David W. Spitzer
David W. Spitzer

Were you ever proud of what you didn’t know?   

At a plant I worked at earlier in my career, the previous instrumentation engineer designed the instrumentation in one of the units. While anyone can find a few things to disagree with on any large project, my predecessor and the people in other disciplines designed the unit quite well—so well that the unit rarely exhibited operational problems. Pleased to not have problems with the unit, I was secretly proud to not know the details associated with the unit.

Other than a few periodic process and measurement upgrades, I recall being aware of only two operational problems during the 15 years I worked in that plant—both related to flowmeters. There may have been a few other minor issues and/or questions, but certainly nothing of significance. Learning about the unit in detail simply was not necessary—especially if one has the confidence and ability to solve the few problems that occasionally arise over the years.  

One of the two operational problems was that a particular flowmeter measured about 10 percent lower than it should have been; and this had been the case for years. The operators questioned the measurement, and sure enough documentation and process measurements bore them out as correct. Installing a new flowmeter (using the same technology) in a different orientation solved the problem.  
Problem No. 2 was being played out when I started working at the plant. It was more complicated and will take more than one article to describe.  

Many problems can be solved using basics—and many basics are comprised of relevant knowledge and the skill to use it. Knowing instrumentation, how to use plant measurements, and having the ability to understand Process and Instrumentation Drawings (P&ID), loop drawings, heat and material balances, operating procedures, safety procedures, hazard reviews, pump curves, etc., can provide you with the tools to effectively analyze operating problems.  

Are your skills in order? Can you be proud of something that you don’t know?

Look for more on “Problem No. 2” in the March issue.

RELATED: Read Part II in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part III in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part IV in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part V in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part VI in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part VII in the "Troubleshooting Operational Issues" Series

RELATED: Read Part VIII in the "Troubleshooting Operational Isssues" Series

RELATED: Read Part IX in the "Troubleshooting Operational Isssues" Series

RELATED: Read Part X in the "Troubleshooting Operational Isssues" Series

David W. Spitzer is a regular contributor to Flow Control magazine and a principal in Spitzer and Boyes, LLC offering engineering, seminars, strategic, marketing consulting, distribution consulting and expert witness services for manufacturing and automation companies.  Spitzer and Boyes is also the publisher of the Industrial Automation Insider. David can be reached at 845 623-1830.

Mr. Spitzer can be reached at 845 623-1830 or www.spitzerandboyes.com. Click on the “Products” tab to find his “Consumer Guides” to various flow and level measurement technologies.