Everyone has an image in their mind as to what automation is and where it can be applied. Over the years I simultaneously developed my process engineering skills as well as coding abilities, when I began to merge these skills the results were overwhelming. No one had been applying automation to process engineering tasks and in a short time frame I’d found it was possible build an automated solution to a problem in under twice the time required to complete it once. This meant it was time effective to automate any task completed more than 2 times.
As I developed further I began to make programs that out-performed what I was capable of doing manually and were malleable allowing quick updates to the program that guarenteed permanent improvements. Recently, I completed a program that could calculate in under 2 seconds the optimum set-points for all key process control points based on changing raw material costs and product value. When I saw the incredible value generated I realised how important it was to bring this opportunity to every process. I quit my good job and joined DJS to lead a new branch in this direction.
This post will highlight what can be done, where the benefits come from and how it happens.
Below are some problems I have automated thus far
Process Engineering Tasks
- KPI Optimisation – What’s the optimal set point based on the bottom line
- Production forecasting – What is a systems capability going forward
- Metallurgical accounting – Reconciliations
- Product quality maps – Assist customers to blend accurately
- Process analysis – Regular review of unit operation performance
- Value benefit calculator – How will the bottom line be impact by x change
- Planner Tasks
- Turnaround planning – Minimise impact to bottom line
- Asset Owner Tasks
- Predictive maintenance – What’s starting to become an issue
- Control Room Tasks
- Process monitoring – What issues are impacting the bottom line (ranked by value)
- There are 3 core benefits to automating process engineering tasks:
- Once a problem is solved it’s solved. Knowledge becomes locked into the system rather than in people, experience and mountains of documentation.
- Currently, we rely on engineers to frequently re-solve old problems not because we don’t know how to but because conditions have changed and they can re-calculate the problem quickest following previously discovered methods via documentation.
- Engineers are problem solvers, few of them enjoy re-calculating the same problems as last month thus many spend their time reinventing the wheel to get personal satisfaction. This leads into the 2nd benefit.
- Increase the time spent by problem solvers to solve real issues and investigate potential avenues for improvement. Then once improvements are discovered, they are implemented into the automated systems and another step forward is taken.
- Automated programs which optimise can be run much more frequently and can handle much more information than humans and thus increased savings stem from both accuracy of advice and frequency are seen.
The process of automating these tasks is surprisingly straight forward when the customers are involved and their knowledge combined with programmers who understand process engineering.
Please feel free to leave comments and share so we can stop engineering re-work!
To contact us and discuss a problem you have or discuss what we can do for you call or email
Europe/North America – David Smith
+44 7769 705 979
Asia/Oceania – Joshua Koszo
+61 416 238 367
Thanks for reading,
Senior Automation Specialist