#pAutomator: Lucas Jang, Hi-tech Engineering, Korea
We recently spoke to Lucas Jang, Instrument Engineer at Hi-tech Engineering, Korea, for our #pAutomator interview. In this discussion, Jang gives us a detailed evaluation of things to consider while choosing the right device for the right application.
Yang is currently involved in the design automation work being carried out by his company. Excerpts from the interview are below…
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What made you become an Instrument Engineer? Looking back, how do you describe your journey in the industry?
My dream was to become an engineer right from my childhood. Back then, I didn’t know exactly what an Engineer did. I was just one of those boys who liked taking apart electric gadgets.
Sure, I didn’t succeed at assembling most of them again. But I did wonder about the structure of electrical and mechanical items. So, I studied Mathematics and Engineering, specifically Electronics and Communication, at the university.
I’ve lived in Yeosu city, Korea since I was born. Here, there are many industrial complexes, such as petrochemical and oil refineries. So it was not too hard to find an Engineering company to work for.
When I started to work at Hi-Tech Engineering, I was just a person who edited drawings with CAD for two years. If I had to only do this here, I might be doing something else right now.
In my early years as an Engineer, I met with a Process Engineer and my teacher. At that time, my teacher thought about how to construct a loop by writing down the control concept he wanted. I remember it was about using cascade control to keep the level of multiple columns constant.
At that moment, I realized what an Instrument Engineer did. I realized that designing instrumentation is a very interesting and valuable field.
Fortunately, our company has grown up from a detail design company to an EPC company. This has expanded my scope of work. I’ve participated not only in design drawing, but also in designing control systems, selecting and purchasing instruments, and supervising.
I’ve been working here for over 14 years and have experienced both big and small projects. So far, there is no easy project. However, the charms of engineering have led me, and a lot of my colleagues helped me as well.
Can you tell us more about your current role in your company? What are the target markets you cater to?
Our company is a complete engineering company. This includes process, electrical, piping, civil & structure, instrument, mechanical, and safety engineering. As a part of the instrument team, I’m leading projects and working together with three to four assistant engineers.
Nowadays, I am involved in the Design Automation that the company carries out. It has been developed and we are now using it for our first project. Depending on the project, you may see 15-30 kinds of product designs.
As you know, all deliverables are not made up of independent values. The same value appears repeatedly. We started with the goal of reducing errors and improving the quality by entering the same value once.
Then, we needed to rearrange the format of the products, such as the datasheets we use because each property has the same meaning, but it has been expressed differently or vice versa.
Since we are in the early stages of rearranging these properties in the automation program, one stage was clearly to define the difference between the nominal range and calibrated range.
There are similar solutions, such as Intergraph’s SPI and AVEVA’s AI. However, they are too restrictive to meet the needs of various customers. We have taken the first step to get a faster, more accurate, and more convenient way to meet the needs of any customer.
How do you help customers choose the right instrument for the right application? What are the major customer queries that you need to address?
Choosing the right instrument is one of the hardest things we’ll ever encounter as an Engineer. It is also one of the most important things. Of course, there are already known applications that can help us a lot. However, the problem we face is cost and quality.
We must compromise and decide according to our budget. There is a proverb in Korea: “Other things being equal, choose the better one.” But, as we know, it’s not that simple.
First, accuracy is guaranteed for long periods of time and measurements must be possible. To do this, we need an accurate process analysis with local ambient conditions.
We should check various properties, such as temperature, pressure, flow rate, specific gravity and viscosity, and molecular weight in the case of gas. According to the result of an analysis, we choose the material, nominal range, a variety of types and so on.
Also, depending on the type of weather conditions, we may need the supply of utility service, such as instrument air, heat source, AC power, etc.
Next is the purpose. We have to consider whether the customer needs to monitor it for reference, control it, transfer-custody, and so on. Depending on the various conditions considered in the above two steps, we can select the appropriate instrument for turn-down or range ability.
Of course, we have to decide everything within the limits of the local regulations. These may be high-pressure gas safety law, industrial safety and health law, and environmental conservation law, etc. Because if you ignore the law, you will have to pay the enormous price.
Actually, there are other things that customers consider more important. It should be easy to diagnose faults and be easy to repair. If repair or replacement is possible without stopping the plant, customers will save a lot of money. Every project presents the work of solving all these problems within the budget.
What are the primary challenges you face in your industry? Can you share any experiences where you succeeded in solving an interesting customer query?
Traditional solutions often solve the major problems and difficulties in the industrial field. In other words, most problems arise because of a lack of experience and information.
We collect reference information from third parties or engineering handbooks and provide solutions to them. Sometimes, in difficult processes, most users want to solve the problem by replacing the instrument itself. But they soon realize this method’s limitations.
At first, I contact vendors or the manufacturer’s technical team. But most answers are impossible. I can share an experience to illustrate this:
A mass flowmeter is installed in the piping with high viscous fluid service. When the flow stops, the temperature drops and residual fluid solidifies in the flowmeter. The customer used heat tracing to protect the flowmeter from the solidified fluid. However, one can only apply the mass flowmeter to indirect heating.
They couldn’t change the type, because they needed a mass value of flow and to apply another type was impossible. But surprisingly, the answer was simple. It came from a Piping Engineer, not an Instrumentation Engineer. It was to change the piping structure or to add the purge system.
After this experience, I realized that the industry always releases new things. Even if new problems arise, there are answers. We are not alone, but together.
What are your expectations for the Global Industrial Automation Market in upcoming years? What will the market drivers be?
I’m interested in MR (Mixed Reality). A few years ago, I went into the field as a supervisor in the EPC project I was involved in. I was used to having a smart pad for getting information immediately when I need to verify somethings.
However, no matter how good the performance of the tablet, it was too inconvenient to see the 3D model on the 2D display. But I expect MR technology to address this inconvenience.
In addition, we can think of combining the HMI composed of 2D GRAPHIC with the already designed 3D. This way, we can collect various operation data through MR, or check various problems under the same conditions as in the field.
If a process point is in a dangerous area, it will become more and more necessary to develop technology to address this. This is because it may be able to protect us from unexpected accidents more than before.
Moving ahead, what would be your advice to the next generation of engineers?
I often give a few pieces of advice to my colleagues and myself. I’d like to share three of these with the next generation of engineers.
First: When I don’t know anything, asking becomes a medicine, but indifference becomes a poison by neglecting. Asking questions is very important. More new technology will appear in the future, and we have to adapt to it.
To do this, we need to learn the past more quickly than our seniors did it and prepare for a new future. There is nothing as efficient as asking. Of course, we will need to know exactly what to ask, based on the existing data in lots of technical books.
And second, I’d like to say: Look before you leap. Because human error is making a mistake we already have. So, we always have to verify that what we know is right.
Finally, some advice from the retired seniors: Always keep your health. That’s so we can enjoy the work of Engineering for a long time.