About the Client

The client designs and delivers automated control system solutions for the Food, Animal Nutrition, and Agri-business industry. The client’s customers rely on them when unique automation and integration solutions are required.

The client’s solutions allow Plant Management personnel to minimize ingredient and production errors, improve efficiencies, and control their feed mill operation all from a computer screen.In addition to plant floor control, Client also provides full data integration with feed mill manager software, ERP, QA/QC, formulation/recipe management, laboratory and business systems.

Business Challenge

With over 1000 worldwide installations, and several projects in backlog, the client was finding it difficult to find skilled and experienced resources with technical and domain expertise in PLC programming, Microsoft.NET, VB.NET, and Plant automation – essential skills needed to design, customize, configure, and commission complex plant automation projects. Most of the target plants were located in remote areas, reaching out to these distributed remote areas was problematic, especially when majority of their customers are spread across globally.

With the available team size, the client could deliver approx. 10-12 end to end projects in a year, however, this wasn’t enough to clear the ever growing back log. The client risked defaulting on their deadline commitments and was looking for a partner who could provide the much needed scale up capabilities to their business operations.

In 2012, after evaluating a few service providers, the client selected Silicus for our demonstrated track record in:

  • Building, sustaining and scaling up teams as per business needs
  • Domain expertise in plant automation and control
  • Flexibility and ability to come up with innovative solutions to specific business problems

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Silicus Solution

Silicus started with a small team involved in development customization on the core software platform. As the client confidence and satisfaction grew, the team gradually expanded to include the following specialized service offerings:

  • Proposal and quote creation support
  • Solution design
  • Development customizations in PLC, Microsoft.NET
  • Quality Assurance and Testing
  • Dry run and customer demonstrations
  • Plant start up and commissioning (on-site services)
  • On call L1 support

Step 1 - The Silicus “Solution Architect” or designer works with the client sales team and end users to create a proposal and quote based on inputs such as I/O count, equipment types, process narratives and guidelines, and process flow

Step 2 - If the project has been “Won”, the designer prepares a detailed report on what to develop, how to develop, safety requirements, tools and technologies to be used, project estimations that should be within quoted efforts, control requirements,GUI design, and final outcome and hands it over to the “Developers”

Step 3 - Developers commence with the development activity going through the detailed report provided by the design, these are PLC programming, Microsoft.NET and SQL programming experts

Step 4 - The build is handed over to the “QA” team, who verify the I/O mapping, dry run the application, and thoroughly test the build, where the effects of a possible failure are identified and mitigated

Step 5 - Designer, along with the client representatives gives a demo to the end user, and gets the final approval for installation and commissioning

Step 6 - For Plant Start-Up & Commissioning, following steps are followed:

  • Pre-commissioning
    • Preparation of Documentation, drawings and startup procedures specific to the application
    • Equipment delivery data checks against project specifications
  • During Installation ­ (Silicus personnel deployed onsite, if needed)
    • Verification of instrument function and accuracy
    • Device calibrations
    • Pre-commissioning and validation testing
    • Safe introduction of product flow and live functional testing
    • Demonstration of safe and correct equipment operation
  • After Commissioning
    • A Field Service Report is provided detailing actions taken, applicable test results, actions pending and any recommendations to improve operation and performance of the equipment

Step 7 (Ongoing) - On-call Support for operations during APAC and Europe working hours; this service is staffed by the trained service engineers to provide efficient and expert technical support. Silicus also has capabilities and infrastructure to provide 24x7 managed services, if needed

Apart from the above, Silicus helped the client with continuous improvement ideas and initiatives, including:

  • Shortening development time through automated tools for configuration, UI design etc
  • The team developed a PLC logic builder that reduced development time reduced to 1/10th (from 1 week to less than 1 day)
  • Migrating software to the latest platform

Technologies Used

Language ASP.NET MVC4
Language

VB.NET, PLC programming

Language ASP.NET MVC4
Platform

Microsoft.NET, PLC

3rd Party Integrations QuickBooks Online (For Invoice & Payments)
3rd Party Interfaces

OPC (Kepware) to bridge the communication gap between diverse hardware and software applications in industrial automation

IDE
IDE

Visual Basic 6 -Visual Studio 2010, Proprietary PLC environments (Rockwell, Fanuc, Siemens, Schneider, ABB)

Database SQL Server 2012
Database

SQL Server

Client Benefits

Created Scalable Replica of Client Operations Offshore
Business Operation Category Team Size (as of March 2016)

Proposal and quote creation support
Solution design

7

Development customizations in PLC, Microsoft.NET

30

Quality Assurance and Testing
Dry run and customer demonstrations

15

Plant start up and commissioning (on-site services)

5

On call L1/L2 support

5

The engagement was started in 2012, and within this time, Silicus scaled up the operations as per the client business requirements. The team size is expected to further expand.

Ability to deliver approx. 50 projects p.a. from 10 projects initially

The clients innovative plant automation solutions were in high demand, the offshore team at Silicus enabled the client’s sales and marketing teams to confidently sell their solutions and win projects, knowing they have a partner who can scale up and support the pre-sales, design, development, and installation requirements.

Higher Profit Margins

The client retained their original billing rates for end customers for design, customization, commissioning support and on-call support leading to higher profits margins due to the lower cost structure of offshore operations

Improved Customer Satisfactiony

The On-Call support by highly specialized team of trained technical professionals offered timely and expert solutions that was appreciated by the client’s end customers on several occasions.

2700 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 1625 | Houston, TX 77056 | www.silicus.com | (866) 912-8855 | info@silicus.com

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