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1. The Excitement of Control Engineering

1.5.11 Cost-Benefit Analysis

While we are on the subject of ensuring best return for a given amount of effort, it is important to raise the issue of benefits analysis. Control engineering, in common with all other forms of engineering, depends on being able to convince management that there is an attractive cost-benefit trade-off in a given project. Payback periods in modern industries are often as short as 6 months, and thus this aspect requires careful and detailed attention. Typical steps include the following:

  • assessing the range of control opportunities;
  • developing a short list for closer examination;
  • deciding on a project with high economic or environmental impact;
  • consulting appropriate personnel (management, operators, production staff, maintenance staff, etc.);
  • identifying the key action points;
  • collecting base-case data for later comparison;
  • deciding on revised performance specifications;
  • updating actuators, sensors, etc.;
  • developing algorithms;
  • testing the algorithms via simulation;
  • testing the algorithms on the plant by using a rapid prototyping system;
  • collecting preliminary performance data for comparison with the base case;
  • final implementation;
  • collecting final performance data;
  • final reporting on project.