Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.


Project Management April 1, 2006

System Integrator Certification Catches On

It's been five years since the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) began auditing its members to assess their compliance with the organization's Best Practices and Benchmarks Guidelines (Control Engineering, May 2001 and April 2002). To date, 80 of the CSIA's 230 members have passed their audits and earned the title "Certified Member" and the privilege of displaying the "CSIA Seal of ...

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Control Systems March 1, 2006

Fundamentals of Optimization

Optimization is the art of getting the greatest value, whether it's finding the best deal on a new pair of shoes or operating a catalytic cracker at its point of maximum efficiency. It can be a relatively simple exercise when the choices are limited and the cost of each is clear, but some optimization problems can involve thousands of variables requiring sophisticated mathematical analysis.

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
PID, APC February 1, 2006

Obsolescence is no defense

As with all technology, industrial automation products eventually become obsolete. However, with careful planning and proper maintenance, end-users can continue to realize a return from their automation investments for years, even decades. Here are 10 tips from system integrators who know how to keep an automation system running on a budget.

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
DCS, SCADA, Controllers February 1, 1999

Adaptive controller tracks process changes

In some sense, all process controllers are "adaptive" because they force a process to adapt its outputs to the values operators desire. However, most process controllers do so according to algorithms designed (or at least fine tuned) by the operators before the controller ever starts its work. The operators may periodically re-tune parameters of a traditional controller, but this is gener...

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Control Systems January 1, 1999

Process simulator aids testing and training

Legend has it that certain divinely inspired engineers in the automation industry are capable of producing bug-free control code on the first pass. Their programs always work as intended the first time the control system is powered up. I am certainly not one of them.My programs inevitably fail to account for some unforeseen sequence of events or some combination of inputs that only happen...

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
PID, APC December 1, 1998

Control software complements I/O products

When I think of Opto 22 in Temecula, California, I think of input/output (I/O) modules that are "guaranteed for life." The company has a long history of providing devices that can interface a computer to virtually any kind of sensor or actuator. However, there's more to Opto 22 than just I/O hardware.

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Control Systems October 1, 1998

Open-loop control offers some advantages

A feedback controller can keep an oven's temperature within acceptable ranges, sustain the pressure in a steam supply line as demand fluctuates, and maintain a car's speed through an uphill climb. Every feedback controller has a different strategy for accomplishing its particular mission, but all use some variation on the closed-loop control algorithm—measure a process variable, dec...

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Process Instrumentation and Sensors October 1, 1998

Practice Makes Perfect

No matter how sophisticated, a process control system will at some point require operator intervention to function properly. Start-up and shut-down operations in particular tend to involve manual procedures that the control system can not handle alone.Unfortunately, I find the very operations that require operator intervention the most are also the most infrequent.

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Control Systems June 1, 1998

Control loop is automation essence

The control loop is the essence of automation. By measuring some activity in an automated process, a controller decides what needs to be done next and executes the required operations through a set of actuators. The controller then remeasures the process to determine if the actuators' actions had the desired effect.

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
Diagnostics, Asset Management April 1, 1998

Analysis Software Answers Performance Questions

Several software packages help end-users design and tune their control loops for "optimal" performance. Some tuning tools work better than others, but it's not always easy to tell the difference because it's not always clear whether one design works any better than another. Controller A with one set of tuning parameters may eliminate errors faster than controller B with a different set of...

By Vance J. VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E.
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