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What Is Advanced Process Control?

By Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Updated May 17, 2024
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Advanced process control (APC) is the application of a broad range of disciplines and technologies to either refine process control or address a specific issue associated with a process. Interdisciplinary in nature, APC draws knowledge in its application from statistics, decision theory, engineering, signal processing and artificial intelligence. Most often it is leveraged to solve process control issues that have multiple variables or problems that are detached from the control process. To accomplish its intended objectives, an APC technology is usually linked with the distributed control system (DCS) that controls the process. Due to its inherent tendencies to solve issues that have multiple variables, advanced process control is used in a variety of industries.

Typically in process control, a distributed control system is used to control a process whether in a factory or in a laboratory. Distributed control system means that the components of the system are spread out throughout the entire process, each with varying degrees of function. An advanced process control tool is typically hooked into the distributed control system through established communication protocols or a software interface. During this exchange of communication, the APC will keep track of all information sent to the regulatory controls of the DCS to help isolate a problem or calculate the different variables manifested in an issue. Standard APCs utilized include statistical process control units, feedback units and predictive control units among others, depending on the tester’s objective.

Within a diverse range of industries and process functions, advanced process control is deployed on a regular basis to facilitate production. Industries that manufacturer chemical products or refine various raw materials leverage APC to tackle issues that tend to have multiple variables. Other industries, such as manufacturers of semiconductors, will use APC to solve complex process control issues associated with multiple starting points in the manufacturing process. As well, industries like mining have deployed APC to further refine process control alongside established process control technology already at use in the industry.

Overall, the objective of advance process control is to improve the performance of control over processes that contribute to production. Exerting consistent control over such process not only helps to facilitate the production process, but also helps to make the outcomes of production more predictable. Optimizing the production process as well helps to eliminate waste that occurs when processes have to be rerun. Elimination of such wastage further reduces the overall cost in the manufacturing process.

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