Imagine it’s your first time flying in an airplane and the pilot casually asks you to take the control wheel during landing. While that scenario might make a blockbuster movie script, it’s not a practical recipe for success in industry. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster which is why many manufacturers rely on process simulation tools to both train their staff and optimize their production processes.
Process simulation involves the representative modeling of systems as limited in scope as a single PID control loop to those as comprehensive as an entire production facility. Software-based models allow a wide range of attributes to be taken into consideration – everything from piping capacity and pump speeds to chemical reaction rates and controller responsiveness. The goal of process simulation is to establish a safe, virtual environment in which each of those attributes can be tested and refined across a full range of production levels.
While the benefits of process simulation are numerous, here are a few highlights:
Process simulators allow manufacturers to safely mimic highly hazardous systems. They are virtual production environments with dynamics that behave just like the real thing. The safe environment provided through simulation is especially important during the design of a new system as well as during the orientation of new operations staff. Indeed, tinkering and training shouldn’t have to be life-threatening affairs.
Once a rudimentary production process has been established it’s not uncommon for engineers to use a process simulator in the examination of “what if’s”. What if the volume of the primary production vessel was doubled? What if a more powerful pump was used? What if the controller was tuned less aggressively? Those and countless other “what if’s” can be explored rapidly with the use of a simulator, speeding the time from concept and prototype to production and profit.
Process simulations enable practitioners to develop a sense of intuition for their production processes. As noted above the simulation behaves in a fashion identical to the real McCoy. As staff interact with the simulation they gain a clearer understanding of how it reacts to different operating levels and even unexpected changes. That form of training provides the best preparation for both normal and abnormal plant operations. Just follow the motto of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared!
Safety is Job #1 in most every line of work. Given the complexity and hazardous nature of manufacturing, the use of process simulation is increasingly a key to both safety and success. No one should be given the control wheel – whether in a plane’s cockpit or in a plant’s control room – without adequate preparation.
Companies like MathWorks and MYNAH Technologies have built successful businesses by licensing powerful simulation solutions to universities and industrial giants alike. Control Station too offers an array of simulation tools that can help process manufacturers make sound, informed decisions for optimizing the performance of their production processes. In fact, that’s where Control Station got its start!
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