Q&A with Héctor H. Torres

Héctor H. Torres
Héctor H. Torres is a Senior Process and Control Engineer at Eastman Chemical. In his position, Torres supports Eastman’s World Wide Engineering and Construction group, providing process control and optimization expertise at the company’s numerous worldwide plants. Within ISA, Torres is an active member of the Society’s Recruitment and Nominations Taskforce and participates in the ISA Mentor Program.

Please tell us about your career in automation your educational background (degree/s received)

I currently serve as Senior Process and Control Engineer at Eastman Chemical. I have nearly 20 years of experience in process and control engineering, having worked on many project teams and projects—from troubleshooting quality and process issues to coordinating the startup and commissioning of production lines at facilities in the US, Belgium, and China. Most recently, I’ve been leading the Provox to DeltaV migration project at the Eastman Santo Toribio plant in Mexico.

In 2013 I received the John McCamey Award from ISA for the article “Enabling New Automation Engineers,” which I co-authored with other members of the ISA Mentor Program.

I received a bachelor’s degree in control engineering at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL), Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (FIME), and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the Puebla Technologic Institute (ITP). I also hold certification as a Six-Sigma Black Belt through the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) and the Breakthrough Management Group International (BMGI).

What initially attracted you to the field of automation?

I started studying electrical engineering in college. After the first semester, I got exposed to control engineering and really got interested in the prospect of automating machines. Some of the materials illustrated robotic arms, which got my attention. Needless to say, I changed direction.

Tell us about your current involvement in ISA.

I am currently a member of the Recruitment and Nominations Taskforce, which will develop the strategy, goals, and plans for the leader identification and recruitment, and nomination processes. This will help ensure that ISA has a perpetual pipeline and succession of future volunteer leaders for each critical leadership role in the association.

I’ve also actively participated in the ISA Mentor Program, which has been led by Gregory K. McMillan since its inception. I’ve also been involved in reviewing many of Greg’s books.

How would you say ISA has benefited you?

Becoming a member of the ISA and participating in the ISA Mentor Program provided a breakthrough in my career. It made me drop what I thought I knew and start over again. I had to learn about tuning and dynamics, as well as the newest PID features. ISA’s Mentor Program undoubtedly pulled me out of my comfort zone. The mentors I interacted with were so open to questions and were always willing to provide guidance.

My ISA involvement also gave me the chance to publish articles, and to participate in book reviews, and to present at high-profile industry events, such as ISA Automation Week and at Emerson’s Global User Exchange conferences. In short, it gave me the opportunity to apply what I learned.

Being an active member of the Society’s Recruitment and Nominations Taskforce is one way I can pay ISA back for all the benefits it provided to me.

What advice would you give to other young professionals entering the automation profession?

I have numerous suggestions. Seek to always deliver more than expected. When assigned a task, try to look into all avenues to improve results. If someone needs help, help. It does not matter if people don’t ask, volunteer. Step up.

Talk to people. Make an effort to get along with them, especially the operators. They're the ones working with the process on a day-to- day basis. They will let you know when the process is not behaving.

Develop your communication skills. You must clearly communicate results and be able to link them to key business indicators e.g.; unit cost and energy costs. You need to be capable of making reports and presentations.

Go to the field. Many times you'll be banging your head in front of your control system screen adjusting gains and wondering why the control loop is not working. It’s often that something is wrong in the field. Has a rupture disk failed? Has anything changed upstream that is affecting the dynamics of the process you are trying to control? Is that block valve really blocking the inlet of water into the system?