(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.
“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 “I’d say half the companies out there have some outdated legacy system that has the potential for problems and failures,” Don said.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
We just competed a survey of customers who are covered by a Trident Support Agreement and responses indicate ongoing support has its advantages. According to feedback from our customers:
96% of our customers rank Trident service courtesy good or excellent
84% of our customers ranked Trident good or excellent to work with
86% of our customers rank Trident’s after hours support good or excellent
One feature of our support agreements is 24-hour support, which is often the difference between keeping a plant on line and lost production. For Commonwealth Agri-Energy in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, one phone call on a weekend solved a potential problem. “We were without trending capabilities and one call to Trident in the middle of the night saved us,” said Kenny Wirts, plant manager. “Ethanol is a 24/7, 365-day a year business and we need partners with the same mind set.”
Support Agreements are customized to each specific customer’s needs but typically include
20 hours of remote support from our technical team via a secure internet connection
One three (3) day onsite visit for preventative maintenance of the controls system
Reduced engineering rates on all work performed under contract
Reduced minimums on after hours, Sunday, and Holiday call ins
Reduced tuition for DCS training provided by Trident Automation
Quarterly Reports of services performed
Same day response from a Trident team member
According to John Madajewski of CertainTeed, “We have highly customized operating systems and Trident has been a key part of our team, because they spent time to learn our process and focus on making the plant successful.”
When you’re one of the largest ethanol plants in the United States, a system upgrade could present a serious production problem in terms of losing thousands of dollars a day in income. But Marquis Energy trusted Trident Automation to do just that—amazingly, in only 60 hours.
Marquis Energy, located in Hennepin, Illinois, is the largest dry-mill ethanol facility in the country with a production capacity exceeding 300 million gallons per year. The plant was constructing a second 100+ million gallon unit and owners wanted to have both units on the same, most advanced system.
The plant was operating on a Siemens APACS DCS legacy system with Wonderware HMI, but needed to modernize the plant and leverage the advanced control strategies newer systems offer. Owners opted to install a Siemens PCS 7 solution, and Trident needed to execute a complete migration installation during a planned 60-hour shutdown over a weekend. “Their HMI was showing it’s age,” said Jason Hurst, founder of Trident. “Our expertise in PCS 7, integrated products, and KPI modules along with our trend interface and interlock visualization, met with Marquis’s high level of standards and requirements,” Hurst said.
Marquis Energy had been working with Trident since 2008. “We were looking for a short turnaround time,” said Jason Marquis, COO of Marquis Energy. “I thought on a project of this size there would be growing pains, so I’d rather do the project with someone we could trust.”
Over twelve weeks, Trident teams rewrote code, reconfigured logic, created new graphics, pre-assembled and tested thousands of connections, cables and components offsite at their headquarters. Pre-labeling I/O, organizing connections, and utilizing our innovative cabling solution helped the teams eliminate days of downtime. “Marquis opted for a Siemens solution because they knew it lent itself to speed and advanced control,” Hurst said.
When it was all done, Trident completed the rip and replace ahead of schedule with no production downtime.
“When Trident is here they’re working and working hard,” Jason Marquis said. “More importantly if something doesn’t work, they fix it. It’s about them getting you running and having our facility work well.”
According to Marquis, plant operators like the updated HMI and functionality and Trident is available if additional training is needed. “We’re happy to have an updated system with a useful life ahead of us,” Jason Marquis said.
You’ve had it happen before: your systems upgrade is installed and operational, until your team has to fine tune a process or train a new operator. That’s when you dig out the manual and forget everything you learned when the system was installed.
That’s why Trident Automation invested in a networked Learning Center designed to keep customers updated with the latest information on their DCS. “Our philosophy is to give our customers comprehensive training so they understand all the parts of their DCS process,” said Jason Hurst, Trident founder. “This gives new hires an overall introduction to their systems and provides an update for existing operators.”
The Learning Center features 16-networked stations that emulate the engineering stations of any of the control systems supported by Trident. Training includes formal book training with simulations that are designed to mirror a systems expansion in a typical plant upgrade or expansion. Trainees can adjust levels, set points, set alarms and interlocks all in a realistic “mini-factory” setting complete with tanks, pumps, valves and instrumentation.
“We have a complete set of hardware for every DCS we support,” Hurst said. “Trainees can pull it out, try to break it, and we can help them troubleshoot in a real-life environment.”
The training allows customers to do more in-house. “The best money we spend is training our guys on how to do some of the support ourselves,” said Kenny Wirts, plant manager for Commonwealth Agri-Energy in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. “As we upgrade our processes and add equipment, our guys are able to install systems in the field, but we always have a phone call back-up to Trident.”
For engineers just starting in the field, Trident’s training gets them up and running faster. “I never could have done it myself,” said John Madajewski of CertainTeed in L’Anse, Michigan. “Trident does a week of training and maintenance to get these guys up to speed to take care of the plant in weeks as opposed to years.”
Training programs are designed for plant engineers, maintenance teams, technicians and managers and topics covered are:
There’s nothing like a critical deadline to spark creative engineering solutions. Trident was given only 3 days to install and startup a new DCS for Elkhorn Valley Ethanol plant. The project had more than 1,500 I/O connections that would require hours of painstaking installation and testing. Trident’s teams estimated it could take about a week to wire the system—and they only had a little over two days.
That’s when inspiration hit Trident founder Jerry Wenzel. “There were literally thousands of wires and if we had to unscrew each of the 64 wires on the dozens of termination panels, it would be arduous,” Wenzel said. He and his team designed a migration cable with proprietary wiring schematics and customized connection points that allowed them to connect as many as 32 devices in minutes.
Connecting a new system to an old DCS is not unique. However, Trident could apply this technology to connect a new and old system from different manufacturers and have it all function correctly.
“We didn’t want to go through the work of installing a new control system and connecting it with a limited lifetime product,” Wenzel said. “So we went through extensive testing prior to installation.” Wenzel says rigorous quality checks have resulted in good acceptance during installation.
Trident has used this solution in several DCS conversions and each install takes an average of 60 cables, each handing 32 channels of I/O. The solution decreases installation time and, most importantly, gets the customer back into production.