Not All Automation is Equal

I wonder how many readers have had the benefits of a well-automated production system that just operated seamlessly when recovering from power outages or operator mistakes?  Maybe there is another segment that has had to suffer the problems caused by a poorly designed control system.  Maybe some have experienced both.  Is it just luck or is there some science involved? At the very start, it is important to work at gathering all the data you reasonably can to deliver a proposal that fits the end-user’s needs and expectations. This deliberate, up-front communication with stakeholders allows us to determine the client’s process and how that process relates to the client’s business and project goals. From this collection of information, the Control System Integrator (CSI) can develop a Design Specification Document that can be reviewed and agreed upon by all the stakeholders before even starting the Design Phase of the project. Having nailed down the core of the deliverables for the project, it’s time to consider what potential contingencies need to be incorporated into the design. Unlike database programming where the programmer controls every step of the …

Batching Best Practices

This intent of this paper is to present a few Best Practices I have discovered over the years that lead to an improved performance of ingredient automation (batching) systems. Any welding should be done prior to installation of the load cells. Proper drainage should be provided to prevent the load point assembly from standing in water. All load cells must be on the same plane (level) within 0.5 degrees of each other (which is approximately an inch over 10 feet). In any batching application, the volume of material in transit between the shutoff device and the actual batch container has an impact on the ability to perform fine batch adjustments. Piping best practices are also important. Some liquid flow sensors require staying flooded in order to provide a reliable feedback signal. Nearly all flow devices need to be isolated from vibration and many flow devices (liquid and gas) assume a uniform velocity profile for their approach and exit. Even though today instruments are more tolerant of poor location, it is still best to locate the instruments with some consideration of the approach and exit conditions. …