Passing plant knowledge to the next generation

How do communication and problem-solving skills differ from generation to generation?

By Greg McMillan

The process control knowledge gained over four decades of experience is largely gone thanks to retirements. For example, I am the only person from Monsanto's Engineering Technology still practicing dynamic modeling and control, and some may ask "practicing what?" since I am largely retired from active duty. The problem really hit home when I asked the biggest names in process control technology — Charlie Cutler, Béla Lipták, Bill Luyben and Greg Shinskey — to be keynote speakers at ISA Automation Week 2011 and found out they are or will soon be octogenarians.

This is good news in terms of longevity, but a red flag in terms of losing access to incredible knowledge. To add insult to injury, many of the books I consider my core knowledge are now out of print. To avoid a relegation of innovation in the automation profession to moving and manipulating data, we need to find out how to nurture and expand control expertise by better communication between generations. More specifically, how do we help the new generation of automation engineers benefit from the legacy and move the profession forward?

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