More than System Integrators – We are Process Experts.
The supply of process control systems is an IMS core competency and business focus. From its founding providing rolling mill control systems, IMS has been guided by two key principles:
Utilize commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) control system platforms, and
Focus on control and process fundamentals in providing automation solutions.
At first glance these may seem somewhat unrelated, however, by using COTS solutions wherever possible less engineering is required to architect the automation platform and more engineering can be applied to the control application itself. (More on the use of COTS technology below.)
Engineering the control systems for a process application requires convergence of two knowledge domains: fundamental understanding of control systems theory and design and understanding of the physics and dynamics of the system to be controlled. One without the other yields a sub-optimal solution. This is the essence of control systems engineering.
It is not uncommon for some suppliers in this industry to provide solutions that appear to work but are not designed and implemented based on sound control system and process fundamentals. The lack of fundamentals is revealed in borderline process reliability, a persistent need to ‘tune’ the system or other interventions by a technician or engineer, and a limited ability to change operating points or optimize the process (i.e., the process ‘window’ is small).
Often in these cases there is a sense that the users and support staff see the operation of the system as a mystery and have low confidence in their ability to operate and support the system reliably.
A well-designed system based on a solid foundation of control and process fundamentals yields increased process stability with key process and product variables accounted for in the design. When the process is understood and this understanding is appropriately incorporated into the control design, the mystery is removed.
This is the essence of the IMS approach.
We strive to understand how our customers operate their processes and the fundamental process principles, and then design and build systems using this knowledge and sound control system design principles.This approach is applied whether it is a production process that IMS has worked on many times before, such as a rolling mill hydraulic gap control, or a process that is new to IMS.
Returning to the first principle above: the selection of a control system platform is like the selection of a tool – it is a means to an end. Technically the control system platform must meet the performance requirements of the application. Given this, it should also demonstrate operational advantages such as cost effectiveness and sustainability with as broad a support base and as long a life as possible.
IMS carefully evaluates and selects appropriate COTS control system platforms and components based on customer input, control platform product specifications, OEM reputation, and cost. The platforms and components are then tested to validate the platform meets the technical requirements for the control application.
With the selection of a proven robust control platform such as Rockwell Automation ControlLogix, the control solution is the focus of a project and the platform itself requires minimal focus and resource expenditure. While IMS is supplier and platform agnostic, our deep experience with a select few of the leading OEM control system platform suppliers gives us high confidence in building solutions based on these systems.
Because manufacturing generally shares the same building blocks as used in IMS’ experiences above, we have always been confident and successful when taking on new opportunities outside of the industries we traditionally serve.