Control loop monitoring solution helps isolate underperforming regulation

PlantESP from Control Station simplifies isolation and optimization of regulatory controllers in process units.


PlantESP actively monitors the performance of a production facility's PID controllers, facilitating the isolation and correction of underperforming regulatory control systems by providing essential loop diagnostics and recommendations for corrective action.Control Station, a provider of PID control loop tuning and process control technologies, has launched its newest product – PlantESP. The launch of this software-based technology significantly expands the company’s suite of process control diagnostic and optimization solutions. The company says that PlantESP addresses the growing need among process manufacturers for intuitive technologies that alert plant staff of negative trends before production is affected.

PlantESP actively monitors the performance of a production facility’s PID controllers, isolating and correcting of underperforming regulatory control loops. It complements the existing LoopPro PID controller tuning products, adding higher levels of functionality. In addition to identifying control loops that are in need of tuning, PlantESP also alerts users to performance issues related to a plant’s mechanical final control elements and its process limits.

The solution’s launch is the result of years of extensive product research, development, and testing. The concept for PlantESP was first established in 2007 as Control Station’s growing base of licensees solicited the Company for a proactive performance monitoring and alerting capability. Nearly two dozen customers provided essential input during the requirements definition phase. A formal pilot program was initiated early in 2010, allowing the technology to be thoroughly tested by the end-user community. Each pilot involved the active participation of numerous leading manufacturers from key process sectors, including American Electric Power.

“Our participation in the pilot program allowed us to witness PlantESP’s evolution first-hand and to understand the benefits of monitoring the performance of our regulatory controllers,” said Dave Shepler, of American Electric Power’s Conesville Power Station. “It’s an intuitive solution and it simplified the isolation of issues that were negatively affecting our plant’s heat rate – a critical success factor in the power industry. The analysis and recommendations provided by PlantESP have helped us to correct issues and maintain more reliable, cost effective operations.”

Bob Rice PhD, Control Station’s vice president of engineering, adds, “PlantESP has been a major undertaking and its design reflects the direct input of our customers. Most every production facility can benefit from improving PID control, but isolating a handful of ‘bad actors’ represents a significant challenge. We’ve solved this problem by equipping manufacturers with this logical, intuitive, and effective technology.”

Central to PlantESP’s value are features that provide timely plant-wide analysis, customized communications, and actionable recommendations for reestablishing effective control.  Developed specifically for small-to-midsize process manufacturers, PlantESP is highly scalable and is capable of monitoring and analyzing thousands of PID controllers simultaneously. The software allows each registered user to configure alert and report settings to match their individual responsibilities, changes in production goals, or other job-specific criteria. In operation, the system not only identifies negative performance trends, it also prescribes corrective actions for further root-cause analysis or for process adjustments.

PlantESP is a secure, web-based application that can be accessed through the end-user’s Intranet. Using Microsoft Silverlight technology, it accesses process data directly from a production facility’s existing data historians and historical-OPC servers. By using historical data as the primary source and storing metric values only, the system places minimal demand on a plant’s IT resources.

Edited by Peter Welander,

Visit the Control Engineering Process Control Channel.

Bob Rice is among Control Engineering's Leaders Under 40.

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