Contributions to the Use of Statistical Methods for Improving Continuous Production

Abstract: Complexity of production processes, high computing capabilities, and massive datasets characterize today’s manufacturing environments, such as those of continuous andbatch production industries. Continuous production has spread gradually acrossdifferent industries, covering a significant part of today’s production. Commonconsumer goods such as food, drugs, and cosmetics, and industrial goods such as iron,chemicals, oil, and ore come from continuous processes. To stay competitive intoday’s market requires constant process improvements in terms of both effectivenessand efficiency. Statistical process control (SPC) and design of experiments (DoE)techniques can play an important role in this improvement strategy. SPC attempts toreduce process variation by eliminating assignable causes, while DoE is used toimprove products and processes by systematic experimentation and analysis. However,special issues emerge when applying these methods in continuous process settings.Highly automated and computerized processes provide an exorbitant amount ofserially dependent and cross-correlated data, which may be difficult to analyzesimultaneously. Time series data, transition times, and closed-loop operation areexamples of additional challenges that the analyst faces.The overall objective of this thesis is to contribute to using of statisticalmethods, namely SPC and DoE methods, to improve continuous production.Specifically, this research serves two aims: [1] to explore, identify, and outlinepotential challenges when applying SPC and DoE in continuous processes, and [2] topropose simulation tools and new or adapted methods to overcome the identifiedchallenges.The results are summarized in three appended papers. Through a literaturereview, Paper A outlines SPC and DoE implementation challenges for managers,researchers, and practitioners. For example, problems due to process transitions, themultivariate nature of data, serial correlation, and the presence of engineering processcontrol (EPC) are discussed. Paper B further explores one of the DoE challengesidentified in Paper A. Specifically, Paper B describes issues and potential strategieswhen designing and analyzing experiments in processes operating under closed-loopcontrol. Two simulated examples in the Tennessee Eastman (TE) process simulatorshow the benefits of using DoE techniques to improve and optimize such industrialprocesses. Finally, Paper C provides guidelines, using flow charts, on how to use thecontinuous process simulator, “The revised TE process simulator,” run with adecentralized control strategy as a test bed for developing SPC and DoE methods incontinuous processes. Simulated SPC and DoE examples are also discussed.