What are the most important qualities to look for when contracting instrumentation and controls?
By: Allan Evora
Be ready and willing to customize
If 15 years in controls has taught us anything, it’s that customers need customized solutions. Each facility is unique. Their power and energy situation is unique. They use different manufacturers, devices, and instruments.
Too many engineers use the cut-and-paste type approach to instrumentation specifications. We don’t believe in that.
We like to work pretty intimately with end users to understand how they operate their facilities to tailor and customize each system into their specific process. We believe in adapting a specification in terms of what you need to operate your facility.
We specify only the functions absolutely required, and eliminate the rest. This cuts out the waste, and actually brings down the cost of the overall system.
Customization does not have to involve developing solutions from the ground up. At Affinity Energy, we strive to use proven off-the-shelf solutions, but we tailor them to the facility, work flow, and HMI philosophy.
Customization with OEMs
Customization can be hard when so many control system integrators try to maintain exclusivity with one manufacturer. Operators have specific energy and power instrumentation needs, and can have dozens of different manufacturers’ data to integrate onsite.
Too many integrators try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Affinity Energy has always positioned itself as an open systems integrator. We’re not commercially tied down to any particular manufacturer. Our goal is to understand our customer’s needs, then provide the best solution to solve those needs, no matter the manufacturer.
Each customer has different goals. Whether they’re looking to decrease downtime or get better information about maintenance issues, those goals will dictate what vendor we recommend in the specification.
Pick a specialty and mature in it
At Affinity Energy, we don’t try to be everything to everyone. We’ve narrowed our focus to work with electrical power management instrumentation and control systems in mission critical environments like utility-scale solar farms, medical campus central energy plants, and data centers.
Instead of being broad and shallow with our application expertise, narrowing our focus allows us to thoroughly understand our customer’s pain points and how we can best serve them.
Our customers expect us to have a deep understanding of their own market’s challenges. In fact, most of our recurring customers have learned to look to us to provide them with ideas on how to optimize the operations of their facility and reduce associated maintenance costs.
By specializing, we present more value to our customers as thought leaders in their particular industry.
Have great communications
We back up our systems with 24/7 support. At any second on any day of the year, our customers can call us and reach an engineer to troubleshoot whatever problem they’re having with the system.
We also understand the need for training. Too many integrators up and leave as soon as the last modification is made to instrumentation, leaving operators clueless on how to use the system they just paid for. We work with owners and operators to help teach them how to use and get the most value of their system.
The importance of dedicated project management
I know a lot of control systems integrators without devoted project managers, who trust engineers to manage their own projects. In some cases this may work, but in others it can take much more time and lack the necessary organization needed for a successful project.
At Affinity Energy, our project management team is the driving force behind projects. This means customers don’t have to worry about missed deadlines, expensive change orders, or mistakes.
Our dedicated project managers are devoted to making sure projects are completed on time, under budget, and within original specifications. With a project manager at the helm of the project, quality, consistency, communication, and visibility are higher.
Just be more involved with the customer
The best projects are the ones where both integrator and customer are intimately invested and involved in design and implementation. Ultimately, we fulfill our mission when we have a good relationship with our customers, and can talk candidly about pain points, successes, and future goals.
Let us know how we can help you with your next instrumentation or controls project.
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.