Modern Advanced Process Control is Easier than Ever

It likely comes as no surprise that advanced process control (APC) has only gotten better as time has gone by. Old APC software, though very powerful in its own right, was often complex to configure and even more difficult to maintain. That turned away a lot of potential users who simply weren’t ready for the commitment or who didn’t have a staff member with an advanced engineering degree.

Fast forward to 2023, and that dynamic has changed dramatically. As Dustin Beebe and Alex Kalafatis share in their recent article in Hydrocarbon Processing, APC is easier to configure and maintain than ever. The vast majority of the change, they explain, comes down to software improvements:

“The best modern APC solutions have been designed to democratize advanced control. Industry experts have worked much of the complex front-end engineering into intuitive, highly integrated software, maximizing the benefits of APC while minimizing the complexity, disruption to normal operation, and operational challenges associated with adding advanced control to process manufacturing.”

Why APC?

There’s a reason teams wanted APC even when it was difficult to implement and maintain. The benefits are overwhelming. Using APC, teams can embed best practices into process control, and tune operations to always perform at their best. Those benefits are even more critical in modern operations, where plants are often running on much tighter margins, trying to do more and waste less. Dustin and Alex elaborate,

“APC predicts system states ahead of time to take variability out of operations. The software constantly checks the process and performs optimization calculations, never getting tired or distracted. With this capability, the system can run every element of the process very close to constraints to maximize efficiency. When the process is optimized, teams see less reprocessing, leading to less waste, lower energy consumption, and lower overall emissions, while simultaneously maximizing production. In addition, operators are freed from low value monitoring tasks to focus on improvement and optimization across the plant to further improve performance and sustainability.”

APC can run processes much closer to operational limits than a human safely can.

So it stands to reason that, with APC being easier than ever, teams—especially lean ones—should take another look.

Faster configuration means faster value

One of the biggest changes to APC software has been to make it easier to integrate, which means that it delivers a much faster return on investment. Most modern control systems are built to support and seamlessly connect to modern APC solutions, which eliminates weeks or even months of engineering work that used to be required to get the two systems to pass data back and forth. Today, the connectivity is intuitive and the engineering is robust.

Moreover, today’s intuitive solutions don’t require the extensive domain expertise systems used to need. Best-in-class APC software is designed to be installed and operated by process engineers—a critical benefit as experienced personnel become more and more difficult to find and retain.

AI drives innovation

A major paradigm shift occurred when artificial intelligence entered the scene. Now, engineers use AI built into the system to create a seed model, and tune it in the background of normal operations. In fact, with the best APC packages, the controller can even stay online while model calibration happens. As a result, organizations implementing APC today are seeing upwards of 75% faster time to value.

Seize the day

The DeltaV distributed control system (DCS) has been built from the ground up with APC in mind. A wide range of Emerson and AspenTech APC solutions integrate seamlessly with a modern DeltaV DCS. Whether the plant has a deep bench of experienced personnel and wants to capture operational knowledge and lock it into automation, or the organization needs a solution for more flexible, sustainable operation that can easily be learned and maintained by a less experienced batch of engineers, APC software is the answer.

You can learn more about modern APC solutions, how they work, and even see some examples of where they are particularly effective by reading the original article in full over at Hydrocarbon Processing. In addition, Emerson and AspenTech APC solutions will be on display at the Emerson Exchange Immerse user event, Oct. 3-5 in Anaheim, California. We hope to see you there!

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