In a quest to better manage production, high alarm rates have a negative outcome: information overload. When all systems are triggering alarms, how does any critical information get through to an operator?
Nathan Nutter, PCS 7 Certified
When Golden Grain Energy upgraded from APACS to Siemens PCS 7, Trident Automation worked with the plant to create the most customized alarm management system possible. “Our process helps the customer to better organize alarm systems,” said Nate Nutter, PCS 7 Certified Engineer, at Trident Automation. “When customers look at a process from a high level, they can start to identify which alarms are the most critical and better define their priorities.”
As part of the upgrade, Nutter and his team did a base level alarm management audit in which they determined the number of analog and discreet alarms in the old system, analyzed the values of alarms, then determined priorities and corresponding colors for a banner bar in the HMI.
“Originally our entire system was alarmed,” said Matt Dutka, production manager at Golden Grain Energy. In that environment, operators could easily be overwhelmed with alarms. By working with Trident, Dutka was able to design a system with customized tolerances for key processes.
Golden Grain Energy created fine-tuned control loops that automatically allow the system to reset. For example, if a boiler level is too low and that causes an alarm, in the time it takes the operator to react the built-in tolerance has already been triggered. “There’s a lot of added value in this step because it allows us immediate reaction. The number one part of this upgrade is Trident has given us flexibility in determining our alarm parameters,” Dutka said.
“Now instead of waiting for an alarm to happen, we can find the sweet spot for the most efficient plant operation,” Nutter said. Trident focused on giving Golden Grain a high degree of flexibility in setting tolerances. Nutter worked with the plant to establish customized tolerances for a variety of production sequences to enable/disable limitations on production ranges.
The result was safe and efficient operating conditions for ethanol production. Customized tolerances assist with preventing production values from straying too far from their desired setpoint. Catching a process variable before it gets into an alarm condition will assist with making a more consistent product as well as lessen the likelihood of a safety trip.
For operators at Golden Grain Energy, it allows them to focus on key tasks. According to Dutka, less than 5% of the plant’s tags are alarm locked (hidden). This allows for operators to quickly determine how critical an alarm is and focus on addressing the most urgent need under normal operating conditions.
The upgrade also includes an alarm logging area that includes time stamps. Plant managers can review a log of alarms and determine if the alarm is the byproduct of another step in the production process. By analyzing the data, plant managers can identify processes that need fine-tuning to bring them into the optimal operating range. The alarm log can also help identify areas that can benefit from preventive maintenance.
Trident was able to teach the nuances of the alarm system to Golden Grain operators. “There’s a lot of information being sent over the operating system,” Nutter said. “When we upgraded in phases and explained the potential of the alarm system, they started to think about how to further enhance the system to maximize efficiency.”
“For us, it feels like Trident is part of our staff,” Dutka said. “It’s like having them in the office even though they’re remote.”
In order to better support customers, Trident Automation is providing a new service—an online E-mall featuring previously used hardware. The Trident E-mall is open as of Oct. 3, 2017 and will provide hundreds of replacement parts for businesses currently running APACS, Foxboro and other control systems.
Siemens recently announced it will discontinue support for the APACS system in 2020; as an independent integrator and Siemens solution partner, Trident will continue to offer replacement parts and system service. Foxboro recently announced the FCP270 Field Control Processor will no longer be sold and the manufacturer will no longer support this product.
As one of the largest independent integrators in the nation, Trident has been upgrading customer systems, re-purchasing the old APACS systems and Foxboro products, and keeping them in inventory. “We’ve been working with the APACS system since before we were founded in 2002 and have replaced or upgraded more than 30 systems,” said Jason Hurst, CEO of Trident Automation. As a result, Trident has a healthy inventory of IEMs, ACMs, cables, IO cards, controllers, termination boards, and more.
The APACS system is widely used in paper industry, ethanol industry, wastewater treatment plants and many more industries. The Foxboro FCP270 Field Control Processor is used chemical, petroleum, power generation and other industries that use continuous process automation.
Trident leaders created the E-mall due to the large number of industries still using the product. “This will give customers a little more time to make a decision about system upgrading,” Hurst said. “If you’re trying to go an extra couple years using an APACS system, we’re here to help.”
To use the Trident E-mall, visit www.tridentautomation.com and click on “shop” at the top of the home page to search the product database and place online orders via credit card. Parts will be shipped within two business days.
According to Hurst, Trident will continue to service the APACS product and Foxboro products indefinitely. “We we actually have the experience to maintain the product instead of just selling parts,” Hurst said.
For more information about services from Trident Automation, please contact [email protected]
You can take all the YouTube videos and online tutorials you want, but nothing beats old-fashioned, hands-on experience. That’s why Trident Automation recently attended Rockwell Automation on the Move in Green Bay, Wisconsin and why Stacy Mancl, controls engineer, looked forward to the interactive sessions. “I found the labs were the most useful because they gave me a chance to play with things I’ve never played with before,” she said. The event included a trade show, technical sessions and labs.
In her role at Trident, Stacy is called on to design and implement control solutions for customers. She has a degree in mechanical engineering and has been on the Trident team since 2013, but hands-on experimentation is a direct benefit for her customers. “This time, I focused more on Rockwell’s safety technology,” Stacy said. “We’re developing some new products in this area, so this helps me offer our customers the latest and greatest on the market.” Trident Automation is a Systems Integrator for Rockwell.
Demo labs were set up using the physical equipment and systems to mirror a customer’s environment where Stacy could create a safety hazard and shut it off, then learn how Rockwell provided solutions. She gave what might be the highest praise for a tech/computer/systems geek: “It was COOL stuff.”
Trident founder Jerry Wenzel will be presenting at the T.E.A.M. M3 Conference & Expo, August 1-3 at the Embassy Suites Downtown in Des Moines, Iowa. The Meeting is sponsored by Louis Dreyfus Commodities. The duo will present a talk entitled “How not to go BOOM.” The presentation is about Trident’s Burner Management and Combustion Control products.
Undetected changes or faults in combustion air or gas flow can allow a dangerous fuel rich condition to occur – often causing explosions. Trident’s cross limiting controls with O2 Trim function, continuously monitor and adjust the actual gas and air flows to maintain the desired air/fuel ratio during normal operation. Our burner management system gives you a robust tool to ensure safe operation of burners—with easy-to-understand trip and diagnostic information.
If you’re responsible for plant safety, find out how Trident products can help with better troubleshooting tools, increased visibility, high-impact graphics and a safety rated PLC and safety rated components.
For information on attending the conference, please contact Tom Boeckman, LDC at [email protected].
(note: Due to confidentiality agreements, we cannot reveal the name of the customer in this case study.)
What happens when you depend on your legacy system for critical production and you don’t have the budget to replace it? You call Trident Automation.
One of our customers was in that exact situation. Their operating system reported an outage on a critical boiler system completely shutting down production in that boiler. Plan A was to fix the boiler. Plan B was to re-program and re-engineer the entire boiler, which would have been weeks of work, lost production, and unbudgeted costs. The system in use was a Siemens 353 single loop controller system with LonWorks remote I/O modules—a legacy system that was unsupported by the factory.
Plant engineers knew Trident Founder Don Jolly had experience with a system of the same vintage, so he got the call.
Don Jolly, Founder
“I’m close to that guy who never throws anything away,” Don said.
In one day, he found what he needed in the Trident parts inventory. He scrounged up an old 353 controller with a LonWorks board, Metra Vision software he needed, an adaptor to allow the system to talk to a PC, and his mother-in-law’s old computer. “She was throwing it out so I picked it,” Don said. “I know there are systems that are still running DOS, but when when they break you never know when you’ll need a PC that still runs Windows 98.”
According to Don, the first order on site was to get the controller to integrate with the software so he made a call to Siemens. “It had been 19 years since I worked on this system, so I got on the phone to Siemens and the guy I worked with 19 years ago still worked there,” Don said. “He even had notes from the job!” One small piece of software was needed to make the system function with Metra Vision, and it unlocked the communications channels.
Next up: configure the I/O nodes. Only two of three nodes would work, so Don called an old contact in Canada who was able to convert a needed file and send it via email to unlock the final I/O. After replacing a computer board with extra parts Don had saved for 20+ years, engineers were able to get the boiler back on line. Three days after answering the call, the legacy system was up and running and the plant was back in production.
While complete system upgrades are an ideal, most manufacturers are operating with some sort of a legacy system. “I’d say half the companies out there have some outdated legacy system that has the potential for problems and failures,” Don said. “It’s the responsibility of the control engineer to go through the plant to make sure systems are updated, but in many environments, there are so many systems, it’s a challenge to stay updated on everyone.”
In this case, experience with integrating legacy systems into today’s DCS environments and a healthy respect for “heirloom” technology were the missing links to getting a plant back into production.
For more information on how to integrate legacy systems into updated DCS environments, or to discuss migration solutions, contact Trident Automation at [email protected].
In a few weeks, the global ethanol industry will gather at the annual Siemens Automation in Boca Raton, FL. The annual Automation Summit is a user conference for manufacturing professionals who use Siemens automation technologies. Trident Automation will be among Siemens Solution Partners sharing its experiences with latest technical developments in DCS design and installation. As part of the three-day event, Trident CEO Jason Hurst will present a case study on how Trident did a total system replacement in under 60 hours.
Marquis Energy is the largest dry-mill ethanol facility in the United States with a production capacity of about one million gallons of fuel grade ethanol per day. Marquis Energy contracted Trident Automation to completely replace the APACS+ system with PCS 7, implement smart fieldbus technology, leverage the PCS 7 APL configuration library; all while utilizing a SiVaaS virtualized system architecture.
“The lessons learned in a DCS migration of this size can apply to smaller ethanol plants as well,” Hurst said. “In the 15 years we’ve been supporting the ethanol industry, we’ve learned that every project is highly customized to that plant’s systems and needs.” In order to upgrade the system in just over one weekend, Trident teams collaborated with Marquis Energy to design the system specifically to the plant’s needs and to plan the installation to reduce production downtime.
With more than 5,000 ethanol projects under our belt, Trident is the top DCS designer and integrator for the ethanol industry. Before you believe everything you hear or read, consider the facts:
We have served more than 50% of the ethanol market with innovative technology solutions designed to keep their plants running.
We have 40 team members at our headquarters.
Our team has four PCS 7 certified engineers—only possible with a factory direct solutions partner.
Trident Automation has been serving the ethanol industry since 2003 and our founding partners worked in the industry for years prior to starting the company.
We’ve earned the trust of the nation’s largest ethanol producer, Marquis energy. Learn more about how we’ve helped this plant grow by viewing a short video on our website.
Before you believe everything out there online, find the facts from the ethanol industry’s most trusted systems integrator. And, if you’d like to learn more, plan to visit with us at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop June 19-21 in Minneapolis where we’ll be sharing the best practices for our ethanol customers.
All the bright ideas in the world don’t matter if you can’t get your hands on the technology. That’s why Trident Automation has developed and maintained deep relationships with the world’s top DCS manufacturers. We do this so our customers depend on fast turn around and access to the latest technology.
Trident Automation is one of only 11 companies in the United States recognized as a Siemens Solution Partner. Systems integrators that demonstrate specialized market expertise in a specific industry sector with significant regional, national or global support capabilities only earn this designation. To earn this ranking, our team had to demonstrate recurring technical application, including having PCS7 Certified engineers on staff, and designing engineering competence; we also had to make the grade in project management.
We are proud to represent Siemens and also proud that we have close relationships with other suppliers such as Rockwell, Foxboro, Delta V, and Honeywell.
Supplier access makes a difference to our customers. Kenny Wirtz is the plant manager at Commonwealth Ethanol near Nashville and he wanted a systems integrator with the resources and connections to support his business. “We needed to know if we had to get a hold of someone in the middle of the night, they’ll answer,” Wirtz said. In 30 minutes we solved his problem and it was largely a result of the relationships we have with our suppliers.
Trident Automation serves more ethanol producers than any other systems integrator
We started designing and installing operating systems for ethanol plants in 2003 and we have surpassed 5,000 individual projects done for ethanol producers. We serve about 50% of the ethanol market and provide control solutions specific to this industry. We are proud to have served ethanol producers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee.
Trident engineers and owners have hands-on experience at ethanol plants.
Our customers trust our boots on the ground approach to keep their plants running. We routinely dispatch teams to work on-site to design systems that provide the maximum efficiency for their teams. This means we get to know each individual ethanol customer and the quirks with every operating system. Our goal is to integrate the best products on the market, but to customize solutions for each plant.
Trident can execute installs in hours or days—whatever meets ethanol production needs.
Here’s what one of our customers, Jason Marquis, COO of Marquis Energy has to say about our teams: “If you look culturally at the people they bring out here to do work for us, these are people I trust. When they’re out here they’re working and working hard. More importantly they’re very reliable—if something they do doesn’t work, they fix it.”
Before you believe everything out there online, find the facts from the ethanol industry’s most trusted systems integrator. And, if you’d like to learn more, plan to visit with us at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop at booth numbers 627 & 726 June 19-21 in Minneapolis where we’ll be sharing the best practices for our ethanol customers.
Appleton, Wis., January 3, 2017–Trident Automation announces it has reached an agreement to merge with Trident Intech, LLC. Details of the merger were finalized on December 31, 2016. Trident Intech is a software development company partially owned by Shane Seif and the founders of Trident Automation. Under the new agreement, Seif will be leading the new software development/R&D initiatives for Trident Automation and will develop all proprietary software products for the company.
Trident Intech has developed products including the Workbench Suite of products that is a data collection and reporting module; the KPI System that automatically collects key performance indicators; and the Lab Data Module that presents data in easy-to-read graphics.
Trident Automation, Inc. was founded in 2002 by Jerry Wenzel, Don Jolly and Jason Hurst, all of whom continue to own the firm. The company designs and implements process control systems for manufacturers across North America and is headquartered in Kimberly, Wisconsin. It employs 19 engineers, programmers, and support personnel.