• Two visionary and highly honored leaders in automation and control speak on the value of combining process automation with human ingenuity

    ISA’s 2014 Process Control & Safety Symposium—held in Houston, Texas, USA in October—featured keynote addresses from two highly acclaimed and honored names in the automation and control community:  Peter Martin, Ph.D., Vice President of Business Value Solutions at Schneider Electric; and Maurice Wilkins, Ph.D., Vice President Yokogawa Global Strategic Technology Marketing Center.

    Both experts spoke about how the proper blend and application of automation and human talent can be brought to bear to solve critical societal and human challenges.

    Below are excerpts of their thought-provoking presentations.

    “The Future of Automation: Solving the World’s Biggest Challenges” by Dr. Peter Martin

    Peter Martin, Ph.D.Peter Martin, Ph.D.

    In his address, “The Future of Automation: Solving the World’s Biggest Challenges,” Dr. Martin asserted that automation can solve some of the key dilemmas facing human civilization—such as the scarcity of clean water, food, essential medicines, chemicals, inexpensive energy and other necessities—if human knowledge and automation are applied wisely.

    “Too often we are taught that taking on these huge problems and challenges is not worthwhile because they’re too large, too complex,” Dr. Martin says. “But we’ve reached the point where we have the talent and technology in automation and control to take on these huge problems and challenges.”

    A key, he points out, is the ability to leverage real-time measurement and control technology and know-how.

    “The challenges before us require real-time measurement and control. Real-time fluctuations demand the application of real-time controls. Industry and business processes cannot be managed with weekly or monthly data anymore. More than ever, control engineers are need to apply the real-time systems technologies that can help solve these critical issues. In addition to controlling plant efficiency, process control can be applied to improve safety, security, asset performance, environmental integrity and profitability.”

    The time is now to act, Dr. Martin says, emphasizing that “these are great times for our profession, but it is up to us as automation and control specialists to step up and meet these challenges head on. If we do, we could really solve things like world hunger, possibly in my lifetime. It may appear to be a dream, but it’s truly a possibility.”

    Dr. Martin is a world-renowned expert in the field of automation, having held executive and technical positions in engineering, product and strategic planning, marketing, and training throughout his career. He is a recipient of the ISA Life Achievement Award, and has been named as one of the 50 most influential innovators of all time in instrumentation and controls.

    He holds multiple patents, including patents for dynamic performance measures, real-time activity-based costing, closed-loop business control, and asset and resource modeling. He has published numerous articles and technical papers, and has authored or co-authored five books.

    “Are Machines Better Than Humans in a Crisis?: Machines Supporting Humans with a Standards-Based Approach” by Dr. Maurice Wilkins

    Maurice Wilkins, Ph.D.Maurice Wilkins, Ph.D.

    In his presentation, “Are Machines Better Than Humans in a Crisis?: Machines Supporting Humans with a Standards-Based Approach,” Dr. Wilkins—using case histories of crisis situations—showed that humans make the most effective decisions when they are supported by modern decision-support systems and best-practice standards.

    “More and more manufacturers are relying on standards-based decision support,” Dr. Wilkins reports. “This takes human procedural knowledge and integrates it into a standards-driven system. It optimizes the value of automation because it ensures consistent and safe operations throughout the company every working day. It also ensures that critical process knowledge is retained and prevents many common human errors that can cost lives and money.”

    An example of a standard that has been integrated into automation is the checklist for pilots.

    “Test pilots developed checklists for preparing for takeoff and landing,” he says. “Today, they are an established process component integrated into flight systems that have significantly contributed to aviation safety.”

    Standards-based decision support systems are particularly valuable in crisis situations, Dr. Wilkins contends. Without them, he says humans cannot be expected to consistently and immediately:

    • Assess the type and degree of problem
    • Collect and verify essential information
    • Identify all options
    • Anticipate the consequences of each decision
    • Employ sound and logical judgment

    “Decision-support systems support, rather than replace, operator judgment,” Dr. Wilkins says. “Moving forward, they will be making better use of historical data—‘memories’ of past events—as well as predictive analytics and cognitive applications (that can recognize human emotions) to make even more effective human decisions deliver improved operating results.” 

    Dr. Wilkins, Vice President of Yokogawa’s Global Strategic Technology Marketing
    Center, possesses more than has 33 years of experience in human factors, batch solutions, procedural operations, advanced process control, benchmarking analysis and the chemicals and refining industries. A Fellow of ISA, IChemE and InstMC, he is actively involved in the development of ISA standards, and was recently elected as Vice President-Elect of ISA’s Standards & Practices Department. He was inducted into the Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Note: The 2015 Process Control & Safety Symposium will again be held in Houston. The tentative dates for next year’s event are 9-12 November. More information, including confirmed details, will be announced by ISA shortly.