How much is bad control costing your operation?

In my last post I mentioned I would talk about one of the common problems we see with control systems.

We’ve seen this same problem in a wide range of industries and processes, and what’s even worse, it can sometimes be difficult to even know you have a problem.

This problem is widespread, and can have a major impact on your costs and revenue.

What is this problem I am talking about?

I’m talking about the difficulty in knowing well your control loops are doing their job. This is sometimes referred to as “loop performance” or “loop tuning”. To cut through the techno-babble, but basically this is adjusting how you want your controllers to behave.

To use a car analogy, do you want something like a F1 race car that can react quickly and make big changes, or do you want something like a large truck that makes small adjustments over time but is very robust and stable?

For control systems, it’s all about how to set up the various controllers in your plant to deliver the type of performance you want. We often see people trying to make a poor control scheme work even though it never will. Operators often deal with unstable or poor control by switching it to manual (which is essentially turning the control off).

Getting the automatic control set up correctly is very important. Not only can poor control increase costs and reduce on-spec product, it can sometimes have a bad impact on safety and equipment reliability.

Just in case you wanted a better idea about how big an impact poor control can have, we have a case study of how a new control scheme made a $2,000,000+ per annum improvement. This change was 100% control logic. No new equipment, no physical plant modifications, purely new control logic. Not only that, it only took a couple of weeks to implement.

Not every control tuning exercise will deliver such big results. Depending on the nature of your operation, how well your automation systems have been maintained, the size of the benefits that can be delivered will vary.

That brings me to my next discussion point – maintaining the performance of your control systems. This can also have a big impact on your operation. But I’ll talk about that in my next post.