22 May

Knowledge is Not as Powerful as Actionable Information

Knowledge is Not as Powerful as Actionable Information
This photo, “Information” is copyright (c) 2014 Barney Moss and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The old trope says that knowledge is power and technology has made knowledge more available than ever. In fact, knowledge has become almost too easy to acquire. Books have been written about information overload. What these books really point at isn’t knowledge or information. We live in a time of data overload to the point where it’s difficult to translate it all into actionable information. Luckily for the business world, all this data can work towards a profitable end.

The process industry benefits from advanced technology that not only collects all data available, but translates it into actionable information. We stressed this last week in our discussion on Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. KPIs are the informational result of data translation. They let everyone from the engineers to plant managers know exactly what they need to without forcing them to sort through masses of irrelevant numbers.

Power to optimize your process and increase bottom line profits requires more than simple knowledge, these days. Knowledge is data. You can accumulate as much as you want, but it will mean nothing if it’s not actionable. Business with expertly designed control systems and HMI screen receive a huge competitive advantage over the competition. With real time data translated to actionable information, businesses having all they need to achieve their goals.

20 May

Question and Answer with Marc Hunter

What do you enjoy about working for Synergy? Why did you choose to work in the industry?
I enjoy solving difficult problems, learning about new technologies, and talking with our clients. It is very exciting to see a project come together, and staffing our projects in a manner which accents the individual’s strengths is satisfying. Being in a place where the people truly have a passion for technology and strive for excellence makes Synergy fun.

I believe that this industry choose me, not me choosing it. All roads through my life always lead back to this industry, and I have been blessed with presented opportunities that were a progression within our industry.

What is a memorable moment that has stuck with you since you joined the Synergy team?

"You guys tell me when I am doing something crazy or completely against your experiences, whereas your competitor would just do what I ask and send me the bill”

Most memorable moment was working late evening with a new client.  This individual stopped our meeting to take a break and made the following public statement to the entire group.  “You know what I like about you guys?  You guys tell me when I am doing something crazy or completely against your experiences, whereas your competitor would just do what I ask and send me the bill”.  This event solidified our client centric approach, and continues to drive our employee relationship training focus.

What do you wish everyone knew about the industry?
Engineering and Automation are very exciting.  People don’t realize how much is involved behind the products they buy and the energy they use. I think everyone would have a greater appreciation of the contribution made by the American industry if they learned more about it.  Needless to say I am fanatic about History, Discovery, and National Geographic channels.

This industry has allowed me to see the world – I have been able to travel to places which typical people would never have access to visit.

Can you describe your management philosophy?

My role and responsibility is to be the client advocate to our project team – challenge them to do things better, smarter, and faster – enabling individuals to come up with their unique solutions – providing a life line when things get overwhelming.

"My role and responsibility is to be the client advocate to our project team."

I have a personal responsibility to develop all of our people to be their very best.

What about Synergy’s future excites you?
First of all, the people at Synergy are the key to why our future is bright.  We have a “killer” team that is working like a high performance engine.  Our hiring practice is to gain individuals that are passionate problem solvers.  Our people have the true American spirit and can-do attitude needed to get the job done.

Secondly, I believe that Synergy has the experience and knowledge to make a real difference within American industry.  Recently, our society has begun to refocus on making products and improving our general infrastructure.  Industry is now welcoming new ideas to save energy, along with innovative solutions to make gains in productivity in order to be competitive on the world stage.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I enjoy golfing, though I don’t get out nearly enough.  If I had to leave this industry today, I would most likely have a horse ranch somewhere – there is calmness to being around these animals and personal satisfaction that comes from this physical work.  I enjoy traveling to locations that we can try new things such as mountain biking through the desert.

Is there a place you have always wanted to travel to but have not had the chance yet?
I have always wanted to go on safari in Africa with some extra time in South Africa to watch the New Zealand All Blacks play at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Focus on the big picture and don’t fret the bumps in the road.

When involved in an “apples to apples” comparison, be the orange.

Who do you look up to as your role model or mentor?
Many different people for a variety of reasons:

  • Gerry Raino & Glen Mazur: for their guidance and encouragement to get into this industry and education direction
  • Dr. Carlos Helou: for his mentor ship, support, and trust
  • Billy Graham: for his leadership
  • Theodore Roosevelt: for his progressive views and integrity
  • John D. Rockefeller: for his driven purpose and charity
  • Warren G. Bennis: for his insight and analysis
20 May

Question and Answer with Mark Urda

What motivated you to start your own business?

After having three jobs in three years right out of college, I felt I had learned a lot of hard lessons about big business and also about how not to run a small business (particularly from an ethics standpoint). I was unhappy with the unethical approaches to business that I saw around me. I resigned from the third position that I held and began this journey which has become Synergy.

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the goal of systems integration."

What is the story behind Synergy’s name?
Synergy! It is a big, fancy way of saying “we.” What could be a better description of system integration? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the goal of systems integration. You don’t just want one manufacturer; you want to provide the best possible solution using a best-of-breed approach. The concept of Synergy embodies that approach.  When you put the words together, “Synergy Systems,” you get that we’re providing systems that are put together into this greater whole.  Now, why the geodesic dome? The dome caught our attention and the more we looked into it, the more we discovered that a very important American was involved. Buckminster Fuller had popularized the word Synergy several decades ago, and he also is credited with theories on the geodesic dome. That’s why it’s sometimes called the Bucky Ball. He had a whole design concept about how it’s the most efficient form, which fit perfectly with the goals of our projects here at Synergy.

How do Synergy’s goals align with your personal beliefs?
One of the most important beliefs I have is in the idea that you can be both a good person and a successful person.  Honesty and integrity are important.  I have met a lot of people who are successful, but they accomplished what they did in a way that lacked integrity.  Much like my beloved Norte Dame leads the country now in football and in academics with graduation rates for its student athletes, we are driven to be successful without sacrificing our values.  My parents raised me to believe that if you do the right thing, good things will happen.

"We can help people take advantage of new ideas, especially when it is in the best interest of their business and the country."

What about Synergy’s future excites you?
The growth of new people entering the business excites me.  We find out they can propel some of our main efforts forward.  I have been flabbergasted by the growth we have seen in the past few years as we have brought in new people and have worked with a focused plan.  I am also excited about the idea that we can do some good in the world, like the goal of pursuing American energy independence with our Energy Patriot pilot program.  We can challenge some of those long standing, old ideas and say that just because your dad or your granddad did it that way doesn’t mean you have to. We can help people take advantage of new ideas, especially when it is in the best interest of their business and the country.
What is a specific accomplishment for Synergy that has made you particularly proud?

I am most proud of the relationship that we have with our employees.  In 33 years we have weathered storms together as a family and that is an accomplishment.  We have a lot of technical accomplishments, as well, like the relationships we have with our ally partners.  I am also proud of our reputation for being innovative.  We present our clients with a better way to do things instead of just an easier way.  But it all comes back to our employees.  I am happy that our relationship with them has been a good one.  That’s very, very important to us.

What do you wish everyone knew about the industry?
I wish that everyone knew how much energy is within our grasp.  The goals and the model of Energy Patriot (Conserve, Optimize, and Generate) are specific to energy and the things we all can do.  There are proven, decades-old technologies with huge potential for dramatic and significant energy savings. It’s a matter of changing peoples’ minds.  We are not asking people to be an early adopter; we understand you cannot risk your operation.  We are trying to say that you can use modern technologies to help yourself and the country.

Can you describe your management philosophy?
As an entrepreneur, the hardest part is giving up portions of the business, because you start by doing everything yourself.  It takes time to develop faith and trust and to get people together, but the reward is great.  My management style has come to embody some of the management philosophies of my heroes.  Men like George S. Patton, who led from the front.  They managed by example.  My management philosophy is collegial at heart, meaning that I believe primarily that you work among your colleagues.  I follow a very collaborative style of management where communication is the number one goal.  I also hope to build an organization that is very rewarding where people remain interested in their careers.  My goal is to make it work for everyone, all the time.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
Sadly, they are not nearly as much as they should be.  I love my Notre Dame football.  I am a huge Jimmy Buffett fan.  I play golf – you wouldn’t recognize it as such, but I do enjoy it!  I also spend time riding my bike.  Other than that, it comes back to family – I love to spend time with my family.
Is there a place you have always wanted to travel to but have not had the chance yet?

I would like to take my family to Hawaii. It would be fun to take a flight there and then get on the cruise at night and take it to the next island.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Wow, that is a tough one! I’m not so sure that in some ways, it didn’t come to me in the form of a challenge. This one still eats at me and it does motivate me. I was asked this question: If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich? I was motivated by that because it is tied into ethics. We aren’t rich because we will not lie, cheat, and steal. I want everyone associated with us to live a comfortable life, not so much for the pursuit of money, but as a sort of repudiation of that question.
Who do you look up to as your role model or mentor?

My father was my role model and my mentor.  We moved often when I was young.  My father, a part of the depression-era generation, was fiercely loyal in business.  He took a number of promotions that moved us state to state.  I saw my father finally get his break when he started working for a small company where he could pursue his passion.  This is what ultimately led to his success.  He set a very high standard as a father, as a man, as a businessman.  This is not to underplay my mother’s role, because she and I are very alike.  I realize more and more how much I am like my mom!  They both instilled in me the sense that doing what is right is what is important.

15 May

The Value of Key Performance Indicators in the Process Industry

Control Room


The term Key Performance Indicator, or KPI, is all over the internet. A simple Google search will bring up a ton of blogs about KPIs for various industries. While the term is rather general, it’s meant to serve a specific purpose. That is the great triumph and great downfall of KPI. There are many to choose from for every business, but the KPIs chosen must be specific to business needs and goals to work.

When it comes to integration and automation, KPIs service a vital purpose. They represent the responsibility of technology to examine all data and present it to a plant operator as information. Data is nothing but numbers, ones and zeros representing all the inner workings of a machine. Sifting through all that would take a human far longer than necessary and can delay crucial action. That’s why we have automation. Intelligent technology can be assigned KPIs and programmed to deliver specific information interpreted from the mass of data.

Consider all you can measure on a human body. There are basic numbers, such as weight and calorie intake as well as performance numbers such as how much weight the body can lift, squat, bench or push. This is like the body of a plant or control system. All that data is important to someone, be they a nutritionist, doctor or trainer. Each person has certain KPIs they’re looking for just like each engineer may be assigned a specific section of the plant.

In optimized systems, KPIs can serve an even greater purpose. Through the interpretation of a few data points, a plant manager can be given the pulse of their system. One glance is all that’s needed for an engineer to diagnose whether their system is healthy or not when using optimized control systems with strategic KPIs.

What KPIs do you consider most important to your business?

Are your control systems optimized to quickly diagnose the pulse of your plant?



09 May

The Importance of Employees in Predictive Management

Employees in Predictive Management

In a perfect world, no plants would have to experience downtime for repairs and maintenance. While technology may never achieve that level of perfection, advanced technologies have grown better at preventing the need to halt operations for repairs. It all boils down to predictive maintenance and support.

Predictive maintenance is twofold, involving both site assets and employees. Dollars spent on equipment should focus on optimized measurement. Systems and alarms can be put in place so that all vital elements are continuously monitored. In this way, all information that can possibly be aimed at reducing downtime. Whether or not these assets effectively reduce the need for downtime is all up to the plant engineers.
We always stress the value and importance of client engineers throughout a project. Everything we put into an optimized control system is tailored toward the needs of client employees. They’re action is key to predictive maintenance and the reduction of down time.

Good control logic is to prioritize alarms so that the most urgent matters are attended to first. That doesn’t make any alarm less important. They have been programmed into the system for a purpose. Small alarms can alert plant engineers of minor problems which can usually be fixed without any downtime.

These are the kinds of alarms that reduce downtime. When left alone, small problems can snowball into huge events that require downtime and expensive repairs.  Attention to minor alarms can save a business huge amounts of money. With advanced, optimized control systems, plant employees can come that much closer to perfect predictive management.

02 May

The Importance of Expert Project Managers

The Importance of Expert Project Managers

Here at Synergy, we often boast about our ability to handle project management tasks. From the goal setting kickoff to the startup completion of a project, we are there taking full responsibility. This is a significant advantage to our clients. Technical skills are uniquely different from management skills, which is why we make a point provide expert engineers with both.

Technically minded people are focused on the control systems, HMIs and computer jargon that go into the creation of a product. Their skill set is essential, as their work creates the vital components clients use to run their processes. Making sure those components match client goals is the responsibility of the project manager.

In addition to technical expertise, a project manager must have the proper skills to evaluate risk and goals, create a schedule and foster communication between all parties. When handled by a system integrator, clients rest assured they are getting quality solutions without having to spend time managing these aspects of a project.

Having an integrator who takes full responsibility and also makes a point to keep clients in the loop as projects progress is invaluable. It releases client manpower that can then be funneled into more important tasks in addition to ensuring a solution that hits all the desired goals and outcomes.