How to set a plant Performance supervision framework (PSF) ?

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In this article I will discuss the dilemma of industrial process optimization as in most of the cases the common optimization target is to increase the throughput (production rate) without considering other constrains or drawbacks as increasing the operation cost (unfeasible operation) or shortening equipment’s life time (running outside operating envelop). Also I will discuss the proposed practical solution to solve this problem.


By definition Process optimization is the discipline of adjusting a process so as to optimize some specified set of parameters without violating some constraint. The most common goals are minimizing cost and maximizing throughput and/or efficiency.

Fundamentally, there are three areas that can be adjusted to affect optimal performance. They are:

·       Equipment optimization – Running the equipment inside the operating envelop and near best performance point (BPP) or best efficiency point (BEP) is the optimum case but unfortunately this is not the common case for several reasons as (overcapacity design or running at capacity more than the maximum design capacity).

·       If it is needed to optimize the equipment the first step is to verify that the existing equipment is being used to its fullest advantage by examining operating data to identify equipment bottlenecks then see if it can be retrofitted or not.

·    Operating procedures – Operating procedures may vary widely from person-to-person or from shift-to-shift. Automation of the plant can help significantly. But automation will be of no help if the operators take control and run the plant in manual.

·       Control optimization – In a typical processing plant, such as a chemical plant or oil refinery, there are hundreds or even thousands of control loops. Each control loop is responsible for controlling one part of the process, such as maintaining a temperature, level, or flow.

If the control loop is not properly designed and tuned, the process runs below its optimum. The process will be more expensive to operate, and equipment will wear out prematurely. For each control loop to run optimally, identification of sensor, valve, and tuning problems is important. It has been well documented that over 35% of control loops typically have problems.

The problem

From the above background we can notice the importance of human contribution in optimization areas. In other words the mindset that adjusts the operation parameters will decide the operation mentality and if there is no process of continuously monitoring and optimizing (Performance supervision) the operation parameters will be drifted from the optimum operating zone.

In some plants clash could happen between the different mindsets that is trying to control the operation parameters and those are:

1.    Operation team: wants to tune the plant parameters to keep the plant running at maximum output regardless the operational cost or asset integrity.

2.    Maintenance team: wants to run the equipment inside their operating envelop to secure assets integrity, equipment’s lifetime and maintenance cost.

3.    Process team: wants to run the plant parameters close to design conditions and reduce operation cost as much as possible to increase overall profit.

Proposed solution:

To properly coordinate between all those mindsets for the best interest of the plant, they should work closely in a well-defined framework called Performance supervision framework (PSF) that will insure the required targets of all groups are met with no risk on plant lifetime, profit and asset integrity.

This frame work is a committee or a task force consists of all related stakeholders representatives (operations, process, mechanical, rotating equipment, piping and instruments engineers) and led by a senior management member with technical background.

Performance supervision framework (PSF)

·       The team will have a regular meeting where each member will provide his concern or proposals to tune the existing operation parameters according to concerns from his point of view.

·       The revealed concern to be discussed with other stakeholders for their feedback.

·       Further improvement as tuning the parameters for best energy consumption with the help of any optimization tool can be proposed by process team and discussed in this committee then implementation plan to be decided.

·       The committee to report to top management on monthly basis the following:

·       Their activities, findings and recommendations.

·       Proposals for the future feasible studies or required tools to enhance process optimization.


As they said together we can do more, and cooperation between all stakeholders for any subject will definitely be the correct way to add value as no one alone has the full and the right point of view.

Your comments or opinion regarding this subject will be highly welcomed and I will be glad to discuss it more with you if required.

All my best wishes of success for you all.

Proposed further reading in this subject:

How could plant engineers increase their company’s profit?

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Magdy Aly

Energy manager, Energy efficiency consultant Passionate to help others to save Energy and Environment.

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