One of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Frank Capra holiday classic. To me, it’s a heartwarming story about the tangible and intangible ways that each of us touches other people’s lives. One common complaint I’ve heard from detractors is that George Bailey’s effect on those he knows and even the fictional community of Bedford Falls is melodramatic. I disagree. As an armchair student of human factors engineering, I know that even small misfits between man and technology can have considerable impacts. Certainly, man’s potential impact on man is as significant, even given his ability to adapt to changing conditions. Adaptability -- the ability to adjust oneself readily to different conditions -- is what allowed Bedford Falls, albeit as Pottersville, to exist without George Bailey, but as a much different community.

In this issue ofProcess Heating, the ability to change (or be changed) to fit changed circumstances -- at least as it applies to temperature and process control -- is the focus of “Adapt, Adjust and Achieve,” an article from Dave Meyers, a regional applications engineer at St. Louis-based Watlow. Adaptive tuning adjusts a controller’s settings to the dynamics of the process being controlled and will tune “on the fly,” responding to certain process criteria. (What it responds to is determined by the adaptive algorithm being used.) When applied properly, adaptive tuning can help control hard-to-tune process loops or tune a “typical” process loop more precisely.

A predictive maintenance program can help you adapt to changing conditions in your ovens, furnaces and boilers by detecting and allowing you to prevent imminent failures that could lead to the shutdown of critical process equipment. “Inspecting Ovens, Furnaces and Boilers,” an article from Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash., describes how thermal imaging can be used to monitor the condition of ovens and boilers, capturing two-dimensional images of the temperature profiles of objects.

Thermal imaging also might be useful for detecting hot spots in mica-insulated band heaters. Most band heaters do not “burn out”; instead, environmental factors create a short, cause hot spots to develop, or simply push the heater beyond its normal operating temperature. “Using Mica Band Heaters Effectively,” an article from National Plastic Heater Sensor & Control Inc., Scarborough, Ontario, explains how to minimize these environmental factors and potentially reduce the frequency of replacing band heaters in your operation.

Elsewhere in this issue, David J. Reynolds, an engineer at Aeroglide Corp., Cary, N.C., weighs the potential benefits and pitfalls of dryer refurbishments, upgrades and expansions. If your dryer is creating production bottlenecks, “Expand Your Business by Expanding Your Dryer” explains how an upgrade, refurbishment or expansion can deliver the production capacity you need.

Finally, in “Comparing Air Pollution Control Systems,” the Industrial Air Correction Division of Catalytic Combustion Corp., Bloomer, Wis., provides a comparison of the control systems available to remediate process emissions. Each type has advantages and disadvantages that help lend it to particular applications.