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Sustainability in Instrumentation and Process Control: Don’t Forget the Politics

Posted on June 23rd, 2016 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

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Overwhelmingly, instrumentation and control professionals focus on identifying problems, solving them and ensuring that the solutions remain operational.  There would appear that there is no room for politics in these activities.  However if you think that politics has no place in instrumentation and control — you would be mistaken.

Politics at the personal level is rampant.  Individuals often prefer certain equipment, prefer certain control strategies, enjoy working with some vendors and not others, think well or poorly of certain individuals, and the like.  This is not necessarily bad but (in some cases) it can hinder becoming more sustainable.  For example, what if an individual dislikes the only vendor that can supply an instrument that will improve the process?  What if an individual does not understand or believe in cascade control?  Expanding these thoughts outward within the organization, the above-cited individuals need not be working in instrumentation and control, know anything about instrumentation and control, or even be in the same country to become a political impediment to sustainability.

Local, county, state and national politics pose a different set of constraints on sustainability.  Laws may dictate certain measurements and documentation focused on protecting the general public.  Measuring and reporting relevant process variables could be viewed as an impediment to operations, but a more enlightened approach might be to view the measurements as a form of insurance that proves to all that your company is operating within proper limits.  Working with (instead of against) the governing authorities to reasonably reduce requirements, such as gradually increasing calibration intervals and/or installing more reliable measurement devices, can improve the sustainability of the operation.

National and international politics can have a stunning effect on sustainability.  Plants located in North America, Europe and parts of Asia have almost unfettered access to instrumentation and control equipment.  Plants in other parts of the world often have internal political constraints (such as high import duties) or external political constraints (such as an embargo) that can impede the sustainability of its industry.

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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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