Advanced process control boosts innovation and cuts product defects

Tom Austin-Morgan

(Credit: Shutterstock)
(Credit: Shutterstock)

In the ever-evolving landscape of the process engineering industry, advanced process control (APC) techniques are playing a crucial role in optimising efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing performance. APC involves the integration of real-time monitoring, predictive modelling and adaptive control algorithms to create more efficient and robust manufacturing processes.

One of the key benefits of APC is its ability to enhance efficiency and productivity in process engineering. By continuously monitoring process variables and making real-time adjustments, APC enables engineers to optimise process conditions, reduce energy consumption and minimise waste generation. 

Delivering high-quality products, while keeping production costs low and plant efficiency high, is an ongoing challenge. Cement manufacturers face these challenges daily and the drive for improved efficiency cannot undercut the stability of the production process. 

Opportunities for improvement

Cement manufacturers are under increasing pressure to optimise their operations and get the very most out of the resources they have, all while increasing production. This is true across industry in general. However, there are some specific areas unique to cement production that offer opportunities for improvement by deploying APC. These include kiln operation, alternative fuel use, mills and blending.

The kiln process is intrinsically unstable and influenced by long time delays and large disturbances. The process needs to be stabilised to yield its best performance. Ryan Koorts, product manager for ABB Ability Expert Optimizer, said: “ABB’s advanced process control and analytics (APCA) technology suite comprises a set of tools, both online and offline, that allow deployment of advanced controllers and analytic models.” 

Optimise operations

“This provides monitoring, predictive analytics and closed-loop control capabilities at the device, edge and cloud to ensure real-time operational efficiencies. It also helps process and energy industries to optimise operations by using emergent technologies – such as the cloud, data analytics, visualisation and advanced modelling algorithms − as part of the disruptive change offered by the Internet of Things.”

APC techniques also contribute to improved quality control. By using advanced analytics and predictive modelling, engineers can detect and mitigate potential quality deviations in real time, reducing the risk of substandard products and associated costs. A study by the University of Manchester demonstrated that APC implementation in the food processing industry resulted in a 20% reduction in product defects and improved consistency in product quality.

APC has proven to be an effective means of achieving cost savings in process engineering. By optimising process parameters, minimising energy use and reducing waste, companies can realise substantial financial benefits. Research by the University of Strathclyde showed that APC implementation in the petrochemical industry led to cost savings of up to 15% by optimising energy use and increasing production yield.

The UK process engineering industry is witnessing a shift towards more flexible and adaptive manufacturing processes, and APC plays a crucial role in enabling this transition. By employing adaptive control algorithms and real-time optimisation techniques, APC allows process engineers to respond to changing market demands, shift production schedules and accommodate variations in raw material quality. 

Challenges ahead

While APC offers significant advantages, its successful implementation comes with challenges. These include the need for accurate modelling, integration with existing control systems, and addressing data privacy and security concerns. However, advances in machine learning, big-data analytics and cloud computing are expected to mitigate these challenges and pave the way for wider APC adoption.

APC techniques are revolutionising manufacturing operations by optimising efficiency, improving quality control, realising cost savings and enabling flexibility. With a focus on real-time monitoring, predictive modelling and adaptive control algorithms, APC empowers process engineers to achieve operational excellence.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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