Week in PSE

February 16, 2010

The golden mean – a lost path in process control?

Filed under: Uncategorized — hdahlol @ 9:22 pm

Control theory used to be interesting – a field seeing understanding and elegance real virtues. This rather romantic and academic approach to the field seems to have been lost in the euphoria researchers seem to feel for optimization. Admitted, optimization technologies have brought fantastic benefits to the world of manufacturing, but it has also brought its own selection of drawbacks.

  • Esthetics of process control have been lost (mostly academic interest).
  • Optimization-based results are hard to understand in terms of physics (this is a “real” problem).

The loss of esthetics makes life less enjoyable. The loss of a physical undertanding of the technologies we employ makes life dangerous. If we use optimization technologies to push boundaries and improce profitability, we might be approaching an operating policy that is not very robust. This means that we have increased the risk of a system failure, and this risk may be hidden behind the complexity of the solution that optimization has given us.

I feel the golden mean has its place in modern operating policies. Optimization may very well guide process and control system design – but implementations should be avoided when fundamental physical characteristics of the optimal point are not completely understood.


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