THE BIG PICTURE
In meetings with clients, we should always endeavor to more fully understand the process of concern. The client has usually identified a problem and believes that an efficient and reliable control system will correct that problem. Hence the focus is on the problem, and perhaps, this is one step in the process. We believe that understanding the big picture can enable a better solution, that is why we ask questions about the overall process and not just the problem area.
- What are the factors that affect Quality, Quantity and Cost?
- Why is the process conducted in that way?
- How many variables are controlled and monitored?
- How do these variables affect the problem area?
- How accurately should the variables be controlled?
We are convinced that by having a better understanding of the process in question, additional control system capabilities may be incorporated into the solution. In this way, significant improvement in the efficiency of the process and/or the quality of the product may be realized.
We recently met with a client from the food industry, who required a system to control the blending of the content from Two tanks into a third tank. The original requirement was to blend at a specific ratio i.e. 10:1 We learned that the quality of the product was dependent upon the ratio of the two materials in addition to initializing and completing the blend requirements.
It was thought that simply controlling the flow rates of the materials into the blending tank in that specific ratio would suffice. We pointed out that small variations in the flow rates from either or both tanks would change the ratio of the remaining materials to be blended, perhaps significantly. We suggested that the system must, therefore, focus on controlling the flow rates to maintain the required remaining material ratio instead of a fixed one.
Another example. We recently learned from a manufacturer that a chemical reaction occurring in a reactor at one stage of the process generated a foam. This foam formed an undesirable layer above the materials in the tank and it was necessary to allow it to dissipate. This slowed and delayed the overall process. The control system that had been installed included the capability to purge the tanks and pipes with gases when required. We realized that the pressure control system could be used to accelerate the dissipation of the foam and minimize the delay in the process.
It is well known that control systems can offer a wide range of capabilities often more than may be initially envisioned by clients. Added value may be obtained from the control system if the factors affecting the finished product are shared by the client. Try to view the “big picture”.
By understanding the factors that affect the finished product we may be able to take advantage of functionality that can be achieved with the existent control system.
Until next time, friend!
Batching Across America,
-The Batch Brothers