Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WBF 2010 Conference

I’ve spent the last few days in Austin attending the WBF 2010 Conference. This is my 4th WBF Conference, and my first impressions were is was a shame there were not more folks in attendance and the imbalance between suppliers (vendors and integrators) and end users. The economy is still taking its toll, and that’s too bad, considering the standard and guideline development used throughout the continuous, batch, and discrete manufacturing industries happens because of the WBF and ISA. I hope the WBF will make the presentations available to everyone on their web site.

The content was excellent, and covered the spectrum from S88 implementation suggestions to full blown S95 factory floor to ERP solutions. There was a lot of conversation about the ISA 106 standard, which covers procedures for automating continuous processes. After you re-read that last sentence and think I’ve eaten too much brisket (BTW, you can never eat too much brisket), what 106 is addressing are all those procedures that continuous processes rely on for making grade changes, distillation train start ups, etc. Right now it’s all in the heads of senior operators (and probably no two do it the same way), and oh yeah, those operators are retiring in droves. We’ve almost come full circle with 106 from the early days of S88.

Both days keynote speakers (Dr. Tom Edger of the University of Texas and Dr. J. Patrick Kennedy, founder of OSIsoft), talked about our upcoming energy challenges from a controls point of view. And since both are Kansas grads, they know what they’re talking about.

Of course I had a special interest in the presentation on Batch Analytics given by Bob Wojewodka of Lubrizol and Dawn Marruchella of Emerson. They described the results of the real time batch analytics field trial at a Lubrizol facility in France. Even the moderator of the session was impressed – he told us that when he goes home tonight and his son asks him what he heard today, he’ll be able to tell him about Dynamic Time Warping. His son will think he’s cool.

And after a couple of grueling days, it was nice to take in a ball game at the Dell Diamond with Todd Maras of Emerson. It was a great night in central Texas.

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