Automation, Controls

Changes to controls and automation in the manufacturing, industrial building market

Several changes to the design of automation and building controls in the manufacturing and industrial buildings are covered here by the experts

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer October 13, 2021
Courtesy: CRB

Respondents:

David L. Cooper, PMP, Principal, Smith Seckman Reid Inc. (SSR), Memphis, TN; Andrew David Hager, BASMA, PE, LEED AP, Senior Mechanical Design Lead, CRB, St. Louis; Darren Rogge, Senior Associate, Jordan & Skala Engineers Inc., Norcross, Georgia; Joe Schadt, Construction Executive, Industrial, Harris, St. Paul, Minnesota. Courtesy: Smith Seckman Reid, CRB, Jordan & Skala, Harris

David L. Cooper, PMP, Principal, Smith Seckman Reid Inc. (SSR), Memphis, TN; Andrew David Hager, BASMA, PE, LEED AP, Senior Mechanical Design Lead, CRB, St. Louis; Darren Rogge, Senior Associate, Jordan & Skala Engineers Inc., Norcross, Georgia; Joe Schadt, Construction Executive, Industrial, Harris, St. Paul, Minnesota. Courtesy: Smith Seckman Reid, CRB, Jordan & Skala, Harris

From your experience, what systems within industrial and manufacturing facilities are benefiting from automation that previously might not have? 

Andrew David Hager: Product lines that require precise environmental controls. Product lines that require precise filling, weighing and packaging control. The price of automation is coming down such that what may have been manual or pneumatic control is now digitally controlled with the ability to provide feedback for monitoring and feed-back for making adjustments. Automated adjustments on the fly and sensor monitoring to predict sensor failure and improving production. 

Darren Rogge: Depending on the client, we see automation controls on everything from air conditioning and ventilation equipment, interior and exterior lighting, compressed air and electrical usage metering, to generators and uninterruptible power supply systems. The building automation systems’ capability and functionalities have grown and are becoming a much more user-friendly component that can help assist the end user’s maintenance personnel in operating their facilities more efficiently. Also, there has been an increase in the tenant’s use of conveying systems and robotics technology to provide more automation and higher productivity in their operating processes. 

Joe Schadt: Today, every simple and repeatable task is being examined for how it could be done with automation. This trend is here to stay and the ability to perform more complex tasks is increasing exponentially. With fewer people interacting in the manufacturing process, the building design can focus less on the human needs of the space and more on the manufacturing process and how to optimize space and mechanical systems for production.       

Is your team using building information modeling in conjunction with the architects, trades and owner to design a project?  

Joe Schadt: We use BIM on almost every project that we perform. We do work with all design partners, including owners, architects, engineers and trade partners to make sure all aspects of the project are included in the model. We recently turned over the BIM model of an energy center built at a large health care facility. The model does have embedded information and will be used for the maintenance of all of the equipment and also for future expansion.  

Darren Rogge: Most of our projects are designed in BIM and the process of coordination is a constant collaboration effort between all design team members. This coordination effort is also, typically, continued on with the construction team once the building construction commences to assist them in fabrication of ductwork and piping systems. The use of BIM with clash detection and system coordination is a substantial tool in mitigating potential conflicts in the field. 

CRB recently provided design and construction services for the replacement of an HVAC unit and chiller for this confidential global pharmaceutical manufacturing client. Courtesy: CRB

CRB recently provided design and construction services for the replacement of an HVAC unit and chiller for this confidential global pharmaceutical manufacturing client. Courtesy: CRB

In what way is the need for more smart technology and features in such buildings affecting your work on these projects? 

Joe Schadt: Smart technology can change the way building services are used and maintained. For example, we are currently offering systems that track performance of building HVAC systems. This allows us to see where the system is not performing optimally and make changes. We also see problems well before they cause serious issues and address them as the arise. In a production facility, this can prevent an unnecessary shutdown, which costs the owners production time. 

Andrew David Hager: Virtual modeling of equipment and equipment layout for client interface using virtual reality is needed to assist in equipment layout, which includes human to machine (equipment) interface. 

Darren Rogge: We are seeing more automation in controls and building systems operations. As we work with the client or end-user to collaborate on the systems to be implemented into their building, we share with them the pros and cons of different system capabilities and work with them to develop a package that meets their needs.  

Has the “internet of things” come up in discussion or been implemented on such projects? Has this integration impacted the project?  

Andrew David Hager: Networking equipment controllers and including human interface is not anything new to the industrial and manufacturing world. More and more equipment is coming to market with controllers that have network capabilities for monitoring, alarming and reporting. With respect to the commercial side of IoT, it has more to do with devices that clients use to interface with the equipment controls such as handheld devices. Clients are still uneasy about a cloud-based point of information collection due to security and reliability of the information.  

What smart devices are owners requesting and how are you meeting these needs?  

Andrew David Hager: Some Industrial and manufacturing clients are asking for the intelligent sensors that run a self-diagnostic and can let the users know if the sensor is experience issues. These devices are expensive, however product validation and manufacturing uptime is critical operation therefore the expense is justifiable.  

Cybersecurity and hacking are increasing concerns — are you seeing such concerns impacting your work on industrial and manufacturing facilities? 

Andrew David Hager: Security for our clients is a big concern and clients are very weary of cloud-based systems and wireless systems for good reasons, especially when we see news reports of hackers holding computer systems for ransom. Our industrial and manufacturing clients will not take those kinds of risks and therefore hard-wired, closed, private networks are still the primary requirement from our clients. 

Darren Rogge: We have some clients wanting a more robust telecom service entrance with a secure environment to house the demarcation termination location and their main IT equipment. 

David L. Cooper: We are seeing more and more request for this in specifications from owners and clients.  


Consulting-Specifying Engineer