ULTRAMAX-Advanced Process Management


-- Technical Summary    

Advanced Process Management™ (APM™) 

©2008 by Ultramax Corporation, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.  All rights reserved.

If you want to generate more value (as you define it) with your current equipment,
consider a superior toolset for Managing its Operations

“OPTIMIZATION is a matter of ATTITUDE and TECHNOLOGY” C. W. Moreno, Industrial Engineer

Production / Manufacturing Operations

The basic situation and opportunities in industry are:  

·        Operations of each production process are managed through its Process Control System (PCS), including those with Advanced Process Control (APC).  A PCS incorporates: regulatory process control (that maintains controlled variables close to setpoints, the desired values); and sometimes supervisory control logic (that automatically adjusts setpoints depending on conditions).  This is part of the infrastructure that enables production.

·        Plant personnel manage production / manufacturing with the existing infrastructure -- to get more of what they want with more certainty -- by tuning up the adjustments of: setpoints; biases (to refine the adjustments made by the control logic); and sometimes manual adjustments.  These adjustment decisions are sometimes made in response to changes in conditions or requirements, or to learn how to do better. 

The objectives usually include reliability meeting safety, capacity, contractual and regulatory constrains, and the balanced of various other performance metrics -- including being closer to targets for downstream variables outside the scope of the single loop or multi-variable regulatory control in the PCS.  The balance of the “other” performance metrics can be the sum of the short and long-term impacts to the P&L bottom line; and for when this economic analysis is not practical, Ultramax offers an proven quasi-economic analysis based on informed opinions at the plant. 

Optimal Performance Operations is to run production generating the best possible outcomes by applying the best operating decisions: the adjustments.  Achieving this is way above optimal regulatory control. 

Optimal Performance Operations has the immediate benefit of making the achievement of plant commitments easier (even as important uncontrolled conditions change and when pushing the envelope), and long-term by enabling the company to derive longer lasting profits from this production.  Also, it sharpens the discovery of barriers and opportunities.  Optimization can be achieved with a particular mind-set at the plant floor, maintained by upper management, and enabled by optimization technology.

Optimal Performance Operations Technology

Ultramax® includes multi-input and multi-output software that learns how to manage quantitatively the set of all adjustments collectively to optimize production operations performance according the set of all objectives and metrics selected by the user.  The optimum may be dynamic as conditions and requirements change. 

Ultramax hovers above the Process Control System under user control, sensing and guiding production operations within prescribed limits – sometimes discovering truly unexpected performance gains.

It works best for repetitive normal operations, usually excluding startups, change-overs, cleaning, maintenance, etc.  

As compared to most other solutions which focus on improvements in equipment and controls systems (i.e., the infrastructure), Ultramax is management-centered, an Industrial Engineering tool, to best use the infrastructure. 

For just optimization studies it is significantly more effective than using Design of Experiments (DOE) – both in reach and in the number of production runs (experiments for DOE).  For on-line dynamic optimization (for changing conditions and business needs) it automates aspects of supervisory control with great advantages over Neural Networks and First-principle simulation models.

Gains generated in a great variety of high-volume industries usually range from a few $100K to a few $1M annually per process in tangible improvements; and historically only 1% of processes were operating near optimally. 


Operational Performance is measured by metrics that you define based on data that you collect.  As necessary, Ultramax offers excellent options for you to create common-sense, holistic metrics so that calculated improvements are true bottom-line, avoiding hidden undesirable effects.  For example it can easily include the (increasing) unit costs of energy, and impacts related to quality and consistency. 

Ultramax uses a powerful and autonomous analytical intelligence technology, a proprietary Sequential Empirical Optimization (SEO).  The SEO cycles of Adjust, Run & Get Data, Learn, Advise makes fine re-adjustments every 10 min to two hours in continuous processes -- or every batch.  It performs self-learning optimization.  Starting from current adjustments, the periodic, modulated adjustments extrapolate quickly and safely towards an optimum.  SEO optimizes faster  (fewer readjustments) than other empirical technologies because:  

(A)               It learns immediately from the information in the collected operating data – rather than waiting for the collection of a lot of data to be processed later. 

(B)               It can be started right away -- rather than waiting until the creation of theoretical or empirical models, which is aggravated by the high costs in manpower and/or in making experimental and validation runs with poor performance.  

SEO is data driven and useful when performance can be measured readily.  All processes with which one can exchange data (even manually) can be optimized as completely as the reproducibility of the data.

“If it can be measured, it can be optimized.™”

With Ultramax you will be able to get profitability gains that are being wasted otherwise. 

On-line applications have interface or integration with the PCS for automatic data exchange (OPC, uni- or bi-directional) to reduce work and human errors.  The plant can select Advisory optimization (where operators need to approve the re-adjustments), or autonomous Closed-Loop optimization for further reduced drudgery after being satisfied with the reliability of the application.  Closed-Loop reverts to Advisory if it detects abnormal or undesirable data, to inform operators right away for awareness, and perhaps prevention for future reliability. 

A unique feature applying Ultramax to manage production operations is: it does not require changes to the process hardware or its controls; it is a “soft” solution; it leaves the infrastructure intact; and you remain in full control.  Using Ultramax will not delay any improvement projects on your production assets, and now it is extremely simple to re-start.  

If optimal operations are not satisfactory for the business, then the process (equipment and/or control system) needs to be improved.  That is, the non-intrusive Ultramax hovering above the process control system enables you to determine that situation, but it will resolve only those barriers that can be solved with better process adjustments. 

Summary of Unique Features of Ultramax

The most distinguishing differences vs. alternate solutions (from Automation, Control, and/or other Optimization suppliers) are:

1.  Since the start of an optimization study or an on-line implementation it both optimizes the fastest and safest.  It also maximizes cumulative performance. 

2.  It is the simplest optimization technology to implement and maintain – e.g., its Suppliers only need to have general knowledge about production operations, not especial process expertise.

3.  It optimizes while engaging in regular operations: it does not require performing non-productive, disruptive or expensive experimental or validation runs.

4.  It is Non-Intrusive – it does not require changes to legacy process equipment or control system.

5.  It performs full, non-linear, multivariable, balanced optimization of all performance metrics, even of those affected but not controlled directly by the PCS.

6.  Because it is non-intrusive, generic and full-featured, the software does not require customization, and thus training is straight-forward and total costs are highly competitive. 

7.  For the same reasons, maintenance and reconfigurations for changes in the optimization scope can be fully in the hands of the user.  However we offer on-site support such as training, guidance and reviews, plus remote support.

8.  It can be applied in three optimization modes: stand-alone advisory, integrated advisory (one and bi-directional interface), and closed-loop; and users can readily change from one mode to the other – users are always in full control.  It can even be turned off so users can continue with the old PCS but now with enhanced awareness and knowledge, as happens with Studies.

Process Improvements and Optimization

At any time, you may decide to fix problems or upgrade the equipment (the infrastructure).  If you require outside experts for these improvements you will need a different kind of supplier than Ultramax Corporation, such as suppliers of equipment, engineering, instrumentation, automation and controls (as some Ultramax Agencies are).

After any such changes, since Ultramax is a generic optimizer, it is fully applicable to optimize the new operations.  Even if the equipment already includes some optimization tools, Ultramax is likely to still deliver more value because of its ability to define and approach a holistic optimum – or it could prove that operations are optimal as far as the data can tell. 

We propose Ultramax as your company’s standard method to optimize and/or manage production operations, at least for the bottleneck processes. 

Ultramax Corporation and its Agencies welcome the opportunity to exchange insights and to clarify any issues.  Ultramax contributes to best business practices.