Deep Expertise in Automation and Controls Solutions for Manufacturers
Polaris Automation has deep expertise in developing innovative control system solutions that keep the manufacturing environment running smoothly and efficiently. Our diverse industry experience includes oil and gas, consumer packaged goods, automotive, specialty materials, metals, pharmaceuticals, and more. Here’s a sampling of some of the projects we have completed in the industries we serve.
Oil & Gas
A global supplier of gas turbine equipment sought to retrofit its existing proprietary control system in use on an offshore platform. The new control system needed to leverage the existing panel and replace the proprietary system that had become obsolete and unserviceable.
Polaris Automation created a modular I/O solution that used the existing enclosure and connections, while bringing the design up to code and utilizing current standards. The solution was fabricated to dimensions of the space vacated by the obsolete controller. The custom-designed adapter required no new holes or connectors.
By creating a solution that minimized disruption during change-out, Polaris Automation maximized the existing infrastructure. The module installed easily and used all of the existing wiring. This creative design reduced downtime by 75 percent by avoiding the extensive retrofit cabling and full commissioning protocol typical of a standard replacement.
A leading fiberglass insulation manufacturer developed an environmentally friendly chemical mixture composition that increased the product’s strength without changing other properties. This new chemical composition required a leaner and faster system for mixing and delivery. It was also important to maintain ongoing composition development and provide the flexibility to rollout across multiple processing facilities.
Polaris Automation created a solution that utilized multiple modular software components, configured for both chemical ingredients and the hardware components for storage, transfer and mixing. All modular components had operational variables and functional options that allowed each to be configured to control the process ingredients or hardware components used in the new mix system.A mix formula system was structured to allow adjustment of ingredient properties, simultaneous or variable ordered ingredient delivery, dependent and independent chemical ingredient ratios and weights, and final mix ingredient dispensing error tolerances. The modular components and mix formula system were assembled to create a template software program capable of total flexibility in mix system designs and procedures.
Challenged with producing a program that could be used in different facilities across North America, the Polaris Automation solution has now been adapted and implemented in each of eight facilities. The manufacturer continues to test new chemical compositions with our support. By modifying and improving the control programming using existing tools and the base program structure, Polaris Automation engineers are able to work remotely to make most modifications in just a few hours.
An international producer of highly specialized adhesives sought to expand its U.S. plant operations as part of a product line extension. The expansion included new batch mixers and storage tanks, and corresponding control systems.
Polaris Automation developed comprehensive plant standards that established quality criteria for CAD and other documentation, system programming and other items in accordance with industry standards. The system designed and implemented by Polaris Automation added the capability for remote access to the system for maintenance support and system monitoring.
The new system made it possible to alert senior engineers at overseas headquarters so they could intervene quickly in the event of a process upset. This enabled real time troubleshooting capability, which shortened downtimes and reduced quality variations in batch operations. By establishing professional standards at the U.S. plant, Polaris Automation helped ensure that future projects could be executed more smoothly and integrated successfully into the plant’s existing technology.
A manufacturer of silicon products required a redesign of their crucible inspection system. The current system utilized obsolete technology and required a more ergonomically designed method of handling and inspecting the 50 lb. crucibles that they produced. The customer also wanted to integrate the inspection system with their ERP in order to provide their customers with required production data.
Polaris Automation designed and built a new inspection table using pneumatic hardware to move, lift, and take measurements of the product. The control system and MES interface were upgraded to allow the system to seamlessly integrate into the company’s ERP.
The inspectors could inspect the products without having to lift the 50 lb. crucibles. The new controls system and MES interface removed all manual functions associated with providing customers with production data.
A major metals producer sought to move a 2,500-ton extrusion press operation from one of its U.S. facilities to one located in Canada. All of the installed electrical panels required Canadian UL listing and compliance with provincial codes and standards.
Polaris Automation designed, specified, inspected and certified new panels fabricated by ISI, its sister company. Polaris Automation’s work included implementation of Rockwell’s GuardLogix® Integrated Safety System and POINT Guard I/O™ modules. After the new systems were commissioned and delivered to the metals producer, Polaris Automation proceeded to examine the existing controls systems and corrected errors, brought the equipment up to the same codes and standards and integrated existing systems with the newly installed equipment.
The metals manufacturer was able to avoid unnecessary downtime or press operation delays in the Canadian facility. This was due primarily to the expertise of the Polaris Automation team, which anticipated and proactively addressed programming design differences between new and existing systems.
A global manufacturer of household appliances wanted to enable access to production data for inventory tracking and reporting by bringing 60 legacy PLCs online with its business network.
Polaris Automation used Allen-Bradley ControlLogix® systems PLCs to anchor new data concentrator panels. Multiple panels were connected to spread the load across the many PLCs to be interfaced. The data concentrator panels enabled previously separate systems to access the shop floor using either the plant’s legacy DH+ network or Ethernet. Polaris Automation then used the data collected in the upper level systems to design reports and interface the outputs with an external web portal.
The data concentrator panels were installed and programmed without disrupting production. The new system pulled data from all of the shop floor PLCs and routed to production management systems for recording and reporting. Polaris Automation designed web reports to display and track production and inventory data. Polaris Automation also created a web portal to provide a key supplier with up-to-date information on the consumption of an essential raw material, facilitating just-in-time inventory management.
Food & Beverage
The main control system hard drive for a global food and beverage company’s manufacturing plant developed bad sectors over several years. The faults were detected when plant engineers were unable to change PLC settings. Restoring the most recent backup, which took place two years ago, would overwrite any previous changes. The hard drive manufacturer told the customer they would have to rebuild the 11 PLC programs from scratch. This challenge was further complicated by a lack of documented controller logic.
Rebuilding the PLC programs from scratch would have taken a year, and no changes or corrections would be allowed during that time. In just two months, Polaris Automation reverse-engineered the databases and corrected errors caused by the bad sectors. The corrected system was restored with no additional trouble. Polaris Automation also recommended the replacement of the computer with a newer model with RAID hard drives. This would help detect errors sooner so they could be fixed before they caused major production issues.
By re-engineering the PLC databases and correcting any errors, Polaris Automation saved the food and beverage manufacturer 10 months of labor and expense. The customer also now has a reliable system in place that alerts engineers to hard drive trouble, allowing them to more quickly address issues.
A global pharmaceutical manufacturer wanted to prevent data loss resulting from network outages, as part of its facility validation program. Validation programs enable pharmaceutical manufacturers to assure regulatory agencies and customers that its process consistently yields products that meet quality specifications. The pharmaceutical company needed a solution that preserved data integrity and collection while leveraging its existing enclosures and connections when possible.
Polaris used small form-factor fanless industrial computers that provided local, near-the-source data collection and store-and-forward capability to other internal systems. The implemented system, which incorporated existing infrastructure wherever possible, was equipped with alarms to indicate any loss of power or connectivity to system operators. The installed system incorporated existing infrastructure wherever possible to save time and reduce cost
By using some of the existing infrastructure, Polaris Automation reduced the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s cost. Work was done during scheduled downtime and maintenance windows, eliminating costly delays. The new design improved data collection and retention by providing seamless data flow to other connected systems. It also alerts operators to abnormalities that could impact data collection.
A producer of resin and composite materials for outdoor applications needed to upgrade its existing systems for blending and drying operations. The programming for its existing control systems was cumbersome and difficult to understand and troubleshoot because of the way it was written. When upsets occurred, it caused extended periods of downtime because few employees could interpret the code.
Polaris Automation upgraded the plastics manufacturer’s control systems by designing, programming and installing new panels fabricated by ISI, its sister company. The solution used sequencer-based programming to move much of the logic from a “black box” environment to something that was more visible, simply written and easier to troubleshoot. Polaris Automation also added pop-up screens on the HMIs that included monitoring and control for the sequencers, a feature new to this facility. The solution is now used throughout the plant.
Downtime related to controls was reduced by more than 60 percent. The new system enabled maintenance personnel to quickly diagnose issues as they arose. With access to the sequencers through the HMI, operators were able to assist in the troubleshooting efforts. They were also able to parse through sequencer steps when necessary and have instant access to information showing the current state of the machine.
One of the largest electric providers in the United States needed to replace an obsolete, hand-wired alarm annunciator at one of its power plants with a new, PLC-controlled system. They sought an outside engineering firm to provide the necessary control functions along with a graphics interface for easy configuration and use.
Polaris Automation was engaged to provide a user-modifiable graphical user interface (GUI) using Rockwell’s FactoryTalk® View Site Edition for monitoring and controlling distributed-server/multi-user applications. In designing the controller logic, Polaris Automation provided alternatives to enable the customer to add future alarms. The solution used object-based programming to allow easy GUI manipulation by users.
This project provided a more robust solution and the new systems were commissioned with a seamless startup. The new alarm controller added logging and trending capabilities absent in the previous system. The electric utility was so pleased with the smooth performance of the project that it awarded three additional projects to Polaris Automation.
A manufacturer of liquid fuel propellant systems for spacecraft sought to commercialize a hydrogen densifying system. The intent was to mount smaller, cryogenically controlled hydrogen tanks inside, rather than outside, the body of the spacecraft. The design was inherently safer and made a wider range of launch options feasible.
Polaris Automation designed, programmed and installed new panels fabricated by ISI, its sister company. The systems succeeded in completing acceptance testing.
Polaris Automation’s design met all performance criteria and was fully approved for this and subsequent vehicle applications.
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