Focus on data centers: Automation and controls

Designing efficient and effective data centers and mission critical facilities is a top priority for consulting engineers. Read on for six engineers’ perspective on automation, controls, and BAS.

01/15/2013


Participants

  • Cyrus Gerami, PE, LEED, CxA, Associate, Senior Project Engineer/Manager, exp Global Inc., Maitland, Fla.
  • Kerr Jonstone, IEng, MIET, Senior Electrical Engineer, CH2M Hill, Glasgow, Scotland 
  • Keith Lane, PE, RCDD/NTS, LC, LEED AP, President, Lane Coburn & Assocs., Bothell, Wash. 
  • James McEnteggart, PE, Vice President, Primary Integration Solutions Inc., Charlotte, N.C.
  • Robert M. Menuet, PE, Senior Principal, GHT Ltd., Arlington, Va. 
  • Brian Rener, PE LEED AP, Electrical Platform Leader and Quality Assurance Manager, M+W Group, Chicago, IL.

Automation and Controls

CSE: When designing integration monitoring and control systems, what factors do you consider?

Rener: The level of data and control the owner is seeking. Examples of data include the level of power quality information that is needed on at the mains, energy usage down to rack level, and temperature and humidity information. On the controls, we often have involved discussions on power shutoff (emergency power off, or EPO) systems.

Menuet: Controls design is a compromise between necessary complexity and making the system simple to operate, as well as providing access to information necessary to monitor the system. It’s a balance between user flexibility and system integrity.

Johnstone: Key considerations in the design and integration of monitoring and control systems are the resilience of the system and the fundamental actions of the system in a fail condition. Systems are designed to allow components to failsafe and work independently of central control and monitoring upon the loss of network capability. Another important aspect particularly in a co-hosting environment is where clients require Web-based monitoring to allow their external clients to review and audit the operation of the rented space and services to the space.

Gerami: Controls are prepackaged and tested by the equipment manufacturers. This minimizes equipment level failure and limits the levels of responsibilities. Integrate various systems and components into dashboards. Develop “what if?” scenarios to identify fail modes for better risk analysis. Interactive and intuitive user interface graphics can be set up to provide real-time data and trending. Consider PUE real-time calculations and built-in tools that will allow operators to adjust variables.

McEnteggart: As commissioning agent, I’ve seen many integrated MEP control systems that did not perform as designed during testing and commissioning. From my experience, two critical success factors are use of a third-party integrator for multi-vendor system integration and physical separation of the MEP and IT network infrastructures.

CSE: What are some common problems you encounter when working on such systems?

Menuet: Finding the right balance between proven and emerging technologies. You need to be confident in the results that new approaches will deliver before applying them, but you also don’t want to be the last to adopt a breakthrough technology.

McEnteggart: From my experience, although the single-vendor solution has the advantage of ease of initial implementation and a single point of responsibility to resolve problems, the main drawback is that once a single vendor is in place, the owner’s purchasing power diminishes. Switching controls vendors in an operating facility is costly and disruptive. Multi-vendor automation using open protocols provides greater flexibility for the owner’s future system modifications and upgrades. While the industry has increasingly relied on a shared Ethernet infrastructure for IT and MEP control systems to reduce cost, there is a problem: The design of the active network components in a shared network must accommodate the protocols and data types being carried by all connected systems. Unfortunately, the standard Ethernet network hardware often is inadequate for MEP control data, but this only becomes obvious at testing and commissioning. Over the past year, I’ve seen weeks of lost time in a number of projects due to the need to resolve these kinds of issues. These drawbacks could and should have been anticipated by all members of the team in the planning phase.

Johnstone: Data storage of conventional systems was limited, which would affect the storage of trend data and alarm date; however, with Web-based facilities and server-based storage we have overcome these difficulties. Proper cause and effect has to be demonstrated as part of the design, and this is difficult when undertaking live upgrades and replacement of life expired systems and equipment. Also, a common problem encountered is the interface between the systems. Due to the complex nature of automation and controls, it is very easy for a simple thing to be overlooked, resulting in a functional problem.

Rener: The level of information or control that can be obtained at the rack level. Using open source systems in important. We see challenges when trying in integrate components at the rack level such as in row coolers, power distribution unit (PDU) strips, and actual servers.

Gerami: The time and budget for the start-up and commissioning process are typically underestimated. The commissioning process tends to get bogged down for a variety of reasons. Cost overrun negatively affects the funding and fees and schedule. Ultimately the system performance cannot be optimized.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.