What Training is Available for Process Control and PID Controller Tuning?

    Three Things to Consider Before Enrolling in a Training Course

    The latest report published by the Manufacturing Institute underscores the growing shortage of skilled labor here in the United States. Their 2014 study of skills and training Out of Inventory simply affirms what manufacturers knew coming out of the Great Recession. Years of trimming staff during the downturn would come at a cost during the upturn. Apparently the bell has sounded it’s time to go to class. Getting staff back into the classroom is a step in the right direction, but choosing the right coursework is less obvious especially when the subject involves Process Control. Control Station knows a little something about both education and Process Control, having successfully trained production staff for over two decades.  What’s more, we’re helping to educate the next generation of process control engineers our curriculum is used at 100s of colleges and universities around the world. There are plenty of training options available in the market.  Several things to consider while scouting courses and the skills they promise to provide:
    • The Hands-On Imperative

    The evidence is in and it’s clear. Interactive, hands-on training is essential to successful skills development. Studies show that courses that are limited to lectures achieve only 20-30% of the desired knowledge transfer. Engaging practitioners in an evaluation of dynamic examples and an active discussion about critical concepts elevates their retention level to 70%.  Empowering them to test their understanding through the use of simulation tools raises retention to 85%. The absence of dynamic simulations should be a non-starter.

    Find courses that leverage tools that bring Process Control to life so that trainees can truly test their understanding and relate it back to their production environment.

    • Invest in Intuition

    A key to learning Process Control is gaining an understanding of process dynamics and developing intuition for controlling those dynamics. Since no two processes are identical practitioners need to be taught to consider the full range of control strategies and uses of the PID controller. Failing to consider all options is a sure way for practitioners to marginalize plant efficiency and production. What’s more, practitioners should be exposed to industry best-practices and methodologies (simple, repeatable processes) for diagnosing and correcting their facility’s performance issues. Ignoring proven techniques and reinventing the wheel helps no one.

    Pursue courses that teach trainees both to ask thoughtful, relevant questions and to apply proven methods for determining and implementing the right answers.

    • Not About Software

    Whether low-fidelity or high-fidelity simulations the goal of training should neither be to wow practitioners with bits and bytes nor to educate them on how to use a given software package. Simulation tools convey credible situations that exist in the real-world. By virtualizing a plant, a process, a controller, software both accentuates and accelerate the learning process.  But to be clear, the purpose for using software should be knowledge transfer and skills development, not a paid sales pitch.

    Avoid courses that over emphasize the use of a particular software tool and seek those that incorporate simulations as a means of reinforcing the learning experience.

    The good news is that domestic manufacturing is on an uptick. The current skills shortage won’t be solved overnight, but enrolling staff in training and skills development courses is a good investment that promises long-term gains. Even so, it’s important to evaluate each course offering before signing on the dotted line. There’s no value in rushing into the wrong class simply because the bell rang.