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Improving Your Manufacturing Process With a Main Automation Contractor

Manufacturers want to improve their manufacturing process, but they’re not sure where to start. Plus, they want to minimize problems at start up and get the best return on their investment.

Typically, a company will design a process, put specs together and send out RFPs. Controls is just one item on the list. Actually, focusing on controls from the beginning can save time and add value. Integrating controls from day one ensures an automation process that gets a plant up and running faster. This best practice puts a plant in full production sooner than with the traditional approach.

Manufacturers can tap into control integration expertise by using a main automation contractor, often referred to as a MAC, who takes the lead by integrating all aspects of their project, resulting in a smoother and faster start-up. In fact, our customers have shared that for every dollar they invest in this model, they saved $10 on the backend because the plant started up properly the first time.

Three factors are key to achieving these results: engaging a lead integrator early, following a well-structured methodology and tapping into deep technical resources. Together, they create alignment and ensure the plant achieves its integration goals. How does this happen? It starts with identifying and engaging all stakeholders early in the process. Sounds simple, but it takes a MAC team that knows how to work side-by-side with owners, process engineers and operators, while taking a systemic approach and collaborating with equipment suppliers.

By following a proven project methodology, all elements will be considered and addressed. The process should have three main components:

  • Getting started: Scope, project kick-off, and functional and detail design
  • Building and testing: Acceptance planning, system development, procurement & assembly, panel quality control, factory acceptance testing, and shipment
  • Final acceptance: Integration, installation, and training

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Main Automation Contractor

Our process results in a smoother, shorter startup and commissioning process. That leads to a quicker ramp-up to full production and profitability. Because we come in very early in the design, we can make sure that automation standards, networking standards, communication protocols, and access-to-data factors unique to the plant are incorporated into the design from the get-go.

As Main Automation Contractor (MAC), we work as part of the team, side-by-side with process engineers and owners, to assure that the design-for-automation meets the needs of all stakeholders. We represent plant owners by collaborating with equipment suppliers, and make sure the process design and control system operation is fully vetted before startup. Training begins earlier than in other models, which helps plant operators be ready to run the floor at the time of commissioning, shortening the amount of time it takes to reach production targets.

This is complex work. We have significant experience with the MAC Model, a well-structured project methodology and the depth of technical resources to make sure it happens smoothly. We’ve been told by a customer that for every $1 they invested in the MAC Model, they saved $10 on the backend by having the plant start up properly the first time.

UTILIZING PLANTPAX FOR MAIN AUTOMATION CONTRACTOR PROJECTS
Commonality
• Same look and feel across systems
• Well-organized programs and re-use • Functionality
• Full-featured and scalable

Main Automation Contractor and the Future of Manufacturing

A new level of partnership between manufacturers and automation solution providers aims to fill the engineering skills gap.

One thing is certain, the world of automation moves at a dizzying speed.

The evolution of technologies like laser scanning, laser welding and non-contact encoders has been remarkable. Where will 3D printing take us? How will graphene impact the products we use? While technology promises to continue to evolve quickly, what can’t be said with any certainty is what the automation world will look like in 10, or even five, years from now.

Couple this with the fact that many manufacturers have reduced engineering staff in an effort to run leaner and it begs the question: How will manufacturers capitalize on what automation has, and will continue, to offer?

As manufacturers have cut engineering staff, automation solution providers have continued to up their game—specifically to fill the gap created by fewer staff engineering resources at their clients’ sites. This shift has resulted in the emergence of many world-class engineering companies focused on the automation space, as evidenced by the continued growth and interest in the Control System Integrators Association. The CSIA is a global, not-for-profit trade organization that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration and promote best practices. Continue Reading →

How System Integrators Can Help Fill the Skills Gap

By partnering with a system integrator, you can tackle some of your biggest challenges—without hiring additional skilled staff.

If you are a U.S. manufacturer, you already know this fact: skilled people are hard to find. From production line workers, to skilled trade people, technicians, and engineers, finding the right skillsets to support your production is a significant challenge.

At the same time, you face intense competitive pressures to increase productivity, improve quality, introduce new products to the market, and reduce cost.

These combined forces—lack of resources and competitive pressures—have led many manufacturers to improve and expand their automation. Automation makes sense on many levels. To begin with, using properly selected and applied automation, manufacturers need fewer people on the plant floor and can eliminate dangerous and repetitive tasks. Plus, automation has a successful track record in making companies more competitive. Continue Reading →