In 1987 Australian experience with advanced process control was patchy. A few leading companies had invested heavily and were realising substantial benefits. More companies had installed advanced equipment but were not yet capitalising fully on the vast potential that existed in the technology. Many companies were operating their plants with control approaches that had not changed in ten to twenty years or more. In comparison, companies in Europe, Japan and the United States of America appeared to be making extensive use of modern control technology.
REMOVING BARRIERS TO ADVANCED PROCESS CONTROL
The advanced process control project had four goals specifically selected to remove technical barriers to application of advanced automation. These were to:
- Identify the advanced techniques and tools available at the time to support the implementation of more effective industrial control systems Assess the effectiveness of these techniques in practice by quantifying the benefits associated with their use;
- Establish the status of advanced process control in Australian industry by studying selected commercial installations;
- Determine the implications for the engineering profession of trends in industrial control, with particular reference to education, legal and professional needs.
COMPANY BENEFITS AND NATIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
The benefits analysis used by the Advanced Process Control project produced significant operating improvements. The project also demonstrated the effectiveness of benefit analysis, lack of which had been identified as a major barrier to the large scale commercial application of advanced process control.
The project made six key recommendations, three addressing company needs the other three concerned with actions that should be taken at national level. The recommendations to companies were:
- To apply proven methods to estimate benefits before investing;
- To employ appropriate advanced process control technology and design aids that enabled engineers to improve benefits analysis and control designs;
- To apply advanced process control in an integrated program of improved plant performance or manufacturing excellence.
Recommendations for national action were:
- To organise a single professional society to meet the needs of people working in process control;
- To create an Australian Centre for Advanced Process Control;
- To encourage private companies to provide control expertise for smaller Australian and overseas operations.
MULTINATIONALS ADOPT METHODOLOGY
- Of the companies that contributed case studies, ICI, both in Australia and the UK, turned the results into a formalised approach to justify the implementation of advanced control systems. Their studies showed that the eventual use of advanced control was worth between five and fifteen per cent in terms of operating costs, figures which confirmed The Warren Centre study results
- Project coordinator Associate Professor Geoff Barton was contracted shortly after the project was completed to use this approach on a large control upgrade of Esso’s crude stabilisation plant at Longford, Victoria. This four-month undertaking provided the justification for an $8 million control upgrade that was considered a success and marked the start of Esso’s use of advanced control systems
- The Process Control Society was established by the project and is currently an active professional body operating within the Institution of Engineers, Australia
- The following table shows the estimated value of improved control identified in the case studies as reported in the project document
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