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The Value of a Good Control System Integrator

There are several challenges related to any control project involving complexity, preparation, methodology and commissioning. An integrator can help achieve success.
There are many ways to think about value when it comes to control system integration, and ways that a good system integrator can help you through the challenges of a project.
Complexity
Any control system project could require specialized expertise. But even without some specialized requirement, project size alone can have its own complexity, or schedules can introduce challenges that some project teams might not be able to handle. Then there is the matter of actually getting something delivered that you can support without the author’s continual presence in your plant.
Other things contribute to our understanding of “specialized,” but you probably get the point.
Preparation
As a system integrator, our focus is to be the best value through startup, which should lead to a lower total cost of ownership as well. To achieve best value through startup, both the integrator and the customer need to invest significantly at the beginning of the project. It’s often said that the devil is in the details; well, so is success! Gather as much information as practical from the groups and individuals that will be affected by the work. This typically includes system operators, engineers, managers, IT personnel and maintenance personnel.
The intentional, upfront communication with all the stakeholders allows the customer’s system to be clearly understood and documented. With this mutual investment, the project needs can be more accurately described and then developed. Depending on the complexity of the project, this exercise can be brief, with just an informal concept of operation. For more complex projects, the exercise will be longer and a functional specification that evolves into a detailed design specification would be more appropriate for describing the work and guiding the process.
A well-designed specification equips the project team with a defined scope of services and a project plan for managing and completing the project successfully. The schedule needs to contain milestones that will identify responsibilities for both the integrator and the customer alike. The project needs to follow a structured project methodology that takes into account the identification of risk areas and how to deal with those in a way that minimizes the potential for schedule impact.
The specification should also deal with abnormal situations that could arise in the customer’s system and then describe how those should be handled. Many abnormal situations can be incorporated into the automation logic, but it might not be practical to address all abnormal scenarios with automation logic. It is OK to deal with some abnormalities through operator intervention, but that should be clearly understood along with a description of what the operator is to do.
Methodology
The integrator should be able to produce a documented project methodology that shows flow, and a written document describing the methodology. The methodology should contain design reviews to validate that the solution is on track and all the stakeholders are satisfied with the direction and progress of the work. The methodology needs to also have a documented factory acceptance test (FAT) protocol.
Without a written protocol to guide both the integrator and customer through the testing portion of the project, the team simply tries a variety of things until everyone gets tired and quits. With a structured protocol, both the customer and the team can have confidence that the testing portion of the project has been thorough.
On-site work (commissioning)
Once the automation system has been installed, wired and plumbed on site, the system must have an I/O check completed before attempting to run. All the motors, valves, operators, etc., need to move as expected and their feedback signals need to be validated within the automation controller. All network connections must be verified, and an overall network performance evaluation might even be appropriate.
Summary
When working through a project in this manner, the typical result will be a system that ramps up to production rates in minimal time, which is where the real value of the work is seen. Extra contractor personnel get to leave the job earlier and the client gets to start making good product sooner. That is best value through startup.

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Kevin M. Palma

Director

Mr. Palma has served as a Director of the Company since June 2016, and is a member of the Audit and Compensation Committees.

Mr. Palma served as the Chief Financial Officer of B-29 Investments, LP, an energy private equity firm, from 2006 until he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in December 2018, and also served as the Chief Financial Officer of B-29 Family Holdings, LLC, a family office, since its inception in 2014 until December 2018. In his role within the private equity space, Mr. Palma focuses on investment strategy, investment execution, and portfolio company management for both privately-held and publicly-traded companies.

Mr. Palma currently serves on several private company boards, including Silver Creek Oil and Gas, LLC, Caliber Completion Services, LLC, and Klear Bit Technologies, LLC. His past experiences on private company boards include Crest Pumping Technologies, LLC and TEC Holdings, LLC (which was recently rebranded as AXIS Energy Services, LLC).

Kevin M. Palma

Prior to his roles at B-29, Mr. Palma was a member of the energy investment banking team at Raymond James & Associates, focusing on capital market raises and merger and acquisition activity.

Mr. Palma is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Texas, and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in addition to a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas.

Committee Membership: Audit Committee, Compensation Committee

Kevin M. Palma

Director

Kevin M. Palma

Mr. Palma has served as a Director of the Company since June 2016, and is a member of the Audit and Compensation Committees.

Mr. Palma served as the Chief Financial Officer of B-29 Investments, LP, an energy private equity firm, from 2006 until he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in December 2018, and also served as the Chief Financial Officer of B-29 Family Holdings, LLC, a family office, since its inception in 2014 until December 2018. In his role within the private equity space, Mr. Palma focuses on investment strategy, investment execution, and portfolio company management for both privately-held and publicly-traded companies.

Mr. Palma currently serves on several private company boards, including Silver Creek Oil and Gas, LLC, Caliber Completion Services, LLC, and Klear Bit Technologies, LLC. His past experiences on private company boards include Crest Pumping Technologies, LLC and TEC Holdings, LLC (which was recently rebranded as AXIS Energy Services, LLC).

Prior to his roles at B-29, Mr. Palma was a member of the energy investment banking team at Raymond James & Associates, focusing on capital market raises and merger and acquisition activity.

Mr. Palma is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Texas, and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in addition to a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas.

Committee Membership: Audit Committee, Compensation Committee