Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Process Flow and Process Instrument Diagrams

To show a practical process example, let’s examine three diagrams for a compressor control system, beginning with a Process Flow Diagram, or PFD. In this fictitious process, water is being evaporated from a process solution under partial vacuum (provided by the compressor). The compressor then transports the vapors to a “knockout drum” where they condense into liquid form. As a typical PFD, this diagram shows the major interconnections of process vessels and equipment, but omits details such as instrument signal lines and auxiliary instruments:
Process Flow Diagrams
One might guess the instrument interconnections based on the instruments’ labels. For instance, a good guess would be that the level transmitter (LT) on the bottom of the knockout drum might send the signal that eventually controls the level valve (LV) on the bottom of that same vessel. One might also guess that the temperature transmitter (TT) on the top of the evaporator might be part of the temperature control system that lets steam into the heating jacket of that vessel.

Based on this diagram alone, one would be hard-pressed to determine what control system, if any, controls the compressor itself. All the PFD shows relating directly to the compressor is a flow transmitter (FT) on the suction line. This level of uncertainty is perfectly acceptable for a PFD, because its purpose is merely to show the general flow of the process itself, and only a bare minimum of control instrumentation.

Process and Instrument Diagrams

The next level of detail is the Process and Instrument Diagram, or P&ID. Here, we see a “zooming in” of scope from the whole evaporator process to the compressor as a unit. The evaporator and knockout vessels almost fade into the background, with their associated instruments absent from view:

Process and Instrument Diagram

Now we see there is more instrumentation associated with the compressor than just a flow transmitter. There is also a differential pressure transmitter (PDT), a flow indicating controller (FIC), and a “recycle” control valve allowing some of the vapor coming out of the compressor’s discharge line to go back around into the compressor’s suction line. Additionally, we have a pair of temperature transmitters reporting suction and discharge line temperatures to an indicating recorder.

Some other noteworthy details emerge in the P&ID as well. We see that the flow transmitter, flow controller, pressure transmitter, and flow valve all bear a common number: 42. This common “loop number” indicates these four instruments are all part of the same control system. An instrument with any other loop number is part of a different control system, measuring and/or controlling some other function in the process. Examples of this include the two temperature transmitters and their respective recorders, bearing the loop numbers 41 and 43.

lease note the differences in the instrument “bubbles” as shown on this P&ID. Some of the bubbles are just open circles, where others have lines going through the middle. Each of these symbols has meaning according to the ISA (Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation society) standard:

Instrument bubbles


The type of “bubble” used for each instrument tells us something about its location. This, obviously, is quite important when working in a facility with many thousands of instruments scattered over acres of facility area, structures, and buildings.

The rectangular box enclosing both temperature recorders shows they are part of the same physical instrument. In other words, this indicates there is really only one temperature recorder instrument, and that it plots both suction and discharge temperatures (most likely on the same trend graph). This suggests that each bubble may not necessarily represent a discrete, physical instrument, but rather an instrument function that may reside in a multi-function device.

Details we do not see on this P&ID include cable types, wire numbers, terminal blocks, junction boxes, instrument calibration ranges, failure modes, power sources, and the like. To examine this level of detail, we must turn to another document called a loop diagram (not in this post).





Reprinted from "Lessons In Industrial Instrumentation" by Tony R. Kuphaldt – under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Worker Shortage in Engineering?

Engineering worker shortage
From the sales people on the front lines, to the engineering staff behind the scenes, to the managers in between, every staff member has a powerful influence on the success of a manufacturing company.

But are you facing difficulties in your manufacturing company in filling open positions? Are you finding a lack of skilled and qualified applicants? If the answer is, “yes,” you are not alone.

There are a multitude of factors contributing to the worker shortage in engineering starting with historically low unemployment, the aging population, and economic growth outpacing the rate at which jobs can be filled with trained workers. The talent pool shortage is expected to increase over the next 10 years.

Skilled Workers Aging and Retiring

The baby boomer retirement has been on the horizon for more than a decade, but the recession delayed some of its impact as older workers stayed in their jobs. High unemployment made it easy for businesses to find employees willing to work for less. A significant portion of the current manufacturing workforce is nearing retirement age and as these aged and skilled workers leave the workforce, they take critical industry knowledge with them.

STEM Skills Lacking

In recent years, the lack of STEM courses in high school has produced workers who are relatively unprepared for the demanding tech requirements of 21st century manufacturing jobs. Not only does STEM skills (math, science, and computer skills) prepare young workers for technical jobs, STEM also equips workers with problem solving skills, which is also a potential deficiency in individuals' capabilities for these jobs.

Many Students not Aware of the Industry

For the students who do possess strong STEM skills, they are often unaware of the career paths which would potentially match their skills. Industrial and Systems Engineering degrees are specifically designed to provide students with the skills to design and analyze automated manufacturing processes.

There is also a perception that engineering in manufacturing might not be hi-tech, it may be dangerous and dirty work, and may also be low salary positions. This means that younger workers may not consider the manufacturing industry as a career path.

The industrial sector is experiencing a manufacturing and engineer skills gap and it is up to the stakeholders to understand this critical situation and to look for innovative methods to fill jobs with experienced and knowledgeable engineers. Manufacturing work is increasingly technical, therefore these deficiencies in schooling need to be addressed. How can industry and associations work, in other ways, to bridge the gap?

One opportunity may be the developments in smart manufacturing and the industrial internet of things, connected enterprise strategies, Industry 4.0, robotics, data analytics and product design. These new technologies may logically appeal to the new generation of young people equipped with high tech skills. It points to industry associations and companies to effectively communicate these opportunities within the manufacturing and industrial segment.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Drexelbrook’s ThePoint™ Series Point Level Switch: Settings, Adjustments, and Changing Calibration Modes

The AMETEK Drexelbrook ThePoint™ Series uses No-Cal™ technology to detect the presence or absence of material without calibration or initiation via setpoint adjustments, push-buttons or magnets.

ThePoint™ level measurement switch features both Auto-Cal and manual calibration. The standard Auto-Calibration mode is applicable to most liquid and slurry point level measurements. If preferred, the manual calibration can be used and is recommended for some application. ThePoint electronic unit has auto and manual calibration modes built into the standard unit and can be accessed through the simple routine shown in the video below. The inclusion of these calibration modes allows the Drexelbrook RF Point Level Products application flexibility that is far greater than any other point level product on the market. ThePoint™ level switch can be used in Liquids, Solids, Slurries, and Interface applications.

To learn more specific instructions on the (8) calibration modes ThePoint™ has available, download the "Drexelbrook ThePoint Series Point Level Switch Installation and Operating Instructions" from this link.