Blog Post
Process Control Strategy for 2018

Process Control Strategy for 2018

Dustin Beebe 

The holidays are over for most of us, and you are all refreshed I hope. I’m sure your 2018 planning is already underway or completed, and you’re starting to execute the strategies that will pay off for you in the New Year. Whether it is Operational Awareness, Improving Safety, or Implementing Optimization, everyone has a plan for moving forward and what needs to be focused on throughout the year to ensure success.

Operational Awareness Strategy


  • Engineer process and equipment boundaries for safety, reliability and environment limits
  • Develop displays showing key process variables in relation to process and equipment boundaries
  • Organize displays into an effective hierarchy with easy-to-use navigation
  • Use display best practices to ensure abnormal situations stand-out


  • Address deficits in operator training
  • Build up process understanding and expertise quickly


  • Improve operator recognition of abnormal operating conditions that could lead to unsafe, unreliable or inefficient operations
  • Reduce environmental deviations
  • Safer operations
  • Increase equipment reliability

Operational Awareness is one area that good practices and qualitative goals are generally accepted, but not yet standardized. Operational Awareness ensures that the operator has the tools, capabilities and training to operate the process safely, reliably and efficiently. Alarm Management covers the alarm system, but Operational Awareness covers the entire purview of the operator.

The key tool the board operator uses to determine the process state are the control system displays (a.k.a - the operator interface). Having an operator interface that clearly illustrates the current process conditions against the operational boundaries brings the operators’ attention to areas that need focus. Developing several displays that summarize the key process variables against process boundaries show areas that need attention. Organizing displays into a logical display hierarchy allows the operator to drill to areas of need quickly and efficiently. Good training and documentation will help the operator troubleshoot the issue and maintain the process within pre-defined boundaries. Engineering safety, operational, equipment and environmental boundaries will provide a clear understanding of where equipment and the process can be operated safely.

Blog – An Engineers’ Experience with Advanced Operator Graphics

Improving Safety thru Alarm Management Strategy

Goal: Dynamic Rationalization completed on all alarms
Reason: Ensure safer operation, avoid alarm floods and consequently reduce the likelihood of stress on the operators’ job and of onsite industrial incidents from occurring
Results: Meet all alarm metrics from ISA 18.2-2009 / IEC 62682

Alarm Management is one area where industry established a measuring stick by which we are all expected to meet or even surpass. ISA 18.2-2009 and IEC 62682 are well-defined and accepted across the industry. Metrics from these standards are being adopted in corporate and site-specific alarm management standards.

Making sure that all your facility’s alarms have had a good dynamic rationalization is an achievable goal for the year. Making sure that each alarm has at least one defined consequence and response and presents itself at the correct time is critical. When this is done for every alarm in an operator scope of responsibility, all the metrics fall into line.

Blog – Compliance with ISA 18.2

Optimization Strategy

Goal: Complete one optimization project more than last year
Reason: Make money
Results: Improved profitability

Probably the single most valuable area for us to spend our time as control engineers is optimization. There are always good reasons why we don’t get around to it – Alarm Management, control system migrations, etc. Before we know it, time has passed and new optimization schemes or controllers have not been implemented.

One of the most erroneous statements that I hear regarding this is “You have to have a great base layer then you can start working on advanced.” Here are two problems with this statement:

  1. Basic control work will never end. In any process plant that is making money, there will always be process adjustments and capital projects that will keep any control engineer busy. Use advanced controls to focus and prioritize improvement to basic controls.
  2. This statement actually undervalues the role that basic controls play in optimization. What is the objective of the basic controls? What are they supporting? They need to support advanced controls. Would you lay the foundation of a house without floorplans for what you are building on it? You must have more than just a foundation to build a house.

Presentation - Recent Advances in MVC Technology

Procedural Automation Strategy (also referred to as State Based Control)

Goal: Design an automated procedure for at least one equipment group
Reason: Improved safety and process reliability
Results: Reduce operator exposure and improve reliability of response in critical areas of operation

One of the most exciting things happening in process control is the re-discovery of Procedural Automation. Procedural Automation is enabling a whole area of Automated Operating Disciplines that allows us to approach the control of continuous processes in a manner that supports safe and reliable operations. The single most damaging concept to process control is that of single loop control. We have to view process controls holistically. Limits of the process operation need to be defined. Controls need to operate in a coordinated manner to maintain these defined operating limits while driving the process toward the desired state.

Here is a Cliff’s notes version of Procedural Automation (State Based Control):

1. Select an equipment group (column, heater, compressor, evaporator, etc.)

2. Define the operating states for the group

3. Determine the operating limits

4. Design automation to maintain operating limits while driving the process toward the desired state

eBook - Change Your Board Operator to a Process Manager