November/December 2013

Controller selection

Your May/June 2013 article "Considerations for selecting a controller - or server-based batch sequencer" makes good points about how legacy approaches to batch automation are now challenged to provide sophisticated control capabilities that enable increased throughput, lower costs, and improved regulatory compliance.

The article positions controller-based systems as being more appropriate for less-complex operations that require fewer upfront investments, while the server-based approach is heralded as the Cadillac solution. That may have been true many years ago, but the article does not acknowledge the recent advancements in controller-based batch systems.

The latest batch automation solutions are designed to manage all batch operations entirely in the controller. No complicated assessment is necessary. This approach provides a single operating and engineering platform for batch execution while meeting the objective of ISA-88, of separating engineering activities from recipe management. It also reduces complexity and improves availability and speed of execution. An operator can create a batch and run it to completion without dependence on a server anywhere in the system. The absence of a server removes associated licensing costs, security concerns and maintenance issues, as well as problems and production loss arising from communication latency.

Other benefits:

  • The operator's view of the batch comes directly from the controller and is not dependent on a batch server. Operators gain access to standard displays for all batch functions.
  • Plant availability is improved because batches are executed on a platform that lacks a single point of failure. This can drastically reduce the number of process interruptions caused by hardware failures.
  • Moving batch execution into the controller level can actually streamline the process itself, and eliminate the need for plants to purchase-not to mention install or maintain-additional batch hardware or software packages.

Using modern-controller-based batch control systems (e.g., Honeywell's Experion Batch Manage) allows the execution of batch and unit procedures directly in the controller to reduce system complexity, and improve availability and speed of execution. This can lower costs by 5 percent in improved productivity and 3 percent in reduced raw materials.

Chris Morse

Cut the cable

My comments concern the otherwise well-written article by Lee Neitzel entitled "Six steps to control systems cybersecurity" in your May/June issue. His suggestions reflect the typical attitude by many, that when one firewall does not work, then add another and so on. Rather than use four firewalls and other expensive paraphernalia, I suggest you simply cut the cable to the Internet. This will give you the best and least-expensive security.

Hans D. Baumann

Silver money train

As you mentioned in "Talk to me" [July/August 2013 InTech], the industry is suffering from the ever-growing gap between skilled employees and positions in the petroleum industry. The answer to correcting this revolves around one single thing that could result in many different approaches-money. The industry professionals believe they are saving money by saying there are no skilled employees available. This is a scam to divert attention and blame, as they reap the benefits of raises and pats on the back. As a college student attending Lee College in Baytown, Texas, I can see clearly; please follow the pictures that I am going to paint for you.

First, the industry refuses to hire college graduates because of the lack of experience. Almost every position being advertised requires at least three-to-five years' experience.

Second, these so-called educated management professionals are not learning from the plant tragedies of history and all the lives lost. The mistakes were made by not having qualified, skilled employees and the "silver-bullet" layoffs and refusal to hire and train people to have a formally qualified understanding.

This is what I call the "magic silver bullet." Industry leaders can either spend the money to hire college graduates and train them correctly to keep a productive and more trouble-free plant that can be classified as "lean tuning," or they can increase the pay scale to attract qualified employee candidates for the open positions.

So, as you mentioned the silver-bullet syndrome, may I please add that you can only get a silver bullet by a single way, and that is what the goal of this article was truly about: money. Maybe you should have considered naming your article "The silver money train."

Troy Riddle