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Process Control: A Relevant Approach

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

ChE: Innovation in Existing Courses

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1026.1 - 11.1026.16



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Paper Authors


Barry Barkel University of Michigan

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Lecturer in Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

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Peter Woolf University of Michigan

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Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Information from many sources, including both new and past graduates, employers and even from a sitting chairman of the AIChE, suggested that the process control course at the University of Michigan was not relevant to the workplace that our graduates were entering. We also conducted interviews with experts actually practicing control engineering in chemical process systems. These sources confirmed the comments we had received. All sources, however, indicated that there are several aspects of process control that graduates do need to know and that these areas were not being covered by current course work.

Based on inputs that the course content provided few useful skills to our students, serious consideration s given to dropping the process control course from the required curriculum. Dropping this course would eliminate the wasted time and energy students spent in a nonproductive pursuit and allow inclusion of new courses in the required curriculum. An alternate proposal involved creating a new course that met the needs of students by including those skills that had been identified as having value in today’s workplace. Because the authors felt strongly that graduating engineers must be able to control the processes they designed or managed, we undertook the task of redesigning the process control course.


Several elements of process control were identified as relevant to basic understanding of the material and needed to be included in the new process control course:

• A knowledge of sensors and control devices: • Reading and creating P & IDs for process systems • Developing control “philosophies” and strategies • Control in biological systems • Writing control logic for process systems • Mathematical modeling of process systems • Dynamic modeling of real systems • Understanding of convergence, stability and response of systems • PID controllers and their tuning • Statistical process control

The design task for the new course was to cover the above material adequately, within a 15-week term, and to do so in a manner that that had flow and continuity. In addition, each section should relate in a logical way.

To accommodate this material, we developed the course plan listed in Table 1. In comparison to the more traditional course plan that we followed previously, this course represents a significant deviation, both in terms of content and emphasis.

Barkel, B., & Woolf, P. (2006, June), Process Control: A Relevant Approach Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--711

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