PDA Lends Expertise to Conveyor Controls Project

Process and Data Automation (PDA) provided engineering expertise for a conveyor controls project at a beverage company based in the Great Lakes region. This expertise was directed at the design and implementation of new programming of the OEM and plant provided PLC, HMI and motor controls in order to integrate the plant’s existing processing systems and conveyors into a new line configuration with OEM controls. The client requested that the motors be controlled by new Allen-Bradley Power Flex 525 Series VFDs communicating via ethernet, within new control panels designed and built by Krones Inc.

The engineering group at PDA provided the labor necessary to write the controls code that was integrated with the PLC supplied by Krones. While the PLC and HMI code was what the project required, what was necessary was this and additional, engineering for the final design and project administration to incorporate the needs of both client and OEM.

The project was organized for PDA to provide engineering to coordinate and control the existing conveyor and machine centers that were necessary for the operation of the bottling line, and where the existing centers had not been upgraded. This involved blending equipment from multiple manufacturers into a functioning system, coordinating installation, start-up and runout testing between multiple trades. In addition, PDA acted as a resource to both the equipment supplier and the end-client to triage and resolve issues that were outside the scope of one single party. This role was essential in this project because PDA acted as the glue or connection between the new machine centers provided by Krones, and the original hardware installed in the plant. The involvement of PDA allowed the other parties to focus on their core responsibilities.

The solution provided by PDA has led to increased throughput, a more modular system, and reduced project costs. The integration of the OEE data from the machine centers into the line information system (LIS) now allows data to be readily obtained or tracked by the end-client.

Future upgrades the end client is considering are:

  • Line Balancing
  • Control Zoning (currently there is only one zone)
  • Line Diagnostics LD
  • Line Management Systems LMS


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COVID-19 Message from PDA

Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our employees and their families, our clients and our customers. We are taking the necessary steps to stay informed and engaged with the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization guidance for preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. As this situation progresses, we will continue to adjust and keep our customers informed.

In order to ensure workplace safety and maintain a safe environment to serve our clients and customers, we are doing the following:

  • We are taking proactive steps to review and refresh general safety procedures with associates.
  • We are being extra vigilant and intensifying preventative measures, such as implementing enhanced sanitation and hygiene practices across our operations.
  • We are working closely with our partners to assess and modify customer-facing services in order to provide a safe and comfortable environment.

Additionally, we are uniquely equipped to work remotely, in the office, or at your site should you have an issue with staffing and are in need of support. Do not hesitate to reach out to us should we be able to assist you during this time.

On behalf of the entire Process and Data Automation team, our hearts go out to all of those affected by this. We are truly in this together and together we will do what it takes to overcome this challenge.

You may also read the Krones Coronavirus statement here. 

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Enhanced Inspection Services

With equipment maintenance you are constantly dealing with the need for:

  • The system to function at its full ability
  • A detailed inspection (recording of actual conditions)
  • A smooth overhaul (planning and prioritization)
  • Equipment modernization and retrofits

You need a solution that offers:

  • Detailed physical and infrared inspection of control components, motors, and panels to identify and record any physical issues
  • Online analysis of control networks to identify and record any degradation of network quality
  • Analysis of panel drawings and online programs (PLC and HMI) against archived copies to identify system changes

You have it with Enhanced Inspection Services from PDA:

  • Automation Equipment Health
  • Power Quality
  • Infrared Inspection
  • System Documentation

Benefits of Enhanced Inspection Services:

  • Keep a close eye on your machines’ electrical and control systems’ performance.
  • Obsolescence avoidance and strategic planning of control upgrades
  • Cost savings for spare parts
  • Maximized line availability thanks to fewer unscheduled machine failures

Additional Plant Support Services Available

  • R&D
  • FEED studies
  • Electrical design and troubleshooting
  • Network design and troubleshooting
  • Specification, installation, and maintenance of equipment and systems
  • Training and documentation development
  • Improvement to existing controls and HMI’s
  • Professional Service Contract (PSC)

Download our brochure HERE!

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PDA Upgrades Failing Controls for Large U.S. Manufacturer
Process and Data Automation (PDA) reviewed and refined the scope of work required to upgrade failing controls equipment for one of the largest privately-held manufacturers of ice cream and frozen treats in the United States, at their production facilities in upstate New York.  The clients needed the upgrades since the existing controls equipment was aged, unreliable and a DEP mandate for tighter controls and better reporting practices had been issued.

Completion of this project moved the facility from an unknown to a known state with respect to automation, as well as providing a comprehensive system overview contrasting the legacy, existing islands of discrete controls.  PDA not only upgraded the core control equipment but also added Monitoring and Automated Reporting capabilities to replace the manual-entry method at the facility.  PDA also delivered process narrative and documentation, that could easily be followed by the client, integrated disparate controls into a cohesive facility-based model and assisted the client’s ERP team with the integration of key data into the Oracle reporting system.  The agile interactive approach to project planning allowed the client to achieve regulatory milestones in an expedited fashion.  PDA also completed the upgrade of the core control hardware with selected use of existing equipment in order the minimize costs.

The major challenges to successfully completing the project included:

  1. A compressed timeline.
  2. Unknown or unreliable site and equipment information.
  3. Multiple trades working on co-operative yet competing deadlines.
  4. Difficulties encountered in implementing the solution included scheduling, the lack of site knowledge, and competing ideas from key client contacts of how to do it “right”.

The solution implemented by PDA resulted in better visibility of the entire process, multiple adjustment points to fine-tune controls and the assurance that only approved materials are transferred.  The facility now has automated chemical injection processes, separation of fat and valving and motors as necessary.  Further, the tracking and data collection for the chemical dosing and for raw and corrected pH and TSS are available.

In the future, the client could consider increased capacity and different correction methods.  In addition, the introduction of remote monitoring and increased data collection should be considered.

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.


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Joe Snyder Talks Shop on Behrend Talks Radio Series

In a recently aired Business Spotlight Behrend Talks interview, Process and Data President, Joe Snyder, gives a revealing look into PDA’s history, Joe’s personal path to entrepreneurship, the importance of being located on the Penn State Behrend campus and becoming a part of Krones. This interview, which aired on January 17, 2020, was facilitated by Dr. Ralph Ford, Chancellor at Penn State Behrend.

PDA began as a 3-person small business and over the last 18 years has grown into a 42 and ½ employee, premier integration firm. Before becoming one of the owners of PDA, Joe worked in a small 3-person engineering firm – first as an engineer and then as the head of Business Development. In his years there he learned the business from the inside out and remains grateful for his experience there for it helped lay the groundwork for how he and his partners would eventually run Process and Data Automation which they founded in 2002.

When asked to offer advice to people seeking to become entrepreneurs, Joe offered that experience actually doing the work for someone else before you open your own business is very important. At some point, you are going to have to sell this idea or product to someone else so that you can grow and you must be able to prove that there is a need for it and that it can be done. The easiest way to prove that is knowing that you yourself have done it so you know it to be true.

Dr. Ford also asked about Krones purchasing PDA three years ago. Joe discussed that PDA had not been for sale at that time, so it was quite flattering when they received an initial offer. As Joe and his partner learned more about Krones and their expertise in the liquid food and packaging industry, this seemed like a good opportunity as PDA would be able to continue their work in Erie while expanding their potential customer base with the help of Krones.

Finally, the importance of moving their office to Knowledge Park at the Penn State Behrend campus was discussed. PDA had always offered internships and worked on Senior Design Programs with University students but moving to the campus allowed for the expansion of these programs and an even better designed intern program. Interns working at PDA do meaningful work and are well-prepared for life as an engineer after college. Joe estimates that over half of his current employees are Penn State Behrend graduates.

To listen to this full interview, please click here!

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Upgrade to Grit Well Controls for a Pennsylvania Borough WWTP

The latest entry into our Digitalization Digest consists of a project for a Pennsylvania Borough of an existing Grit Well control system that was based on a DCS system. The system was proving to be very costly and now effectively obsolete and could not be readily expanded. The system’s age made replacement of parts difficult, with long lead times and limited sources for the required parts.

For the new system, it was decided that the remote DCS I/O would best be a new Modicon hardware, to include a new PLC and panel to replace the existing remote panel. Modicon provided compatibility with the WWTP – supplier Activar VFDs as well as accessibility for product spares and replacements. The software selected for the control system was Ignition, an affordable product providing unlimited clients, unlimited data points, unlimited screens and remote alarming via email/SMS. A further advantage to the Ignition platform is that scalability is very cost-effective relative to the leading competitors. Additionally, the Ignition software was selected by PDA for the SCADA aspect as well as for the overall visualization of the project.

The new system is a standalone control system operated via Ignition. For estimation purposes, data collection was assumed to occur on up to 25 points and initially, the data points were collected and stored within the existing SQL database for the DCS system. As the changeover progressed the existing database became the Ignition database and provided historical long-term storage for both data sets.  This action was predicated upon PDA having full access to the SQL database.

PDA provided the labor for engineering and data services, as well as for the system I/O requirements.  PDA also provided hardware, including the main control panel that housed the controller, all M340 rack-based I/Os and an M340 rack for future expansion. This panel was also fitted with a door-mounted HMI touch screen for local control of the system. All control equipment was pre-installed in the cabinet, together with E-stop equipment, power requirements, and miscellaneous panel components.

At the completion of the project an internal assessment led to the following observations:

  • Any potential customer can benefit from the solution that was presented to the Pennsylvania Borough. It is applicable to a large municipal system or a large manufacturing plant, looking for a more custom based solution.
  • The focus of the solution was to alleviate ever-rising costs in maintaining older control systems and yet avoid licensing costs that can force a client to stay with the obsolete system.
  • The water authority had the ability to test the system and, if satisfied, begin their phased migration.
  • Ignition creates an interface that is user-friendly and both flexible and expandable. The best practices used by PDA ensure that the platform is pre-loaded with useful scripts and memory tags, allowing convenient setting up of new screens and advanced techniques, as well as maintaining low costs for any future modifications.
  • The most difficult part of the project was determining what could be removed from the existing DCS system and incorporated into the new controlled system.
  • Training was provided allowing the customer to become self-sufficient.

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.

Our Digitalization Digest includes articles and thoughts regarding manufacturing plant digitalization.

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Bridging the IT/OT Gap

In a December article in Control,  Scott McCausland, PDA digitalization services manager discussed the need for cybersecurity on the plant-floor and how it really catalyzed when data acquisition (DAQ) devices and historians began to evolve.

Similar to most cybersecurity efforts, PDA deploys defense-in-depth layers that make users secure enough based on their individual needs but still give them easy access to their data. Steps to implement these layers include:

  • Understand a client’s present and cybersecurity architecture;

  • Identify a networking program that can enable growth and continuous improvement; and

  • Propose a network architecture with stronger cybersecurity that uses zones, conduits, firewalls, and DMZs to provide isolation from business levels and the outside world, but still be able to reach them as needed.

To implement these and other modern cybersecurity tools, McCausland explained the most important element is co-educating IT and OT personnel, so they can “play in the same sandbox” because more clients are requiring the two sides to cooperate.

McCausland shared that this new bridging role will help many clients “operationalize” cybersecurity and other IT functions by moving them from larger, one-time capital expenditures (CapEx) to ongoing, smaller operational expenditures (OpEx). “These manufacturing IT people can give OT more data about what’s happening at the IT level, such as how to handle new patches coming in, or when a vendor has been flagged for some issue. This role can also give IT more information about what’s happening on the plant-floor to maintain uptime and aid continuous improvement. Consequently, they can also improve cybersecurity by opening and maintaining communications among all these parties.”

To read the full article from Control click here!

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Network Assessment: Line Specific

You are constantly dealing with:

  • Demand for equipment connectivity
  • Obsolete and aged equipment
  • Disconnected equipment
  • ISA-95 Model standards
  • The necessity for smart manufacturing

You need a solution that offers:

  • Outputs like; status quo network scan, full inventory documentation, traffic scan summaries. and recommendations.
  • In-plant, physical tracing of port-to-port connections including; attaching testing equipment (toning), detailed assessment of all connections, disconnect logging (switch log evaluations), and diagrammed breakdown of origin and destination ports.
  • Detailed security of device configurations like; are best-practice configurations used, strong passwords implemented, appropriate firewall configurations, are unused ports disabled, and more…


  • Software/Asset Review
  • Management
  • Processes/Performance
  • Recommendations

Benefits of a line-specific network assessment:

  • Having a full inventory of all key assets
  • Understanding of how network equipment connects to each other
  • Knowledge of network software running
  • Identification of bottlenecks
  • A game plan for resolutions and configuration changes

In today’s marketplace, manufacturers are continually challenged to do more with their existing assets. The PDA team specializes in assisting our partners in meeting this challenge. Whether it is repurposing existing equipment for a new product, increasing throughput, or adding functionality.

Let’s solve the challenge together!

Additional services available for your plant:

  • Digitalization
  • Automation Engineering
  • Plant Support Services
  • Electrical Design

Download our Network-Assessment Sheet HERE!

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Give Yourself Peace of Mind with our Plant Support Agreement

Plant Support Service Agreements from Process and Data Automation (PDA): Offering a Spectrum of Services to Our Customers

There are many advantages to Plant Support Services Agreements from PDA, however only at the point you need support, do you realize just how beneficial it is to have access to a spectrum of services!

Today, we are going to discuss three different, real-world cases in which our service agreement saved the day.

How easy is it really to switch between unique scopes of work? Very easy!


A national snack food manufacturer had the opportunity to put this to the test.  “We came to work to find that none of our front office computers would connect to our order entry system, could not connect to the internet and that our IT guy quit without any notice.  My first call was to PDA”.


After receiving the call from the plant around 9:30 that morning, PDA had a Digitalization Services Engineer onsite before lunch.  While this isn’t our team’s typical work, our client needed help and our team had the resources. After this emergency callout, PDA worked with the plant to temporarily rework the contract commitment of resources to allow someone from DSG to start their day at the plant for up to two hours a day to ensure that everything IT was behaving for the plant. Doing this allowed the plant to use their PSC commitment to solve this challenge without breaking their budget.

Once the plant fills the internal IT position, we will return to doing the more traditional tasks that we were busy with prior to this event. For PDA’s service department, the goal is to ensure that the client gets the most out of their contract, even if we need to be part-time IT for their office staff.

Can training can be part of our Service Agreement? Our answer is a resounding, “Yes”! When talking about the advantages of our Plant Support Service Agreement, employee training is often not thought of as part of service – but one of our clients discovered that training was their major need.


A frozen food manufacturer came to us and explained that their current maintenance employees didn’t have the HMI & PLC skills they currently needed. PDA sat down with them and worked up a plan to help.


PDA adjusted their Plant Support Service Agreement to offer training for six months. PDA did handle a little maintenance during the six-month but predominantly handled training. PDA built up a training resource for the client and provided ad hoc training to their employees and the client saw benefits in employee performance very quickly. At the end of that six months, PDA switched back to what their regular scheduled service agreement was. None of this had any additional cost and they remain a happy client.

How flexible is your service agreement and how fast can it change to meet our needs?  A Plant Support Service Agreement from PDA is the most flexible and fastest in the industry!


Corporate sales for a food manufacturer landed a big contract that required them to re-work one of their rooms with a very aggressive timeline to finish and the normal sales cycle was not fast enough.


PDA was able to re-work the service agreement so that they could handle the design portion (laying out control methodology, IO count, the panel builds) which saved them the time they needed to complete their new project on time.

Our goal is to make our service agreement work for the individual needs of the client and that also means being flexible enough to change course quickly when necessary.


The Spectrum of Benefits of a Plant Support Services Agreement are easy to see:

  • Fixed amount of expense on a monthly basis
  • Fixed, variable, or combination scheduling monthly
  • Scheduling to fit your needs
  • Highest priority for incoming service calls
  • Mixture of engineering, industrial IT, service, and other staff to meet all your needs!


PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.

Read More | Posted In: Application Stories, News

Digitalization Digest: Issue 1 – Network Review and Upgrade

Network Review and Upgrade for a Chemical Company

The first entry in our Digitalization Digest (articles and thoughts regarding manufacturing plant digitalization) consists of an Ethernet modernization planning project for a chemical company located in the southeastern USA.  The company has seven distinct site locations on a campus that employs hundreds of people. The project was to gather information on all switches, media connections, and equipment related to the network for the purpose of executing a methodical, phased upgrade.

The review process included assessments of over 150 managed and unmanaged switches, the main distribution frame (MDF), all intermediate distribution frames (IDF), as well as the connections from industrial switches at the site to each other and to computers/databases/terminals.  The project was specifically targeted at Level 1 and higher on the ISA-95 model, not focusing on PLC connections to the production processing equipment level.

The company had a moderately accurate inventory of their managed switches and main computers (essentially everything with an IP address).  The network is monitored by two different pieces of management/monitoring software (MNS), these being IntraVUE and WhatsUp Gold.  However unmanaged switches, fiber media converters, and patch panels had not been inventoried effectively and devices like these had been added throughout the campus over the years.  Added challenges were that much of the hardware was fifteen years old or older and had been installed in an open-air plant environment so that the exteriors of the machines etc. were in poor condition.

Post onsite investigation, a plan was generated to consolidate equipment – multiple smaller switches were to be replaced by larger switches.   Reuse of the patch panels was originally considered, but after discussions with the client, it was evident that newer update patches would be preferred in most cases. Every effort was made to create the lowest quantity of unique situations, i.e., minimizing variability and design time, and to reuse existing punch-downs if serviceable and able to be transferred into new enclosures.

A proposal was completed for migration of each site and included the following:

  1. Recommendations for overall system planning and architecture accounting for available connections and transmission lines, required routes of communication, and best practices with respect to layers, VLANS, etc.
  2. Hardware plan per site.
  3. Labor per site for both configuration and deployment.
  4. The client was self-installing Visio documentation so that generation/update of existing system drawings would be performed in that medium.

PDA developed plans to move forward and provided documentation for each of the seven sites that identified all components of the network, with photographs and labels.  The project is ongoing, and every effort will be made to provide easier access to the network as well as the ability to identify problems when they arise.  Further upgrades to any of the seven sites will be more readily achieved as they become necessary.

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Services Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.

Read More | Posted In: Digitalization Digest, News