Career and technical education (CTE) instructors and administrators across the country share a common goal: teaching students the skills they will need to be successful in the jobs of the future.

Changes in technology are rapidly reshaping the landscape of the future workplace. That’s why it’s more important than ever for educators to provide students with relevant, hands-on training that will equip them for roles that will require advanced technical skills.

As Industry 4.0 transforms today’s industrial facilities, one area seeing tremendous growth is process control. Process control systems continuously monitor and adjust complex manufacturing processes to ensure consistency, maintain quality, increase efficiency, improve safety, lower production costs, save energy, and decrease environmental impacts.

Process control systems can be found in virtually any advanced manufacturing facility, although they’re particularly important to certain continuous production industries, such as power generation, oil and gas, chemical processing, pulp and paper, and food and beverage.

Process control is big business all over the world. The global economic value of the process control systems market is estimated to be more than $120 billion. This value will only continue to grow as automation and Industry 4.0 technologies enable process control systems to further increase the productivity and efficiency of manufacturing facilities.

Students will find that many different types of industries will continue to need highly-skilled workers with process control training to fill in-demand roles, such as process control engineers, process technicians, control system operators, and various other inspectors and testers that operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair these advanced systems.

How can educators equip a CTE lab to teach students the valuable process control skills they will need? It’s easier than you might think with the help of a trusted technical training partner like Amatrol.

What Is Process Control?

Students unfamiliar with the advanced technologies used in modern industries might not understand the wide variety of possibilities that exist within the walls of today’s advanced manufacturing facilities. In fact, they may have never heard the term process control before.

So what is process control? Today’s industries apply a continuous series of processes to raw materials to transform them into finished products. These processes must be carefully monitored to ensure quality products are produced efficiently, economically, and safely.

Sophisticated process control systems automate most, if not all, of the monitoring and adjustment of the processes they control. These systems allow a relatively small number of highly-skilled workers to control the large number of complex processes involved in the mass production of a product with a high degree of consistency.

For example, a variety of sensors and meters can be used to measure and monitor numerous process variables, such as the proportion of ingredients in a mixture, the acidity of a liquid, or the temperature and pressure under which materials are stored. Even tiny variations in process variables can cause significant problems in the final product.

Sensors continually transmit data about the status of process variables. Specialized controllers receive and compare data from many different sensors. If a process variable strays beyond set parameters, controller software will trigger necessary adjustments to bring the variable back within range.

A simple example of process control that all students should be familiar with is basic climate control via a thermostat and heating/cooling system. When a gauge detects that the temperature has dropped below a pre-set level, a signal is sent to the thermostat, which will turn on the heating system until the temperature reaches the appropriate level.

This simple process control loop will repeat continuously to keep the temperature within a specific range. Of course, today’s advanced manufacturing facilities mass producing intricate products will utilize thousands of sophisticated, complex process control loops to control a wide variety of process variables.

There are many different types of process control systems. Three of the most common are programmable logic controllers (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and distributed control systems (DCS).

These systems can include and interface with a large range of process control instrumentation and controllers to monitor and control industrial processes. They can also control processes in a Smart Factory by communicating data directly to a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system via manufacturing execution system (MES) software.

The many benefits of process control systems are evident to those who work closely with them. Not only are quality products produced consistently and safely, but profitability is enhanced through energy savings and lower manufacturing costs. Negative environmental impacts can also be minimized through careful process control.

What Industries Use Process Control Systems?

You’ll find process control systems in just about every advanced manufacturing facility around the world today. Anywhere that complex processes are used to transform raw materials into finished products, process control systems will be monitoring and analyzing those processes to ensure consistent quality.

Process control systems are particularly important in continuous mass production industries, such as power generation, oil and gas, chemical processing, pulp and paper, and food and beverage.

Other industries that also frequently use process control systems as part of their operations include biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, plastics, petrochemicals, and water/wastewater.

What Types of Process Control Variables Are There?

Process control systems carefully monitor and analyze processes to ensure process variables stay within set parameters. Curious students might wonder, “What types of process control variables are there?”

The variety of process variables reflects the numerous types of industries and the host of products they produce. Process variables that can be measured and monitored can consist of anything that affects physical or chemical processes.

For example, process control instrumentation can monitor, measure, and control variables like density, velocity, speed, stress, force, and weight. Sensors and meters can also detect whether a particular operation has occurred, such as whether a food container has been filled.

The most common process variables fall into five major types: level, flow, pressure, temperature, and analytical. Analytical process variables are also known as chemical process variables, since they involve the monitoring of chemical properties like acidity.

What Is Level Process Control?

One of the most common process variables measured in complex process control systems is level. Level sensors detect the level of fluids, such as liquids or gases, as well as fluid-like solids, such as powders and slurries.

Level process control is an important part of process control systems in applications like chemical reaction tanks, cooling towers, and boilers. In these applications, gravity causes flowing substances to become horizontal when contained.

Level process control allows the height of a column of a substance, such as a liquid, to be controlled with the help of valves that restrict the flow of liquid entering or leaving a tank. Level measurements can be taken continuously or at intervals as point values in order to maintain the level of a substance within a specified range.

What Is Flow Process Control?

A common process variable that’s usually closely related to level is flow. Flow process control involves the precise measurement and control of the flow of a fluid, such as a liquid or gas, through a pipe in a given direction within a system. Control is usually accomplished via valves used to restrict a fluid stream.

Flow process control is important in a variety of applications. For example, flow process control is vital to mixing processes that require the flow of materials to be controlled at specific ratios. Likewise, flow process control is a key component of gas furnaces, where the flow of a gas into the furnace is critical in controlling temperature.

Flow process control relies upon careful measurement by flow meters, which are instruments designed to detect the mass, volumetric, linear, or nonlinear flow rate of a fluid. Common types of flow meters include positive displacement, differential, and inferential flow meters.

A simple flow process control system might consist of a pump, a variable frequency drive (VFD), a flow meter, and one or more valves. While flow is often considered the least difficult process variable to control, it also usually requires the most control loops since continuous processes require material flow from the beginning of the process to the end.

What Is Temperature Process Control?

Temperature process control involves the precise measurement and control of the temperature of a fluid, such as a liquid or gas, within a system. Temperature process control is critical in applications like furnaces, HVAC, food and beverage processing, heat treating, and chemical manufacturing.

Temperature is a very common process variable, because it’s a critical condition for a variety of processes, including chemical reaction, distillation, combustion, calcination, extrusion, drying, crystallization, fermentation, concentration, and air conditioning.

Temperature control usually involves routing process fluid through a heat exchanger of some type. Common temperature sensors include thermometers, thermocouples, and resistance temperature detectors (RTDs).

Despite its importance, temperature can be one of the most difficult process variables to control. Failure to master temperature process control, however, can result in major problems with safety and quality.

What Is Analytical Process Control?

Analytical process control (also known as chemical process control) involves the precise measurement and control of the chemical properties of a fluid or substance in a system. Common chemical properties subject to analytical process control include pH, humidity, specific gravity, density, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, carbon monoxide content, and oxidation reduction potential.

Analytical process control plays an important role in a wide variety of industries, including pharmaceuticals, paper, petrochemicals, food and beverages, refineries, and wastewater treatment. Careful control of the chemical properties of materials is a critical part of producing safe, reliable products.

The sensors and other process control instrumentation used in analytical process control will vary widely based upon the chemical properties being controlled. Examples of processes and technologies used frequently include: nanotechnology, chemical detection, electrophoresis, chromatography, spectroscopy, and ultrasound.

What Is Pressure Process Control?

Pressure process control involves the precise measurement and control of the pressure of a fluid, such as a liquid or gas, in pipes or tanks within a system. Pressure process control is an important part of applications like boilers and compressors.

Common types of pressure sensors include pistons, diaphragms, and Bourdon tubes. Pressure is usually controlled by valves that regulate the release of fluids. For example, opening a valve to release fluids causes a decrease in pressure within a pipe or tank.

Pressure is a common and important process variable, because it’s a critical condition for many different processes, such as chemical reaction, extrusion, air conditioning, vacuuming, distillation, and boiling. Careful pressure process control is also a key element of system safety, since a pressure spike inside a sealed pipe or tank can cause an explosion.

What Equipment Do You Need To Teach Process Control Skills?

As educators and administrators plan to equip their CTE labs to teach valuable process control skills, they must first partner with local industries to determine which skills will be needed the most in their area.

Will students need to know level, flow, temperature, analytical, or pressure process control? Most industries will probably require a combination of these types of process control skills, if not a basic understanding of all of them.

So what equipment do you need to teach process control skills? Before we take a look at physical training equipment options, let’s first consider a key component for educators who don’t want to recreate the wheel: curriculum.

Curriculum Is Critical

Educators are busy people who do not always have time to develop their own custom curriculum for new courses. Instead, educators should choose process control training equipment that features robust curriculum that will allow instructors and learners to hit the ground running.

Amatrol’s line of process control training systems includes in-depth, comprehensive curriculum that provides a strong foundation in process control theory alongside hands-on skills that prepare learners for real-world situations. Some Amatrol systems include printed Learning Activity Packets (LAPs) that can also be enjoyed in a convenient eBook format.

Many Amatrol systems boast world-class eLearning curriculum. Amatrol’s eLearning features a highly-interactive, multimedia format that includes stunning 3D graphics and videos, voiceovers of all text, and interactive quizzes and exercises designed to appeal to learners with different learning styles.

Click the link below to watch a video about Amatrol’s eLearning:

Real-World Equipment

Quality curriculum will take learners a long way. However, to fully prepare students for the jobs of the future, educators need to teach them hands-on skills with real industrial equipment like they’ll use on the job, such as sensors, controllers, and other process control instrumentation.

Amatrol offers a complete line of process control training systems that teach the most common types of process control: level, flow, temperature, analytical, and pressure. Here are brief overviews of each of Amatrol’s systems:

Level/Flow Process Control Troubleshooting Learning System (T5552F)

Amatrol’s Level/Flow Process Control Troubleshooting Learning System (T5552F) teaches learners hands-on process control skills for two common, related process variables: level and flow. The system also teaches troubleshooting at both the component and system level using FaultPro, Amatrol’s exclusive electronic fault insertion software.

Learners using the T5552F will gain valuable experience with a variety of real industrial components, including centrifugal pumps, electric motors, regulators, gauges, and three types of controllers: relay, PID, and PLC. Click the link below to watch a video highlighting the unique features of the T5552F:

Temperature Process Control Learning System (T5553)

Amatrol’s Temperature Process Control Learning System (T5553) teaches learners how to install, calibrate, operate, and adjust temperature process control systems in a wide variety of industrial applications. It features two water flow circuits, a process loop, and a heating loop that controls the temperature of water flowing in the process loop.

The T5553 includes real industrial components learners will use on the job, including a chiller, heating loop network, operator interface station, and three types of temperature sensors: thermocouple, thermistor, and RTD. The system also allows learners to observe what is happening inside the system, so they can evaluate the effects of external disturbances and their own adjustments.

Analytical Process Control Learning System (T5554)

Amatrol’s Analytical Process Control Learning System (T5554) teaches knowledge and skills essential for controlling and modifying the chemical properties of a substance. For example, the system will prepare learners for real-world situations, such as configuring a Honeywell UDC 3500 for continuous pH control.

Learners using the T5554 will practice hands-on skills with actual industrial equipment they’ll encounter on the job, such as a PLC interface panel, metering pump, injector pump, continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR), pH transmitter, pH probe, reagent tank, and piping by-pass network. Skills learned include setting the injection ratio control for an eductor pump, installing a combination glass electrode, and calibrating a pH sensor module.

Pressure Process Control Learning System (T5555)

Amatrol’s Pressure Process Control Learning System (T5555) teaches valuable hands-on skills in a broad range of pressure process operations in both manual and automatic modes. For example, users can control liquid level and tank pressure simultaneously using a human machine interface (HMI), programmable automation controller (PAC), and variable frequency drive (VFD).

The T5555 also features a variety of other real industrial components learners will use on the job, including differential pressure sensors, proportional valves, and an industrial-grade VFD-controlled centrifugal pump. The exposed layout of the system allows users to easily observe and evaluate system operation and performance.

Customize Your Process Control Lab

Amatrol’s process control training systems are designed to be used individually to teach the specific process control skills they focus on. However, they can also be combined in a variety of ways to teach a custom combination of skills.

For example, you can connect two, three, or even all four systems together to teach control of an entire process control line. You can even control your custom combination of training systems with either an Allen-Bradley or Siemens PLC using Amatrol’s Programmable Controller Troubleshooting Learning System (890-PECB).

A Portable Process Control Training Solution

Not all educational institutions can set up a sophisticated process control lab right out of the gate. Budget constraints, space limitations, and the need to share equipment between multiple locations might call for a portable process control training solution.

Amatrol’s Portable Process Control Learning System – Level & Flow (990-PC1) covers the two most common process variables: level and flow. The durable, compact system features two portable consoles with a PID controller, operator controls, process meter, flow transmitter, water tanks, gauges, and more! Click the link below to watch a video highlighting the 990-PC1’s unique features:

Advanced Process Control Training in a Customizable System

Amatrol’s sister company, DAC Worldwide, also offers advanced process control training in a customizable system. DAC Worldwide’s 4-Variable Advanced Process Control Training System (603-000) provides hands-on training in the measurement and control of four of the most common process variables: level, flow, temperature, and pressure.

Up to six learners can use the trainer, which can be configured to create one complex process loop or two independent process systems. The trainer’s “open architecture” design allows for integration of a wide variety of different types of industrial-grade components and process control instrumentation. Click on the link below to watch a video highlighting the unique features of this system:

Need More Information?

How can educators equip a CTE lab to teach students the valuable process control skills they will need to succeed in the jobs of the future? It’s easier than you might think with the help of a trusted technical training partner like Amatrol.

Visit Amatrol’s Process Control page, click the “Request Info” button at the top of the page, and then fill out the “Contact Us” information on the right side of the page. In the “Message” box, simply indicate that you’re interested in learning more about Amatrol’s process control training systems and an Amatrol representative will contact you.

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

Created By
Duane Bolin