Pulp and Paper Canada

Conference Control Systems 2004: Latest Developments

August 1, 2004  By Pulp & Paper Canada

“Expectations for control systems are immense,” said Thomas J. Harris, the conference chairman from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, as he welcomed fellow academics, scientists and process control engineers to the conference. “We’re expected to…

“Expectations for control systems are immense,” said Thomas J. Harris, the conference chairman from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, as he welcomed fellow academics, scientists and process control engineers to the conference. “We’re expected to do everything, all the time.”

On that note, Harris delved into the rich history of the process control field by tipping his hat to industry pioneers such as Walter Shewart. Known as the grandfather of total quality management, Shewart was a proponent of the theory that a lack of information fuelled control and management process problems in a production environment. Harris pointed out that a poorly trained workforce characteristic of the 1930’s was the driving force behind the development of the Shewart Methodology, a method designed to investigate and eliminate root causes of problems, a method credited as being one of the fundamental origins of process monitoring. Harris hammered home the importance and perpetual validity of work completed by the industry’s veterans. “There are many facets of process control problems, each one is specific and unique. But performance monitoring tools can only enhance and not replace the effectiveness of knowledgeable and expert process and control engineering individuals,” he said.


Harris also examined issues pertaining to process disturbances and how to understand and eliminate them. He outlined the advantages and shortcomings of several performance-monitoring options. “Minimum variance performance benchmarking is fundamentally linked to concepts of prediction,” he said. “It gives lower bound on achievable performance due to delays, it’s easy to develop absolute and relative performance indices. It’s simple to understand and compute and it’s non-invasive. Disadvantages of this method include extreme data compression, the inability to characterize other dynamic features and to incorporate knowledge of loop tuning.”

Sylvain Gendron of Paprican and program chairman was pleased to see academia such as Tom Harris present at the conference. “These talks from professors, these people are considered living legends in this industry,” he said. “It’s like brushing elbows with Wayne Gretzky if you play hockey.”

Despite the obvious technical level of the conference, Gendron highlighted the diversified content the presentations contained. “Yes, there is definitely much theory, but also a lot of down to earth, nuts and bolts stuff too. It’s a very good mix of mill people, of academics and of people from the supplier side. The philosophy of this event is to help each side see the relevance of its counterpart. It’s one of the things that makes this conference so unique.”

A veteran of the conference of approximately 20 years, Gendron claimed to see a lot of familiar faces at the sessions and a surprising amount of new ones as well. He felt the fresh blood at the event was indicative of a trend towards increased interest and respect for the field. “I’m very happy to see new faces here,” he said. “We’re starting to have lots of people from other places like Asia, Africa and Algeria. Traditionally, most of the delegates were from either Canada or Scandinavia, but it’s spreading out, it’s a sign of the times.”

Gendron introduced the plenary speaker for the second day by saying that the conference was privileged to have Dale Seborg, professor from the University of California, travel up to Quebec City to attend the conference. Seborg, co-author of Process Dynamics and Control (now in its long-awaited second edition), returned the compliment by saying that inviting him was like bringing coals to Newcastle, considering the calibre of speakers in the program. His presentation began by pointing out that while the bulk of work was done by automation, the final decision rested in human hands. Seborg followed this with a presentation on New Results for Process Monitoring and Identification which was ranked high by the audience.

On the last day of the presentations, Gendron introduced Sirish Shah, professor and senior industrial research chair in computer process control at the University of Alberta, as another prestigious speaker. Shah’s presentation, which he had co-authored with W. Mitchell and D. Shook of Matrikon, was A Picture Worth a Thousand Control Loops: An Innovative Way of Visualizing Controller Performance Data. Shah explained that on-line process and performance monitoring is important for safe and economically- and environmentally-sustainable operations. Control loops, he stated, were important capital assets.

Altogether, as Gendron pointed out, every single aspect of pulp and paper manufacturing was covered at length during the conference and all this contributed to a very special and very unique session.


Keeping in line with its diversified scope, the conference also included a poster session. Boasting the work of students and rookie’s alike, the session permitted presenters the opportunity to bounce ideas off of industry veterans.

Benoit Janvier’s poster, entitled Modification to the Standard Cascade Control Logic Reduces Consistency Variability, received significant attention. Focusing on consistency controller process disturbances, Janvier’s entire project was simulated to create a thorough example of consistency control. “There are different ways to approach the problem,” he said. “You always have options. What the subject really is, is ratio control.”


Manny Sidhu, a control engineer at Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions in North Vancouver and in the process of completing his master’s thesis with Paprican presented a poster entitled, Multivariable Averaging Level Control. “The idea is that tanks in the process industry can serve as surge vessels that are responsible for attenuating inlet/outlet flow disturbances. My control objective is such that for a given flow disturbance, the manipulated flowrate changes are minimal. Whenever you make a change, you want to make the smallest possible change.”




Katherine Crowley (Boise Paper Solutions, WA)

“What I came to see is what mills are using advanced controls, how and what kind. A few papers have been relevant. The other stuff has been interesting, it lets you know where we’re going. It’s a good place to make mill contacts. I’ve been in this industry for 18 years but it can be difficult to travel, so this was a good opportunity.”

Joe Desroches (Bowater Thunder Bay, ON)

“It’s my first time at this conference, and it’s been very enjoyable. It’s nice to be at a conference that’s strictly about process control, I’ve learned some really valuable things. The presentations were really good. The poster sessions were applicable as well, there are a lot of things to take back to the mill that I can see being really helpful. And I’ve met a lot of people from the industry.”

Bruce Allison (Paprican, Vancouver, BC)

“There are a lot of good papers, good work being presented. The longer you’ve been at these kinds of things, the more you come to network, listen to what people are doing and to exchange information.”

Paul Collette (Pavillion Technologies, Westminister, MA)

“When you get good talent presenting good topics, you can’t go wrong.”

Christelle Gaillemard & Giantonio Bortolin (Students at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)

“We’re working on our PhD, we presented a paper here. It’s been a little difficult for us because what we’ve seen here isn’t directly linked to our work.”

Sirish Shah (University of Alberta, AB)

“It’s good recipe, a good mix of people. Most conferences divide into three of four groups, but this one has a lot of interesting people in all the rooms. There are users, industry people, people who research, students. It’s a good mix.”

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