AUTOMATION: Automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human organs of observation, effort, and decision. (Merriam-Webster)

STRATEGIC: Of great or vital importance within an integrated whole or to the taking place of a planned or unplanned occurrence. (Merriam-Webster)

Strategic automation requires a comprehensive plan for automating the entire plant. This master plan must be followed as individual areas are automated and incorporated into the overall plan. The master plan will set all the standards for process and instrument drawings, equipment identification, instrument tags, control systems, operator interface, and control room locations.

With a master plan the following advantages are realized;

* Newly automatedareas are easily integrated into the existing infrastructure.

* Fewer operators controlling multiple process areas from a single control room.

* Standardized operator interfaces minimize operator training and cross training.

* Maintenance personnel require less training because of common equipment.

* Spare parts inventories are reduced.

* Process changes or upsets can be sent throughout the system to adjust other affected areas.

* Monitoring and recording data from any area of the plant is easily accomplished.

Without a master plan none of the advantages are guaranteed. The cost to link and maintain different systems can be more expensive than the original cost of the system. Exchanging data between systems, or capturing and recording data across multiple systems can become very complex and expensive. Even the best designed, best of breed individual systems don’t always tie together to form a complete and comprehensive overall plant system.

Once the master plan is in place, all areas of a citrus plant can be automated. Some areas can be fully automated while others are better controlled by partial automation with enhanced information made available to the operators. Some decisions are driven by measurement instrument availability, while others are purely economical. The ultimate goals are better and more consistent product quality with fewer operating personnel, a process that responds automatically plant wide to changes, and data gathering to monitor and improve your entire process. This paper will address the typical process areas in a citrus plant and discuss viable control techniques as they apply to each area. It will also discuss the interactions between processing areas and the monitoring of the plant as a whole.

Paper published with permission.

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