Concepts in Chemical Engineering – Problem Solving

Concepts in Chemical Engineering – Problem Solving


Hi, my name is (Brad S.) Penn State Chemical Engineering Graduate Year of 2005. Currently (worked) for (Las incorporated) and today we’re gonna cover the topic of problem solving. Along with a little example. So now here we are back at the comfort of my office to talk about the topic of
problem solving. And this is a very good skill that you’re going to use every day in the industry is a Chemical Engineer. Most of the time you’re going to be
solving problems with either a process itself. So temperature, chemistry, how to
make the desired product or the process equipment. There’s issue with a pump. The compressor, turban, what have you. Something’s not working right. There’s a
problem to solve. So what we’ll discuss now is kind of a general problem-solving methodology I use and a basic flow chart that works you through solving a problem systematically, which is what we’ll take a look at here next. So this is essentially the problem solving flow chart that I use and we’ll talk about each one of these steps here real quickly. So Step 1 is to define the problem. That’s nothing more than a brief statement of exactly what’s wrong. Also, good to define criticality; Is it a
safety issue? Is the problem causing an issue that has production down for some
reason that would get included into the problem statement as well. Step 2 is to do background research. Learn about the process or learn about the equipment that you’re having issues with. Talk to some of the senior engineers, experts at the plant that have
experience with it. Look up manuals, research files, all that
good stuff to understand what should be going on. Next Step Number 3 is specified requirements. You have a problem. How should it be acting? What do you need to do to fix it? What’s the end result or the goal that you’re trying to achieve with the problem solution? Step 4: Brainstorm, evaluate, and choose the solution. So you come up with a whole list. Involve several team members from the site. Everybody who needs to be involved to list out root causes of what could be causing the problem. How to fix those root causes and what to
go after in order to fix the situation, which then moves in to develop a
prototype the solution. So based on those lists of root causes,
pick whatever will fix the issue. Develop the prototype. Is it a new piece of equipment? Is it some process change adjusting a temperature? And prototype it and figure out how that’s going to be implemented. Next Step 6 is to test the
actual solution in real time in a plant. See if it solves the problem. See if it doesn’t. If it works, then you’re done. Move right on. Communicate the results to the pertinent plant members. If it doesn’t work; if it
fails completely or only partially works, it becomes kind of an (iterative) exercise
back to all these other steps right here to arrive at a different prototype, a different test, a different solution. So sometimes this can be circular for
quite some time until the definite root causes identified and you can move into
a successful solution. So that’s the general basis and general
flow chart for problem solving I use. Now let’s take a look at an actual example. Here’s our example problem. We have these particular pumps and we put these leak detection systems on the pump mechanical sealing housing. Mechanical seal being the device that holds the process fluid into the top as operates. We never had issues before, but ever since we put these in, the seals leaked all the time, which is rather unusual. So we did a whole lot of work. And we won’t go over all this, but as you can see a lot of work went into the problem
solving investigation. Only at the end to find out a leakage rate of up to three milliliters per hour is acceptable for the seal. So the seals were leaking all the time,
but we never noticed it because the liquid evaporate right away. And now we have these nice leak detection systems on here, which are capturing the liquid. Not allowing it to evaporate and telling us that we have a leak all the time. So we had to solve the problem to account for the normal leakage rate for the seal. And we’ll go take a look at how we did that quick next. Aright, here we are in the boiler room. Here is the pump in question. Here is the solution to the problem. In addition of the very small length of () that catch, normally (). What do we do? Out of this (vile), we drain the small amount of normal leakage out every shift. That’s how we solved the problem. Sometimes it doesn’t always have to be that complicated. I hope you enjoyed the video!