technologySince the creation of the first transmitter there has been a marked shift in technology.  This includes the technology used for both transmitters and process control systems.  The early pneumatic (3 – 15 psi) systems gave way to electronic systems (4-20mA), which eventually lead to digital protocols (HART, Foxcom, BRAIN) and bus (Fieldbus, Profibus, Modbus) systems.  Technology offers a great deal of power for your process control system.  It order for you to realize any benefit, it is important that it be applied correctly.

In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, Chapter 7 focuses on technology.  What was determined that technology cannot make a company great.  It also cannot prevent a company from failing.  Adherence to the Hedgehog, Three Circles and Stockdale Paradox concepts will only take a company from good to great.  Technology must be utilized in a manner that supports the aforementioned concepts.  The same is true for process control and instrumentation.  Control technology must be applied correctly.

It is important to first understand why the measurement is being made.  Monitoring points are only used to keep track of the state of a process and can be used to diagnose process issues.  Control points are used to maintain a process and adjustments are made based on these measurement.  On a safety system measurements are made to prevent catastrophic failure which can lead to loss of life and damage to equipment.  Technology must be applied correctly in these examples.

Product tiering is one strategy in the implementation of technology.  Within a family of transmitters and process control there are different products that can be used for monitoring, control and safety.  Conventional transmitters can be used for monitoring, core transmitters for control, and premium tier products for safety and other critical measurements.  Broadly applying any technology throughout a process has to potential to leave it vulnerable to process upsets, or be cost prohibitive.  Adherence to the aforementioned concepts most certainly apply.

There has been significant interest in wireless technology for process control and instrumentation.  There are currently two competing standards, specifically, WirelessHART (IEC 62591) and ISA 100.11A.  This technology can be used to add monitoring or control points.  It can also be used to capture stranded HART data for existing smart transmitters.  Wireless can also be incorporated with safety showers to know when an event has occurred.  It is important to understand this technology must be applied using the principles presented here.  Carte blanche application will have the same ramifications as product tiering.

With all of the technology available for instrumentation and process control it remains your core business concepts be applied.  Using a sophisticated technology in a basic application will not necessarily create a better process.  Sometimes a pressure gauge will do just fine.

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