For today´s #pautomator, we spoke to Harshal Patil, Assistant Manager-Instrumentation, OPAL India. Patil has been working in the Oil & Gas industry for long and is skilled in process control, control systems design, SCADA, HMI, and Modbus. In this conversation, he highlights the challenges faced in the Oil & Gas industry, while discussing the automation projects he has been a part of. Read on to find out more...

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How did you build your career in this industry? How do you see the state of the Process Automation industry today?

I started my career as an application engineer at Schneider Electric, India. I used to develop the PLC, SCADA program, and later joined the maintenance field as an instrumentation engineer. This ultimately helped me to experience the role of the final control element, for example, field instruments. It is a perk to work in petrochemical industries since almost every type of instrument is available there.        

#pAutomator: Harshal Patil
#pAutomator: Harshal Patil, Operatorstations of Petrochemicals

What are the primary challenges you face in your industry?

The Process Automation industry is at its peak. It provides solutions to almost all kinds of processes. Every day, there is an update to its technology, making it easy to work on. Nowadays, every manufacturer wants his equipment to deliver the highest output with as little production cost as possible. At the same time, it must ensure the safety of facilities, workers and adhere to various safety and government norms. The Process Automation industry perfectly fulfils these expectations. With the latest technological development, it is possible to keep an eye on energy efficiency related factors.  

The cutting-edge technology and competition are forcing all Process Automation industries to keep developing a solution to every process-related issue, making life easier for manufacturers at very competitive pricing.  

It’s become really important to add more services to control system design today. What is your opinion on this?

Absolutely, I agree. Even after so much development in the automation field, we are yet to cover real ground. The more integrated the system, the more safe, more capable and flexible the system will be.

Shutdown and Predictive Maintenance have also emerged as important to minimizing hazardous risks on shop floors. What are the latest developments in this area?

Integrated Management systems, asset care management systems, SAP-based Predictive and Preventive Maintenance modules are a few examples of systems that are helping us to keep track and execute maintenance on schedule.

In today’s era of digitalization, and as technology is rapidly integrated elsewhere, maintenance departments are just now implementing PCs and related technology and software that is better, faster and cheaper.

Today, though, things are rapidly changing in the maintenance office. Smart, proactive maintenance managers are taking advantage of modern technologies to forecast, manage, and monitor maintenance activities. System integration with a cloud-based platform is the best example of it.

You have been a part of project implementation on process automation. Can you elaborate on this further?

Well, that was actually a brownfield project. One of our production parts was not in the automated system. It was in need of a number of IOs to take the whole system in existing DCS.

#pAutomator: Harshal Patil
#pAutomator: Harshal Patil, DCS controlling

In this scenario, I and my team were responsible for getting it automated and in-sync with the existing system. Some of the challenges that we faced during executing this project were:

  • Capex – budget estimation and approval
  • P&ID and as-built drawings for modification
  • Work without hampering the production as well as without  shutdown of the plant
  • Adhering to safety norms as well as company standards for project executions
  • Resource allocation, to manage all these activities at no extra cost
  • Listing and procuring all required material such as cables, DCS cards, wall mounted remote panels etc.

With proper planning along with team efforts, we were able to overcome all these challenges and execute the project within the stipulated time. We commissioned it and integrated the new production line with the highest level of automation i.e MES, Manufacturing Execution System.

As a team, we were also rewarded for commissioning the brownfield project.

Growth in the Oil & Gas sector has driven the industry to boost overall productivity and efficiency by upgrading existing automation systems or constructing new systems. Do you have any experiences of this you’d like to share?

Yes, indeed it was the best experience of my career so far.  It was an up-gradation to DCS system from PLC-based automation. The client was operating with 7 different PLCs. HMIs for each machine was limiting overall productivity, operation flexibility and various safety aspects.

#pAutomator: Harshal Patil
#pAutomator: Harshal Patil, Latest DCS

As a part of my role, we offered them a limited IOs-based DCS system and subsequently commissioned it onsite (their manufacturing facility). In fact, the day was one of the most memorable days for our team and client too. That is because it was a pleasant experience for him to operate and monitor all machinery from one place.

The overall up-gradation project helped our client increase his overall output, saving manpower cost and data logging -processing at one place. Most importantly, it helped to keep an eye on energy-efficiency with the help of complex statistics. The project helped us to bag a few more similar projects and we successfully commissioned all of them.  

How do you decide on selecting products from the multiple options available in the market today?

Though the financial aspect is a major consideration, product performance, including accuracy and technical specifications, weighed against our need for the product and after-sales service, are important criteria too.   

Going further, any mantras you do believe in…

Personally, I follow three rules to stick to throughout the life. They include: never forget the basics; update me on new technology advancement, and keep setting goals that will help one always move forward in life and career.

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