06 Feb

What Defines a Flexible Control System?



Traditional manufacturing typically involves discrete automation. Systems are built for one specific purpose. Their sole purpose in life is to pound, mold or shape products in the process system. This form of manufacturing lends itself to program logic control (PLC) systems. These industries create circuit boards and hammer out parts. For the entire lifecycle of the system, each asset will have a select few specific functions.



The opposite of this traditional manufacturing is processing, which often handles melted metals and gas and oil refining. These actions, which are usually continuous in nature, tend to be controlled by distributed control systems (DCS). The needs of these systems are greatly different from traditional manufacturing as they need to be able to measure and calculate multiple aspects of the ingredients in order to perform their step in the creation of a product.


Today, you are likely to find both of these manufacturing methods within a single plant. The food and beverage industry is a perfect example. One part of the plant is focused on mixing ingredients and making the food. The other part is focused on sealing lids and placing stickers on jars. How do you go about finding the right control system to fit that plant’s needs?


The first step is to look at the entirety of needs, including future needs. Ask yourself how long you expect this system to last and what, if any, changes will need to be made during that time. You may find yourself with a need for this system to handle both traditional and process manufacturing techniques. This is where programmable automation controllers (PAC) come in. Acting as a middle ground between the two types of manufacturing, these systems have multifunction, multidomain and multitasking capabilities.


Many other questions surrounding the expectations of your new system need to be discussed with your automation consultant. Does the system need to have the flexibility to talk to different systems created by different companies? Do you need the ability to add on additional components or extra features in the future? Will the system be expected to generate actionable information for both management and plant employees?


Answering all these questions requires extensive expertise in not only flexible control systems, but in understanding client needs. With a platform agnostic view and 35 years of experience, Synergy excels at installing premium control systems that meet client needs and goals. We can help you decide which system, be it PLC, DCS or PAC, will best accomplish your business goals. Our engineers are always on call and would be more than happy to discuss your plans for an optimized process system.


20 Mar

Industry Recognition of CSIA Grows

An ever increasing number of industry clients are requesting CSIA certification from the businesses they hire for industrial automation projects, according to Manufacturing Business Technology.

CSIA stands for Control Systems Integrators Association. They audit their members based on 79 criteria. When they meet or exceed these criteria, they receive a certification acknowledging their accomplishment. To further maintain the certification status, CSIA members must face additional audits every three years. CSIA certainly keeps their members on their toes – which is fantastic for businesses who aspire to be at the forefront of industrial technology and efficiency.

The 79 criteria are spread throughout nine chapters that describe everything from client projects to business organization. Chapters like Financial Management and System Development Lifecycle challenge businesses to make sure they not only provide for their clients, but provide for their business a healthy and successful structure. In this way, CSIA chapters act as redundant controls, ensuring that their members achieve only the highest quality of service.

This month, Synergy has been paying special attention to business continuity, going over our plans for various hazards that may arise and how we can deal with them in a way that has little to no effect on our projects and clients. This includes plans for our own business practices as well as plans for common and uncommon natural hazards.

You may have heard radio commercials talking about ready.illinois.gov. FEMA has their own national version at ready.gov, which provides a specific section for businesses. The forms and worksheets they provide have provided us greater insight into our own continuity plans.

Whether you are looking into CSIA or want to improve your own business continuity, we highly recommend using FEMA’s resources. Many hazards happen without warning, but having procedures in place to address them will protect clients and businesses from facing the full force of negative effects.