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.


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.