency drives
  • Power monitoring, alarms, and notifications
  • Review of possible power and grounding issues
  • Review of FM global audit procedures
  • Device testing, removal and servicing
  • Use of applications such as augmented reality to see device tags and status, asset management software, mobile software, cloud-based connections, SIS and other software
  • Process safety scenarios
  • Training or marketing video production in a low-risk environment.

Even for field-service engineers that have been doing these things for 30 years or more, incremental changes in procedures can add up. “Using a ruggedized tablet to commission devices saves time and money by being able to view the control system ensuring the device is properly commissioned. Thus, eliminating the need to involve an operator to validate device status,” Williams said.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,, from facility tour notes and information from Emerson.

KEYWORDS: Process control training, instrumentation training

Hands-on process instrumentation training augments benchtop and classroom lessons.

Interaction of process instruments and sensors with the distributed control system can be examined.

Augmented reality, wireless, asset management and process troubleshooting are among training areas that can be covered.


Are your process control operators, engineers, and technicians receiving training needed to optimize efficiencies?

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Learn more about CFE Edu, which offers certified educational courses to engineers.

Emerson Educational Services is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is accredited to issue the IACET CEU.

Emerson has 24 North America Training Centers in U.S./Canada with on-site Instructor-led courses, Virtual Classroom, eLearning and blended learning options.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.