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Industrial automation process

My statement "the time it takes to start or stop a process is immaterial' is somewhat out of context. The complete thought is" the time it takes to start or stop a process is immaterial to the categorization of that process into either the continuous type or the discrete type" which is how this whole discussion got started.

I have the entirely opposite view of automation. "A fundamental practice when designing a process is to identify bottlenecks in order to avoid unplanned shutdowns".

Don't forget that the analysis should include the automatic control system. This word of advice is pertinent to whichever "camp" you chose to join.

Just as you have recognized the strong analogies and similarities between "controlling health care systems" and "controlling industrial systems", there are strong analogies between so-called dissimilar industries as well between the camp which calls itself "discrete" and the camp which waves the "continuous" flag.

You may concern about the time it takes to evaluate changes in parameter settings for your cement kiln is a topic involving economic risks which could include discussions of how mitigate these risks, such as methods of modeling the virtual process for testing and evaluation rather than playing with a real world process. This is applicable to both "camps".

The same challenge of starting up/shutting down your cement kiln is the same challenge of starting up/shutting down a silicon crystal reactor or wafer processing line in the semiconductor industry. The time scales may be different, but the economic risks may be the same -- if not more -- for the electronics industry.

I am continuously amazed at how I can borrow methods from one industry and apply them to another. For example, I had a project controlling a conveyor belt at a coal mine which was 2.5 miles long – several millions of pounds of belting, not to mention the coal itself! The techniques I developed for tracking the inventory of coal on this belt laid the basis for the techniques I used to track the leading and trailing edge of bread dough on a conveyor belt 4 feet long. We used four huge 5KV motors and VFDs at the coal mine compared to a single 0.75 HP 480 VAC VFD at the bakery, and startups/shutdowns were order of magnitudes different, but the time frame was immaterial to what the controls had to do and the techniques I applied to do the job.

I once believed that I needed to be in a particular industry in order to feel satisfied in my career. What I found out is that I have a passion for automation which transcends the particular industry I am in at the moment and this has led to a greater appreciation of the various industrial cultures which exist and greater enjoyment practicing my craft.

So these debates about discrete vs. continuous don't affect me in the least. My concern is that the debates may impair other more impressionable engineers from realizing a more fulfilling career by causing them to embrace one artificial camp over the other. Therefore, my only goal of engaging in this debate is to challenge any effort at erecting artificial walls which unnecessarily drive a damaging wedge between us.

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