Process and Data Automation Announce a New Vice President of Operations

June 22, 2020 – Process and Data Automation (PDA) is proud to announce that Jeremy Anderson has been promoted to Vice President of Operations. This is a newly created position in the company and Jeremy will be the perfect inaugural leader to help blaze this new trail.

When asked why Jeremy was the right fit for this new role, Process and Data President, Joe Snyder shared this, “Jeremy has been a pivotal figure for most Process and Data Automation clients as established in his prior roles as Outside Sales and later as Service Manager. The ability to make and maintain relationships while driving positive change inside of Process and Data Automation are characteristics that we felt were keys to success as we expanded to this role. These traits, along with Jeremy’s general business acumen and desire to deliver successful results for clients, made the decision obvious that he was the correct person for this position.”

Jeremy has been a member of the PDA team for 10+ years. In that time, he has worked as a Sales Engineer, Project Manager, and most recently, the Service Manager. He has excelled in all these positions and they have given him a deep understanding of how the operation works best at PDA. Prior to joining the team at PDA, he was an Industrial Control Specialist at Erie Bearings Co.

Excited about his new role, Jeremy confided, “Having been fortunate enough to work closely with everyone here at PDA has been one of the best experiences of my career. It has helped me develop a deep appreciation for the entire PDA team, our staff, our clients, and all of the other external partners. My goal in this new position is to strengthen those bonds and continue to assist in the growth of this company and our people.”

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About Process and Data Automation:

Process and Data Automation, a Member of the KRONES Group is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm while being Krones’ North American Industrial IT Provider and SYSKRON’s execution arm. PDA’s Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. PDA also features 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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Digitalization Digest: Upgrade to a Food & Beverage Plant

The next entry in our Digitalization Digest, articles and thoughts regarding manufacturing plant digitalization, focuses on a project for an international manufacturer of private label food and beverages across North America and Italy for retail grocery, food service, and industrial customers.

Limited production capacity, due in part to an obsolescent network within the plant, had become a major problem. Process and Data Automation (PDA) commissioned and tested the production equipment, as well as evaluated and programmed the control network which included PLC and HMI work. During the evaluation step, it was established that the existing pumps in the plant and their VFD controls were unable to meet production needs and should be replaced. In addition, the existing controls operated on DeviceNet, a system that the plant had already decided to phase out, represented a further limitation.

PDA recommended the installation of an Ethernet control system with retention and careful use of the existing legacy PLC processor. Upon further discussion and evaluation, it was then determined that network evaluation, together with a segregation strategy, was essential to ensure that the increased traffic from the new equipment would not interfere with other operations in the plant. PDA provided the engineering and hardware for the PLC programming to integrate two new SPXFlow Universal TS series pumps and replace two Powerflex 40 drives with Powerflex 525 drives.

During the project, problems associated with merging new technologies with the aging infrastructure were successfully overcome by being able to provide the plant with a more modular system, as well as the capability to meet the production demands.  Also, by using the approach of retaining functional legacy equipment, the overall cost of the project was significantly reduced.

Overall, the changes to the plant simply represented an upgrade to the existing processing system and replacement of the older controls that had operated at a lower feed rate. The new equipment provided enhanced diagnostic capabilities that allow both tracking and recovery of data. PDA discussed with the client the need for future improvements in the plant, including:

  • Upgrading the obsolete PLCs
  • Line Diagnostics/OEE
  • Network migration (DeviceNet to Ethernet) for the remaining legacy equipment

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. The Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. PDA also features 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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Application Story: Upgrade of a Brewhouse Control System

The project was completed at the facilities of the Founders Brewing Company, with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a globally recognized brewing company, and one of the top 10 largest craft brewers in the US. According to Alec Mull, Vice President of Brewing Operations at Founders Brewing, the project was critical, “As we grew and matured as a brewery, it was important for us to decrease our digital risk and increase our security and reliability of our most important software and network.” Alec went on to say that, “Virtualization, though not common among our brewing peers, was developed and implemented with a cooperative between our brilliant Founders OT/IT teams, the great brewing minds at Krones, and the incredible people at PDA. This project, though challenging, was handled with the utmost skill and professionalism, culminating in an outcome we are all proud of. Hats off to our colleagues at Krones and PDA for executing this exciting improvement.”

The project consisted of two isolated brewing control systems, referred to as “Gigantor” and “CombiCube” were operating at the facility, the first with a BOTEC F1 License installed on two redundant servers and four clients. The second system is operating with a BOTEC Classic license installed on one server.

The upgrade would involve combining the two systems to allow an operator to control any portion, according to security credentials, from any HMI in the plant. This required merging the equipment and software currently used on the Gigantor process control system with that of the CombiCube control system. To achieve this merger, it was necessary to create a system with two redundant virtual server pairs in separate locations with a virtual SQL Server and several client machines.

The project involves three phases (with the third to be completed in 2021):      

  1. Implementation of a virtualized system, BOTEC process data servers, and a SQL server to reduce risk.
  2. Upgrade from BOTEC Classic to BOTEC F1 and merge applications. The brewhouse has been running on BOTEC Classic, operating on an unsupported system without a backup for that system. By upgrading to BOTEC F1 (which is in use at the company’s larger brewhouse) and merging into one cohesive system, the brewers were able to control multiple areas of the facility (such as the 300 bbl and 80 bbl brewhouses, or the cellar) from any of the server stations and/or client screens.
  3. Upgrade the visualization system (to be completed 2021) from Iltis V2 to Iltis WPF. The former is an older version of visualization and is not supported for new features on the BOTEC roadmap. In contrast, Iltis WPF uses open format Windows standards and incorporates enhanced features related to trending, screen manipulation, and troubleshooting issues.

The first phase provided several advantages, migrating the process data server and SQL server to a virtual machine, to:

  • Reduce the time required the recover from hardware failures
  • Allow periodic backup of the virtual machines
  • Split the load across multiple servers thus reducing redundancy
  • Create a system that is controllable from any server location

The upgrade from BOTEC Classic to BOTEC F1 and merger of the applications effectively replaced an obsolete product, as well as providing the capability to control all the systems from anywhere in the plant.

In the future, upgrading from Iltis V2 to Iltis WPF will add new features, together with the ability to add improvements as they may be developed. This approach will bring all the automated brewhouses to the same visual system giving the brewers more familiarity with all the brewhouses.

The most difficult part of the project was the coordination of available downtime in the brewhouse with completing the changeover from a physical server configuration to virtual. With only a short window of time available, this changeover was successfully completed without any unexpected impact on the brewing schedule. This represented a substantial amount of work, being completed in a single shift of downtime.

Data from the Combicube brewhouse is now recorded in the same way as that for the larger (Gigantor) brewhouse and the SQL database, which includes recipes, is backed up daily. The system, completely reprogrammed to function with BOTEC F1, operates as it did previously but now includes the added features of BOTEC F1. Upgraded development programs from Krones for both BOTEC F1 and the visualization system may be implemented in the future.

When asked about the project, Eric Williams, Project Lead at Process and Data Automation said, “It was a real pleasure to work with the Founders team in executing these upgrades.  We had the opportunity to work with everyone from Admin to the key team members of the IT/OT group and brewers, all of whom worked diligently to support our endeavors towards the upgrade and were eager to accept the system once implemented.

The virtualization portion of the project was only to be considered a success if completed within the downtime window and without notice by the brewers.  We totally changed the back end of the system and brought the brewhouse back online after only one shift.  The brewers were back to crafting delicious brews without our assistance that evening, I am very proud of this successful project.

The Combicube was taken down for only one week.  We worked closely with the Founders technicians and brewers to completely recommission the brewhouse.  Due to solid planning, tight coordination of all involved, and the team’s dedication we were running CIPs by the third day and water brews by the fourth.  As planned, the brewhouse was back to running production brews with only minor parameter tweaks required the following week.” 

According to Alec Mull, “Our road to a more consistent and automated brewing process started in 2011 with our first Krones/Steinecker brewhouse operating under the BOTEC Classic program. It was an incredible improvement for us in technology that helped us to further develop world-class beers that were even more consistent and reliable. A few years later in 2015, the world demanded even more Founders beer, and our obvious choice was to once again lean on the experts at Krones to build us a world-class customized brewhouse and cellar, though this time operating BOTEC F1. Our team found tremendous value in this updated software, so we reached out to PDA to execute an upgrade of our BOTEC Classic to F1. While this sounds easy, it was clearly a large project, as we needed to execute this upgrade and virtualization simultaneously due to brewing demand. I am amazed at the skill and professionalism of our colleagues at PDA, who seamlessly integrated this software upgrade and virtualization project with minimal downtime. We didn’t miss a beat, and we really appreciate the opportunity to work with PDA and Krones on these exciting upgrades.”

Download this Application Story HERE!

About Founders Brewing

Founders Brewing Co is one of the top 10 largest craft brewers in the US with global recognition for many of their quality beers. Founders Brewing Co. has evolved into one of the highest recognized breweries in the United States. They have been ranked in the top breweries in the world by Ratebeer.com for the last five years, and have several beers listed in the top 100 beers of the world on Beeradvocate.com. Founders Brewing is now among the top ten largest craft breweries in the country and considered one of the fastest-growing.

About Process and Data Automation

Process and Data Automation (PDA) is Krones’ North American Industrial IT Provider and SYSKRON’s Execution Arm. PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. The Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. PDA also features 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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Process and Data Automation Announces Vice President’s Retirement and Replacement

April 28, 2020 — After 17 years helping to build Process and Data Automation (PDA) into the company it is today, Vice President and Co-founder, Michael Benedict, is announcing his retirement beginning May 1st, 2020. From humble beginnings in 2002, PDA President Joe Snyder and Mike began building a company with a solid reputation of professional solutions and promises delivered.

Mike shared, “Over the years of growing this company we have had a great time mentoring many to have successful careers in the automation field.  That is what I will miss the most. Automation is a field in which one will never get bored and will always be challenged. I look forward to reports of continued Process and Data Automation success and great customer satisfaction.”

Mike’s retirement plans include motorhome travel, more time with his grandchildren, fishing, camping, hunting, and some overseas adventures. Everyone at PDA will miss him and looks forward to hearing about his new retirement lifestyle.

Filling Mike’s position will be PDA’s current Electrical Engineering Manager, Tim Andrews. Tim, a Penn State Electrical Engineering graduate, joined PDA in 2004. In his first 16 years with the company, he has honed his engineering skills, built lasting internal and external relationships, sharpened his project management talents, and become part of the management team leading PDA through constant growth. In his new role as Vice President of Engineering, he will be an important part of PDA’s future development.

“I truly cannot wait to lead and work alongside our talented staff into the future of factory automation”, Tim said. “The needs of our current and future clients will continue to require bringing cutting edge technology to the factory floor, and PDA will remain a leader in delivering these solutions. I am ready to get started on this next chapter in my career and help the gifted PDA team provide the best solutions to our clients.”

About Process and Data Automation:

Process and Data Automation, a Member of the KRONES Group is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm while being Krones’ North American Industrial IT Provider and SYSKRON’s execution arm. PDA’s Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. PDA also features 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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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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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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