WBF took 2009 off when it looked like no one had travel budgets (except for harried magazine editors). This year’s conference held this week at the conference center at the University of Texas in Austin presented the overall best quality presentations I’ve ever seen (or heard). The shame of it was that attendance should have been much better. We’ll have to work on that for next year. We need the industry’s thought leader engineers and operations managers there–both to learn and to interact.

I cannot report in depth on all the papers. I’ll see if there’s a way you can purchase them or otherwise obtain them through WBF. As an aside–a couple of notes about the organization. It is organized around ISA88, known as the batch management standard. The original name was World Batch Forum. Trouble is much of ISA88 is applicable in many parts of continuous process. But engineers in continuous sniff at the word “batch.” Therefore, make the organization’s name more general. And, rather than rewrite the standard to include instances where it is applicable to continuous, a new committee has been formed to develop ISA106. More on that in a later post–and an invitation to help in the work of developing the standard. Speaking of ISA, the organization is also in the initial recovery stage after leaving an ill-fated relationship with that organization.

Here is the speaker list with a few comments. Just skimming the list shows the variety of topics. There was enough technical detail in each to whet the appetite of those working in that area to ask for deeper information.

Dr. Thomas Edgar, Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at University of Texas. Energy Awareness gave the opening keynote. His talk centered on energy. Here are a few points he raised:        Engineering departments need to increase energy IQ of engineering grads. There is no course taught, so few understand all the technology and issues, therefore, we get soundbite journalism. But no one would read a longer news piece anyway.    The chem industry need to use renewables.    There are many opportunities for engineers to contribute to energy technology.    It’s a slow process, need to start now.    Further, we need to develop a culture of personal responsibility vs. personal freedom for energy consumption in the US (used to have a culture of saving vs. culture of consumption).

Ed Brown, Project Leader, Avid Solutions, “Implementing Manufacturing Operations Management.” Big Bang is usual implementation design, swoop in and install complete suite of MOM applications. This forces culture change in the organization–“you must change the way you work.” It’s also expensive, running $250K for a plant and into $10 million or more for a corporation. Consider evolution to Big Bang: It has a reasonable capital investment. Develop capabilities that reflect business goals and objectives, pick the best for implementation.   

Jorgen Beck, Automation Specialist, NNE Pharmaplan, “Fast & Reliable ISA88 Implementation of a Greenfield Facility.” Some benefits of thinking about your design based on using ISA88 as the 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, Sr. Batch Consultant, Honeywell, “Using ISA88 to Automate Procedures at Continuous Processing Facilities.” “Real knowledge is in the collective intelligence of the operators.” Continuous plants have elements of batch–just don’t call it that–that include sequence, phase, transition. Using ISA88 to define these helps document these pieces of the process, which is good since out-of-date documentation is still a problem. For example, if restructuring a distillation train startup, breaking it into ISA88 analysis will help the engineer find opportunites for improvement of startup time and other areas. You can make the process standard across the plant. 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, “How To Implement MES Without Making a MESS.” Much of implementing MOM has nothing to do with technology. Working with people and understanding processes is key.

Dennis Brandl, BR&L Consulting, “Manufacturing Science Model for Quality by Design and Risk Assessments.”

Mark Weinmann, Sr. Project Manager, Chevron, Eric Heavin, Application Engineer, Yokogawa of America, “A Well Oiled Interface–A Lubricants Manufacturer’s Slick B2MML Solution.” B2MML makes a reliable interface, changes are handled more easily, interface & message data “openness” allowed for re-use on other projects.

Dave Chappell,  CTO, CMAa, “The Birth, Life and Death of an ISA88 Control Recipe” took a look at the life cycle of a recipe.

Niels Christian Andersen, Specialist, NNE Pharmaplan, “Electronic Document Management” described a project implementing electronic document management and showed the many benefits of going paperless.

Ragunathan Kanagavelu, Sr. Consultant, IBM, “Real Time Integration of Shop Floor Systems in Manufacturing Industries.”

Rober Wojewodka, Technology Manager, Lubrizol, Dawn Marruchella, Delta V Batch Product Marketing Manager, Emerson, “Benefits Achieved Using Online Analytics in a Batch Manufacturing Facility.” There is data everywhere, and it’s a heavy load. Talk about alarm management, but what about analyzing the process to prevent alarms in the first place. Use many stastical analyses–Dynamic Time Warping and other multivariate analyses, but then taking results back in single variables that operators and engineers can understand easily. Done in the MOM software.

Marcus Tennant, Principal Systems Architect, Yokogawa, “Modular Procedural Automation-Get Out of your Niche” looked at procedural automation as described in ISA88 and its applicablity in continuous process.

Chris Monchinski, Director, Automated Control Concepts, “ISA95 Enables Flexible Discrete Manufacturing.”  ISA95 is the “Universal Translator.” Did a project. Convinced engineering that ISA95 was the way to go, but then had to go to IT. Took a little doing, but 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, Beville Engineering, (and Center for Operator Performance), “Operator Performance as a Function of Alarm Rate and Interface Design.” Described research on operator interface and operator performance. Automation World provided an early look at that report in our May issue. With an additional podcast with Strobhar.

John Robert Parraga, Global Process Technical Consultant, Rockwell Automation, “Clean in Place Made Simple.”

Joseph Maguire, Lead Automation Engineer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Christie Deitz, Sr. Principal Engineer, Emerson, “Electronic Workflow for a Bioreactor” described how to use electronic workflow in the development and execution of a project.

Patrick Kennedy, CEO and founder, OSIsoft, gave the second day keynote. His talk also focused on energy then moved to project management. One takeaway is this observation, “The new grid is really about bidirectional communication between electric ity 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.”

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