“Creative” Control Solutions: Slam Dunk or Risky Scheme?

One of the things we love at Revere is having the chance to come up with creative solutions for our customers. Unfortunately, when it comes to automation and control systems integration, some people view creative solutions as a “risky scheme”. This feeling is understandable, because above all else, a business needs their equipment up and running safely and reliably. Thankfully, because of the extensive skills and experience of my 100+ technical colleagues, creative solutions don’t have to be risky.

Recently, one of our major power generation customers ran into an issue that had them stumped. They were confronted with the need to maintain steady control of pH in a single effluent stream that was fed by multiple influent streams with unpredictable flow and initial pH. Traditional control strategies were unable to control the pH within an acceptable band, and it was costing the customer significant money in wasted treatment chemicals, so they asked us for help.

One of our team members suggested using a control theory called Model-Free Adaptive (MFA) control. MFA control is an AI application that essentially learns the variables involved and, given the desired output, builds a custom control model, constantly honing it as it runs. MFA is not a new solution, but not an especially common one; it wasn’t known and hadn’t been used by this client before. We’ve found that “had not been used before” can be interpreted as a “risky scheme” as well, but they trusted us to give it a shot.

Over the course of two weeks we developed a proof of concept to use MFA controls for the PLCs in their application. On paper, MFA controls were perfect for the customer’s needs, and they approved the installation. Within a few days, it was obvious that the MFA control system was working exactly as planned. It monitored the flow and pH of the influent streams and built a model that tightened the pH output deviation range substantially. The chemical cost savings alone will produce full payback of the system in less than six months, and unlike in previous systems, there’s been zero need to take the system out of automatic for retuning, saving on maintenance and engineering costs as well. The risky, unknown, creative approach has created a major financial advantage for the customer.

As an independent systems integrator, creative solutions are the heart and soul of our business. We have the freedom and knowledge to find truly the best solution for our customers’ needs, and we never get tired of watching our brilliant people guide our customer’s journey from problem to idea to solution to results.