28 Aug

Businesses Seek Automation to Stay Competitive

Automation expenditures in the process industry are expected to soar to $7 billion by 2016 in the food and beverage industry alone, according to an article published in Process Magazine. As business do all they can to be more competitive and profitable, optimization of the process – including product creation and packaging – is ever more essential. Lag in the plant is unacceptable.

Specifically, the industry is turning for automation to assist in cost containment, time profitability and even sustainability and waste reduction. These last couple are sure to carry a lot of weight as the price of producing and using energy rises. In addition, people have become increasingly aware of the sustainability, or lack thereof, that a business’s uses throughout its processes. All these and more contribute to a growing need for superior automation.

There is another side to this story that is not being told. As technology moves forward at an ever increasing pace, companies are doing all they can to acquire the latest and greatest in order to stay competitive. Time spent adjusting and tweaking the process of a system is time that is not being spent on other areas of the business, such as innovation. America has always been a land that produces some of the greatest inventors and Synergy aims to keep it that way.

We specialize in the process optimization, in addition to providing repairs and replacements for the boilers that are so often responsible for plant energy generation. Our goals are yours. While we always strive to assist our clients in creating the most using the least amount of energy, are biggest concern is that our solutions and services help you achieve your goals. Not only do we create solutions customized to your needs, we do so in such a way that the majority of our solutions produce a return on investment in under a year. After construction and installation, we continue to stand by our clients through safety and business focused services.

Automation is a significant investment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Companies need to consider all that goes into upgrades and new systems. Moreover, they should partner with someone who has their best interest in line. Contact one of our process and combustion experts today to see if Synergy can help you meet your goals and remain ever competitive in business.




21 Aug

Do Not Let the Flash and Glamour Fool You

Do Not Let the Flash and Glamour Fool You

Long-time employees of a plant tend to feel anxiety when word of technological upgrades starts to circulate. A recent Control Engineering article mentions that IT professionals tend to be young and used to the latest and greatest platform. The older operators in the plant aren’t nearly as enthused about new technology if the old technology does the job just as well. While there are certainly reasons to upgrade plant technology, decisions about what to do should be made with optimization as the core goal.

Synergy rarely values technology based on how new it happens to be. Instead, we concern ourselves with providing services and solutions that generate the outcome for the client. If technology provided needs to work with other equipment in the plant, then we will find what fits. There are many cases where the latest and greatest technology is also the best to install, just as it may be more financially reasonable to replace a part that only has a few years left in it then to try and find technology that will work with the old part.

Old and new are relative. Functionality, optimization and monetary savings are where true value shows itself. Our professionals are intimately familiar with the operations of a plant and build for functionality first. As a result, many of our services have a return on investment that takes less than a year.

In a world that has become fascinated with the glitz and glamour of graphics and speed, too often we forget about the true purpose of control systems and HMI. Make sure the technology installed in your plant is more than the latest and greatest. Make sure it benefits your needs and goals as well.

There is a lot out there to consider in the world of technology. Feel free to contact our expert combustion engineers to discuss the optimal way you can achieve your business objectives.



14 Aug

Is it Time for DCS Migration?

InTech estimates more than 10 million DCS input/output (I/O) points will need to put updated over the next decade. There is a lot of work to be done in the industrial world to migrate these points to an updated and optimized system. Before an outdated system causes major harm, a plan for migration should be put in place.

There are 10 areas Intech recommends you consider in deciding whether or not it is time to migrate, most of which involve how your current DCS is affecting your business. If your performance, security or ability to interconnect with third-party systems is compromised, it is time to consider migration. Perhaps even more important are future goals and milestones for the business. A system that holds the plant back from achieving its goals is a system in serious need of migration.

Finding the right partner is the next step in migrating DCS systems and may be one of the most important. Obviously experience and competency are key. What people sometimes don’t consider are the processes and culture of the partner they choose. The experience needs to come with the flexibility and pace that fits well with your business. At Synergy, we pride ourselves with being open and welcoming to our clients, often inviting them to our offices for meetings. We are equally flexible and can fit into just about any schedule a client request. Our vendor independent approach puts the control in client hands when it comes to what brands they want.

The truth is, you want to like the people who provide you with a DCS system because building an ongoing relationship with them will benefit both of you. Trust is especially key if you want to have a service contract with the partner in order to have future support for upgrades and repairs.

The final and most obvious consideration is cost. InTech mentions costs and resulting savings. This can be tricky as the old adage is that you get what you pay for. A balance must be maintained between cost and quality, and that balance is usually found in savings. Migration, and updating any area of a plant in general, often means there may have to be some downtime. Operators may have to be trained and, of course, there is the initial cost of the system. No matter how cheap a system is, these prices will always exist and they are offset by savings. The return on investment is key. The more optimized a system is, the fast you will receive a return and savings.

Many of Synergy’s solutions take less than a year to earn back in savings the money spent on the service. From that moment on, the increased efficiency translates into savings for the business. If you are looking to migrate your DCS or any other area of your plant, give us a call. We’d love to discuss your business goals and help you achieve them.




07 Aug

Human Machine Interface Essentials

Control-Engineering- MagazineAn article on page 14 of the latest Control Engineering Magazine ask the question “Who is building your HMI?” The question related to high-performance HMI and implores readers to answer honestly about the human machine interfaces they use and/or create. Industrial accidents, collectively costing billions of dollars every year, are often related to poor HMI. The discussion of what is and isn’t high performance HMI is curtail to an optimally running plant.

While there are a number of HMI guidelines out there, the variations in what a plant or organization needs are so great that it is hard to nail down specific standards that must be followed in every case. The true test of high performance comes down to usability. The Control Engineering article considers usability testing as a worth-while step when creating HMI.

Consider your typical new hire. You are confident the person has the basic skills needed to perform the job, but, since the person hasn’t been on the job for a significant amount of time, those basic skills are the only ones you can be sure of. Would that new hire be able to use operational HMI screen successfully with just those basic skills?

Usability testing can be as simple as having a person with basic skills in operation use the HMI and taking note of errors they make and questions they have. In this way, you can be sure to have high performance HMI made for the mind of the operator instead of the mind of the programmer.

Regardless of your unique HMI needs, there is no question that operational screen should be accurate in their presentation of process data, safety data and alarms. Ease of use and accurate portray of information should be the primary focus of all high performance HMI.

Here at Synergy, we often perform our own usability test, asking members unrelated to a project to utilize the screen and the user manual to perform basic tasks. Not only does this improve our HMI, taking it to a higher level of usability, it also improves our user manuals. The first place an operator should be able to turn to when a questions arises is the user manual, making accurate portray of screen operations equally important in that document.