A tale of system integration success

When looking for a system integrator, users should seek out those with knowledge, experience, reliability, and integrity.


Figure 1: A view inside the JS2 System Solutions portable asset dispensing device (PADD) unit. Note the bins that hold pieces/parts, which use electronic scale technology to track items. The scales automatically compensate for the tare weights of the binsA system integrator can make all the difference in a company's productivity. The knowledge and experience a good system integrator can offer can help keep a line from going down or help find the best solutions and technologies for a company's needs. Reliability also is key when it comes to a system integrator. Users must decide whether to complete a project in-house or outsource it to a qualified system integrator. What should companies look for in an integrator to ensure they are receiving the best service?

JS2 System Solutions, a Centerburg, Ohio-based company, needed to rework and update all existing hardware and software for the patented automated mobile warehouses it produces. The automated mobile tool facility (AMTF), the portable asset dispensing device (PADD), and the scan cube are fully functional, unmanned, mobile tool cribs that provide the highest level of control, accountability, and mobility 24/7 (see Figure 1). Mobile warehouses such as these can be placed on a construction site filled with tools and supplies that the workers will need while onsite. The mobile warehouse automatically keeps track of all the tools and equipment without the need of a toolroom attendant.

The ability to do that requires each of the warehouses to have technology that includes load cells, RFID readers, access controls, electronic locking mechanisms, and emergency access controls. JS2 System Solutions mobile warehouses leverage access control, RFID, bin-scale, and barcode technologies to deliver accurate and timely tracking of tools, equipment, and consumables inventory. They also provide wireless network connectivity to provide communication in remote areas. JS2 System Solutions also has a comprehensive inventory management software platform it uses in each of the warehouses. For the warehouse to run smoothly, the software must work hand-in-hand with the hardware to help monitor all the supplies. 

How it works

Each user is given a key FOB or a PIN code to enter the mobile warehouse. After the code is entered, it's validated and grants the user access to enter the warehouse portion of the unit where the inventory is stored. Each of the tools has an RFID tag. Small pieces/parts are stored in bins that sit on electronic scales. The user takes what he or she needs to complete his or her job, and leaves the warehouse. When the person opens the door to leave, the pieces/parts bins are weighed and the RFID antennas scan the tools and take inventory of what's left in the warehouse. The scan cube reads the RFID tags as the user takes the items from the attached storage container containing RFID tagged tools and equipment. All the data is sent to the inventory management system for tracking (see Figure 2).

To integrate and update these components, JS2 System Solutions turned to MartinCSI, a Plain City, Ohio-based system integrator, for assistance. "The benefits of a good qualified system integrator can provide proper research, programming, project management, solution planning, design schematics, and project documentation that fits project specifications," said Lindsey Kielmeyer, product manager at JS2 System Solutions.

MartinCSI was contracted to research and test the latest technologies to update the warehouse. The company also developed electrical control system drawings, programmed and developed programmable logic controller (PLC) ladder logic, and ran testing at its facility as well as onsite at JS2 System Solutions.

Figure 2: The scan cube is a 10-ft container that attaches to another container that houses inventory. The scan cube uses RFID technology to track tagged items going in and out of the container. Inset shows an inside view of the scan cube. Courtesy: JS2 SFigure 2: The scan cube is a 10-ft container that attaches to another container that houses inventory. The scan cube uses RFID technology to track tagged items going in and out of the container. Inset shows an inside view of the scan cube. Courtesy: JS2 S

During the process, MartinCSI needed to communicate with the company that developed the inventory management software for JS2 System Solutions. The company was overseas, so there were time-zone challenges that MartinCSI faced. "I made sure that I got in the office really early so I could communicate with the software company as needed," said Bill Sellitto, vice president of engineering at MartinCSI. "As an integrator, it's our responsibility to do our due diligence for our client."

MartinCSI also provided final documentation after the successful startup of the mobile warehouses. "I don't think that anyone else would have researched the products we were using in the project as thoroughly," Kielmeyer said. "Everything was fully tested and the results were presented in a clear and complete manner. Thorough testing was done before implementation was completed. Anytime we have an issue, it is resolved quickly by MartinCSI."

Today, JS2 System Solutions' AMTFs can be found in a variety of locations and industries around the country. The company continues to work closely with MartinCSI on different variations of this project.

What should companies look for in an integrator to ensure they are receiving the best service? According to Kielmeyer: "Someone who is focused on meeting expectations and operates with integrity."

Laura Mann is marketing coordinator at MartinCSI, Plain City, Ohio. MartinCSI is a 2011 Control Engineering System Integrator of the Year. The company has been a Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) member since 1997 and has continuously maintained CSIA certification since 2002.

This article appears in the Applied Automation supplement for Control Engineering 
and Plant Engineering

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