Process practices pioneer, K. Arvid Johanson garners ISA Life Achievement Award
By Jim Strothman
“I was blessed to be able to build off leadership and organizational training of Boy Scouts, army officer, volunteer church education worker, ISA enthusiast, and manager of engineers and technicians. The synergy was amazing. It may also be because I believed the quote, ‘It is amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit.’ ” —Johanson
While there is universal agreement that process industry standards hammered out by ISA, ANSI, and other standards-making bodies are invaluable, standards alone do not cover all the nitty-gritty specifications involved in plant construction and maintenance, and installing and operating plant equipment.
So in 1992, an industry task group made up of representatives from sometimes competing manufacturers and engineering contractors analyzed each other’s internal standards for typical process control equipment. They concluded all could reduce their process plant costs (later proven by more than 6%) by harmonizing common industry practices for projects and maintenance work.
That led to the Process Industry Practices (PIP) Consortium, which today has active Function Teams harmonizing practices in eight specific engineering disciplines – Civil, Structural, Architectural; Coatings, Insulation, Refractory; Electrical; Machinery; P&ID; Piping; Process Control; and Vessels.
K. Arvid Johanson, Jr., P.E., then a chief control systems engineer with Union Carbide/Bechtel Association in Houston, was tapped in 1993 to be the first leader of PIP’s Process Control Function Team. His successful efforts leading that team and being involved until he retired eight years later were among several notable achievements that resulted in Johanson winning this year’s prestigious ISA Life Achievement Award.
“Arvid played a key role and made significant technical and leadership contributions to the betterment of the process control community,” said Bernard C. Ebert, Director, PIP, in an endorsement of Johanson’s nomination. PIP is a separately funded initiative of the Construction Industry Institute, based at the University of Texas at Austin.
Helped develop PIP processes
“The model work processes that he and his team helped establish laid the groundwork for what has become a very successful industry consortium that has grown from an initial 15-member companies to now 42-member companies,” Ebert said. “PIP has published over 450 practices in eight engineering disciplines, including 60 practices in the Process Control/Analyzer discipline,” in which Johanson’s efforts were focused.
“The membership of our team was primarily chemical and gas processing companies – a little bit of refining,” Johanson said. “We were looking at those big 3- to 4-inch notebooks engineers carried around full of text of company practices that list standards they follow, and two more notebooks of typical installation diagrams. Technical material from the five or so contractors you are typically dealing with differ considerably in organization. Everybody’s was numbered differently.
“PIP has had several studies that showed a 6+% savings in overall project cost by using PIP Practices as the company input to a project. Personally it saved a lot of time and frustration trying to get practices straightened out before a new contractor showed up, or a new crew for the same contractor. Harmonized practices require less specification training—and reduced specification conflicts cause less re-design and rework,” Johanson said.
“Organizing and harmonizing a fixed set of practices saves companies money and simplifies things—and makes projects safer because omissions stand out,” he said. “Safety is a major part of harmonization.”
“The Life Achievement Award recognizes individuals with a history of sustained dedication to the instrumentation, systems, and automation community,” said Bob Ives, ISA Life Achievement subcommittee chair. Johanson’s achievement will be recognized 1 October at the annual ISA Honors and Awards Gala during ISA EXPO 2007 in Houston.
“I’m overwhelmed and thankful,” Johanson said. “I have always been at the back of the line for honors/elections, but at the top of the list for tough assignments/opportunities. I was blessed to be able to build off leadership and organizational training of Boy Scouts, army officer, volunteer church education worker, ISA enthusiast, and manager of engineers and technicians. The synergy was amazing. It may also be because I believed the quote, ‘It is amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit.’”
Being “at the back of the line for honors” has changed in the past decade, however. Prior to winning this year’s Life Achievement Award, Johanson in 1998 received ISA’s Distinguished Society Service Award, which recognizes “dedicated members who through long service have contributed much to the society and its organizational units.” In 1999, he was named an ISA Fellow, awarded for “exceptional engineering or scientific contributions to the effectiveness of automation professionals worldwide.”
Active in ISA since 1959, Johanson has held numerous leadership positions at the local, district, division, department, Presidential Committees, and Executive Board levels, including serving as vice president of ISA’s Education Department in the mid-1980s.
Education a passion
Promoting education, including considerable hands-on teaching, also played a major role in Johanson’s winning the Life Achievement Award.
Holder of a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&I and a Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Houston-Victoria, he taught applied communications as an instructor for the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp; an instrument apprentice program for a local school district; and an electronic instrumentation course at Victoria College, Tex. He also served for seven years as Instructor, Instrument Safety and Alarm Management, for his employer Union Carbide Corp.’s Safety Training Program.
As vice president of ISA’s Education Department, Johanson facilitated the effort in professionalism started at the society level by Tom Stout and Baxter Williams. They pioneered a way into U.S. states where they could enable qualified engineers to register as Control Systems Engineers. “My effort was selling the program and the need for things like a ‘Code of Ethics’ to ISA Executive Board(s)” whose members, at that time, were primarily sales and marketing types and who did not have a good understanding about professional engineering, he said.
Also, as ISA Education VP, Johanson encouraged the Technician Certification effort started at the society level by Lowell McCaw and Don Gillum. “Lots of ISA members from sections and division that did not have technicians were tough to convince that ISA should be involved,” Johanson recalled.
In addition to ISA and PIP, Johanson has had a long-term relationship with the Texas A&M Instrumentation Symposium for the Process Industries, and currently serves on its Advisory Committee.
As ISA District 7 VP (1975-77), Johanson led the effort to increase sections geographically, rather than limit the organization to a few huge sections. He chartered five new sections and also encouraged Student Section chartering.
Nominated for the Life Achievement Award by Paul Gruhn, a safety instructor and author for ISA, Johanson received endorsements from PIP Director Ebert; Jerry L. Bradshaw, Texas A&M University senior lecturer and director and chair of the Instrumentation Symposium for the Process Industries; Patricia Sue Peal, a senior control systems engineer for BHP Engineering and Senior ISA Member; William Wagner, ISA Life Fellow; Craig White, director of design engineering for Fluor Corp.; and David Neal, who served as Texaco’s PIP representative.