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.