10 Aug

Retrofitting Blast Furnace and Stove Control System at Midwest Steel Producer

Retrofitting Blast Furnace and Stove Control System at Midwest Steel Producer

Sequenced changeover of all process control parameters yields successful implementation of system upgrade with minimal downtime

Lisle, Illinois – Synergy Systems, Inc., a consulting engineering firm and Recognized System Integrator for Rockwell Automation, today announced the completion of a successful upgrade on the main blast furnace and stove control system at a major Midwest steel producer. Unique to this 18-month project was the absence of production downtime experienced by the client, during the transition from legacy control system elements to a Rockwell Automation ControlLogix and Wonderware-based HMI platform. Synergy Systems termed its protocol on this project the System Transition Execution Plan (STEP). During the implementation of STEP, the client experienced no interruption in overall blast furnace or stove control system operations, as it transitioned from an older DCS (distributed control system) to the new system, which was entirely designed and installed by Synergy Systems engineers, working onsite at the steel mill with client personnel.

At the heart of the concept, according to Synergy Systems VP Marc L. Hunter, “We developed our strategy around a core principle that targeted zero downtime during the changeover. Essentially, we created a building block operation, in which each control input/output on the old system was upgraded with parallel monitoring of performance values and system readouts. Only when each new component was functioning properly and the signals were inline with the existing monitored values did we execute the changeover of the control strategies, which was then integrated loop-by-loop into the new process LAN.”  Utilizing this strategy, Synergy Systems enabled the client to maintain full production at the mill, throughout the entire project.  Client engineering confirmed their complete satisfaction with the performance on this major project.

The STEP upgrades included all the following procedures: replacement of legacy PLC hardware with AB ControlLogix, replacement of DCS/PLC interface, movement of I/O from DCS to ControlLogix, deployment of Wonderware HMI, movement of control from DCS to ControlLogix, Wonderware historian integration and finally Level 2 interface via Wonderware HMI. Essentially, the control scheme for each system element was installed in parallel to the legacy control, then connected to the new ControlLogix processor and monitored on a channel of the client’s overall process control LAN for comparison to the older output.

Stove Control System – OLD Stove Control System – NEW
Gas Injection Control System – OLD Gas Injection Control System – NEW
Air Head Control System – OLD Air Head Control System – NEW
As these screens demonstrate, the legacy and new control screens were designed for a similar look and feel, which allowed the process control engineers at this major steel producer to implement the changeover more smoothly and with minimal learning curve.

Using this STEP approach, minimal process impact occurred and there was a significant savings realized for the client, both in operational expense and total project cost.  As Hunter explains, “This project, because it happened in steps, so to speak, could be costed as a maintenance, not a capital, expense. The major capital expenditure diminished, owing to our strategy of loop-by-loop cutover and a gradual evolution of the graphical user interface, plus a progressive integration with the plant historian software. Collateral benefits to the client included a gradual weaning away from the legacy system, which allowed our team to thoroughly familiarize our client’s operational and maintenance personnel with the new hardware and software, as the changeover progressed.”

The determination to upgrade this system had resulted from numerous factors, according to the client. The I/O had become obsolete and the legacy system was UNIX-based, so many of the client’s current engineering staff onsite were not familiar with it. However, because a need existed to retain overall control strategies and functional client knowledge of system operations, Synergy Systems devised this STEP protocol to make the transition more gradual and self-teaching.

According to the client’s plant production & technologies manager on the project, “The blast furnace and stove control systems needed to be upgraded from a legacy DCS (Distributed Control System) to a Rockwell Automation PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) platform, with Schneider Electric Software Wonderware human machine interface and historian, along with statistical reporting mechanisms. Synergy Systems was challenged with cost-effective project deliverables requiring a proven transition plan, zero production outages, minimal risk implementation with no impact to production or product quality, improved technology with future expansion capabilities, improved process controls, enhanced operator interface, significant improvements to system reliability and stringent budgetary guidelines. This project required verification and movement of nearly 2000 I/O points, installation of new workstations, network communication upgrades, development of over 60 HMI screens with built-in diagnostics and alarms, extensive PLC programming, system functional documentation development and drawing approval, historian upgrades and onsite training. Finally, total project implementation and completion were required within a two-year period.”

He continued, “Synergy delivered beyond our expectations on every challenge presented. The innovative approach, level of engineering delivered and tools selected ensured a successful transition without impact to our production or product quality. Synergy’s professional manner plus their willingness to listen and offer solutions always made it easy for our Operations and Automation team personnel to work with them. The upgraded control systems have been in operation for nearly a year now, with high levels of reliability and efficient operations realized.  Synergy proved to be an extremely cost-effective yet resourceful company, with a focus on the future of our mill control requirements. Our plant now has the technology to further enhance the automation strategies and drive flexibility and productivity that were not available with the legacy automation platform.”

02 Apr

Synergy Vice President Now on Two NFPA 85 Committees

ph-logo-nfpa-largerSynergy Vice-President, Marc L. Hunter has again been nominated to an NFPA 85 Committee, this time for the atmospheric fluidized bed boiler (FBB) committee. As a member of both FBB and the single burner boiler (SBB) committee for NFPA 85, Hunter plays a critical role in deciding the safety regulations for chapters five and seven of the NFPA 85 code.

NFPA 85 is a broad code, relating to many aspects of boiler and burner safety. For this reason, there are eight sub committees, each responsible for a section of the code. Chapters five and seven go into basics – such as application, purpose and equipment requirements – as well as details on how processes for FBBs and SBBs should function.

“I’m excited to be a part of such a prestigious community,” said Hunter.

These rigorous safety standards are imperative for the safe running of boiler and burner systems. Starting up a boiler and running it properly is like controlling a small explosion. Precise steps must be taken to ensure the safety of all personnel and assets involved.

Working for clients involved in high risk businesses, Synergy prioritizes safety above all other values. Marc L. Hunter’s nomination to not one, but two NFPA 85 sub committees allows us to expertly bring this value to all who adhere to the NFPA 85 code.


08 Jan

PRESS RELEASE: Synergy Systems Inc. Earns CSIA Certification


For Immediate Release

The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA)

Synergy Systems Inc., Chicago-based provider of plant automation services, has earned CSIA Certified status in the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) “Best Practices and Benchmarks” certification program.

Synergy earned the certification following a successful audit – administered by an independent consulting firm – that assessed its performance against client-centric criteria in a wide range of business, project management and system development areas:

  • General Management
  • Human Resources Management
  • Financial Management
  • Marketing, Business Development and Sales Management
  • Project Management
  • System Development Lifecycle
  • Supporting Activities
  • Quality Assurance Management
  • Service and Support

“CSIA Certification is the gold-seal mark of a professionally managed control system integration business,” says Robert Lowe, CSIA executive director. “Certification reassures clients that Synergy Systems is an established professional services firm that wants to develop and successful, long-term partnership with clients.”

Mark Urda, president of Synergy Systems Inc. adds, “CSIA is the premier benchmarking organization in the control system integration industry. Recognition as CSIA Certified is a testament to our commitment to CSIA’s value proposition of ensuring that industries everywhere have access to low-risk, safe and successful applications of automation technology.”

About CISA
The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) is a global non-profit professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration for the success of members and their clients. For more information, visit www.controlsys.org.

27 Nov

PRESS RELEASE: Synergy Systems Awarded Contract with Sensient Flavors


For immediate release

Synergy Systems Inc. has been awarded the contract for an automation upgrades project for spray dryers at Sensient Flavors.

Sensient Flavors is one of the most recognized brands in the food and beverage industry. They hold the distinct ability to manufacture ingredients that can be used to make flavors and complement flavors in product applications. Serving customers in over 30 nations, Sensient can supply a library of flavors as well as develop new formulations.

“We are excited about this opportunity to provide advanced automation technology to Sensient,” Said Synergy Vice President Marc L. Hunter. “With advanced automation technology, Sensient will be able to focus on optimizing their process instead of maintain obsolete automation.”

Synergy Systems has been committed to the design of intelligent solutions for the progress of automation processes and businesses for over 35 years. Synergy is proud to provide the technology and know-how for America’s commercial and industrial sectors.

Contact: Marc L. Hunter
Phone: 630-724-1960 ex. 12
Email: hunter@synsysinc.com

1982 Ohio Street
Lisle, IL 60532

13 Nov

It’s That Time of Year

It’s That Time of Year

The time for our CSIA audit is upon us. We started our journey and it all comes to a head this week. Our endeavors do not end with this week’s audit however. Given what we have learned over the course of the year from different members, it is likely this audit will function more like a practice test.

We will receive the full examination. The bulk of all our work will be scrutinized for flaws. Months down the road, after we have improved upon the areas we need to, another audit will likely see us passing.

This is why CSIA is held in such high esteem among integrators and those that hire them. Becoming a CSIA certified integrator is more than a one step process. It requires significant work and scrutinizing audits. Certification will verify our commitment to providing the highest value to our clients.

This week promises to be a great learning experience. In applying all we gain, we hope to further improve our business as client-centric and value-oriented. Continuous improvement is as vital a part of Synergy Systems as it is CSIA. As technology and business change, so will we, ensuring we provide only the best.

02 Oct

Rockwell Trains on PlantPAx


Revere Electric came to our office last week on behalf of Rockwell Automation to train Synergy employees on their new PlantPAx Virtual Image Templates. These templates were designed to work with Microsoft Volume Licensing and provide customer value by reducing the total cost of ownership.

The training also included an introduction to Stratus Technologies, a new partner of Rockwell. Stratus offers solutions that keep critical applications running 24/7 through the implementation of fault-tolerant servers, among other solutions.

After successful training, Synergy was treated to a barbecue lunch which was thoroughly enjoyed. The lunch was quickly followed by a birthday celebration for Synergy engineer Joe Zawicki. President Mark Urda was more than happy to lead the Synergy team and Rockwell partners in the traditional birthday song.

All of us at Synergy would like to thank Revere Electric and Rockwell Automation for their excellent training and for joining us in our celebration of Joe’s birthday.

18 Sep

New Control Room Evolution

New Control Room Evolution

Recently, Synergy completed a complete control room remodel for a client.  Along with the updated look and increased storage space, the new control room provides:

  • Modern boiler control Human Machine Interface
  • Improved workflow
  • Improved reaction time
  • Improved screens and display, allowing for faster dissemination of information
  • Low-voltage lighting, reducing fatigue and eye strain of operators

Click here to see a slideshow of all the work that went into this incredible transformation.

Control Room Evolution
June 6: Demolition begins and control console is moved to a temp location.

Evolution of Control Room
June 22: The remodel, rough in.

Control room on July 9th and nearly finished.
July 17th: Major components are in place.

Completion: July 17th.
Completion: July 17th.
04 Sep

PRESS RELEASE: B&W, Working with Synergy, Awarded Contract with U of I

Synergy Systems, Lisle, IL



For immediate release

Babcock & Wilcox, working with Synergy Systems Inc., has been awarded the contract for a 175,000 lb/hr, 850 psig, 740 degree F package boiler for the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana.

Contract award was a lump sum for 3,047,737 dollars; construction design meetings will commence immediately.

Synergy Systems Inc. is the local B&W representative for Northeastern Illinois and North Indiana.
Contact: Marc Hunter
Phone: 630-724-1960 ex. 12
Email: hunter@synsysinc.com

1982 Ohio Street
Lisle, IL 60532

03 Jul

Happy Birthday Synergy!

Happy Birthday Synergy!

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day and, like other patriots around the country, we are excited to meet with friends and family, enjoy a good meal and watch firework displays.  It’s a day that reminds us of all that makes our country great and helps us better envision a future even more great than our present.

Check out our Energy Patriot pilot program to see how we are trying to promote a vision of an Energy Independent America.

There is more to celebrate today than just the eve of Independence Day. Today, 34 years ago, was the day Synergy Systems Inc. was born.  We had a small celebration in our office to commemorate the event, complete with cake.

As if that wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, we hit another milestone this week as one of the top 100 System Integrator Giants of 2013. Based on 2012 data, we are listed 79th on the list.

The article, published on pages 46 – 56 in the June issue of Control Engineering had some interesting states about the industry of system integration and the 100 giants that define the business.  The importance of CSIA (Control System Integrators Association) Certification was clearly seen, as the magazine reported that 57 percent of giants are certified. This is up from 43 percent last year.

In addition, CSIA was among the top affiliations of giants, along with NFPA (Nation Fire Protection Agency) and ISA (The International Society of Automation).  We are proud to have all of these as our affiliations as well. In addition, Rockwell Automation brands to the first three places on the list of brands preferred among integrators.

Perhaps brightest of all, was the news that the number of integrators reporting the economy as a challenge to their business fell significantly. Instead, this year the biggest challenge is finding skilled workers to hire. While this is a significant challenge, it is also a sign of progress showing that integrators are looking to hire.

We have a lot to celebrate this holiday weekend. We here at Synergy hope you all have a safe and joyful time with your friends and family. Happy 4th of July.

19 Jun

CSIA Certification Progress

The Control System Integrators Association demands a high standard of quality from those they certify. We have been discovering the true complexity of the certification standards as we move further along on our path to certification.

While we have our marketing and technical writing personnel working every day to optimize our policies to CSIA’s standards, it is truly a group effort. Engineers and project managers are consistently consulted as we move beyond background policies to procedures that detail the quality work we provide our clients.

Our biggest challenge is working on achieving quality standards intended for companies larger than ours.  While being smaller may make obtaining CSIA Certification and greater feat, it is far from impossible. We are moving into the last stretch of improvements to our business, verifying the high standards we expect out of our engineers comply with the standards of the Control System Integrators Association.

CSIA operates on the idea that technical proficiency alone is not enough to guarantee quality book. A control integrator should also have excellent business and management skills. To that end, they demand high standards in the following areas.

  • Human Resource Management
  • Marketing and Business Development
  • Financial Management
  • Project Management
  • System Development Lifecycle
  • Service and Support

The road the CSIA Certification may not be an easy one, but it is worth the effort to ensure our clients continue to receive the highest quality service.  We believe that any small integrator can put in the effort it takes to receive this high quality certification and continue to optimize our business in order to do so. When it comes to our business, it is more than just providing quality to our clients today. We want to make sure we are constantly seeking improvement so we can also ensure quality throughout the future.