As you saw in the video, we’ve developed a thorough control and automation process here at Knobelsdorff Electric (KEI). Originally, it was KEI’s commitment to internal organization and doing things right the first time around that drew me to build my career here. And since then, the organization we put in and the quality we put out has only grown.
Here’s a recap of the process I outlined in the video:
Put simply, automation is the computerized control of a mechanized process. And at KEI, we put computer control around factory equipment on behalf of our clients. Whether we’re dealing with conveyors, pumps, motors, etc., we follow a relatively similar process. With experience providing custom automation for grain elevators, food and beverage applications, bioenergy facilities, manufacturing, and dairy facilities to name a few, we know the importance of taking the time to get to know the ins-and-outs of a facility’s process from the integrated high level goals and metrics, yet also through the operators and mechanics eyes.
Learning the Process
As a result, we learn all about a facility’s process. We conduct a site evaluation, which typically includes interviewing various people from within the business. Someone from operations, someone from maintenance, someone from management, and more. This way, we’re understanding all of the different needs for all of the solutions we are going to be providing. We’re evaluating processes from all angles and putting them into a P&ID or process flow diagram.
The actual understanding of the process is an essential component of the upfront work. We also determine the needs, goals, and budgets associated with the project.
Mapping the Process
Next, we move into process mapping, which is taking the intricacies of what we learned, dissecting it, uncovering all the details about the process, and using that to create further documentation such as motor lists, device lists, etc. Then, we create the I/O lists, which helps us create the control system architecture. And then we use that same information to create the PLC (programmable logic controller) and HMI (human machine interface) programs.
Building Out the Pieces
From there, we’ll take the design and build the necessary control panels. We’ll also custom design and select anything else that might need to be part of the system, depending on the specifics of your process. Beyond physical materials, we also create an operational and a functional description of the process. This means we document the process so that future operators know exactly what needs to happen at each step. That’s really the foundation for creating the programs that run the process.
Testing, Testing, Testing
Once the control system is put together, we have various tests that it goes through to ensure proper function. We do an internal factory acceptance test (FAT) where we invite our clients to come in and witness so they can also make sure the automation system complies with their requirements before we even ship it out the door.
After passing internal testing we send the system to the particular site, install it, then we go through a second set of tests to verify on-site that it’s working properly.
Ongoing Automation Support
Additionally, we offer ongoing automation system support for all of our clients. Typically, we’ll put in a remote connection to a client’s site, which allows us to essentially monitor their process. This is especially important during those first hours and days while they’re breaking in the system and getting to know how it works. Plus, system monitoring comes in handy because it will notify us anytime anything might need to be modified.
That, in a nutshell, is our automation process at KEI. In my experience in industrial automation, a commitment to a thorough, organized process is the key the ensuring custom automation and controls start off right and continue to function at peak efficiency.