The complexities of industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse facilities: automation and controls

Warehouses and factories are more than simply bare-bones buildings for companies to keep equipment. Here, professionals with experience on such facilities offer advice on how to meet and exceed expectations regarding automation and controls.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 28, 2017


Russell Ashcroft, PE, Principal Engineer, Southland Engineering, Tempe, Ariz.

Mike Barbes, PE, LC, Senior Electrical Engineer, AECOM, Atlanta

Reinhard Hanselka, PhD, Director of Code Compliance, CRB, Kansas City, Mo.

Marcin Jakubowski, Senior Mechanical Engineer, RTM Engineering Consultants, Orlando, Fla.

Eric M. Roeder, PE, Project Manager, Security & Fire Protection, JENSEN HUGHES, Arlington, Va.

Sunondo Roy, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President, CCJM Engineers Ltd., Chicago

CSE: What are some of the challenges incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into facility design for existing industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse buildings?

Roy: As often as we bring up the possibility and benefits of IoT integration into building automation, we get shot down with security and radio-frequency interference concerns. We have not seen a solution provider present specifically on these concerns, nor can we bring up too-specific details regarding clients’ proprietary circumstances to explain the specific concerns that generic presentations typically do not address. The challenge is to bring the solution providers into the same rooms as the clients and let them discuss the issues under confidential conditions.

CSE: When working on monitoring and control systems in such buildings, what factors do you consider?

Ashcroft: There is always a need to verify expansion or capacity of the existing head-end system. Interconnection capability, or the ability to add to this system, is critical.

CSE: What types of system integration and/or interoperability issues have you overcome in such facilities, and how did you do so?

Ashcroft: Even though many of the communication protocols have moved to Ethernet, there still are many local communication languages that exist and need to be translated to the main system infrastructure. Capable translators are always a challenge to get to work without interruption.

CSE: How has the convergence of automation and controls affected the design of industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse buildings?

Ashcroft: All of the engineered systems are now being consolidated into one “network.” Systems such as life safety systems, toxic-gas monitoring, and security must all have the capability to talk to the main network system.