Programming Standards and Structure Cures Influenza

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When Avanceon’s project lead became ill just before a startup, the team was able to install and test a complex new batching system despite lacking PLC support. The commissioning effort was completed early, using Avanceon’s Batch Manager methodology and proven standards.


The Challenge

It was a dark and stormy night. A dog barked in the distance. The PLC programmer woke at 3 a.m. from a fitful sleep, tangled in blankets and suddenly aware that the flu had settled in for an unpleasant visit. There’s never a good day to be hit with the flu, but this day was worse than most as our hero was due at a customer site to begin installation and startup of a new batching system. The downtime window was as short as the Operations Manager’s temper. But the flu is the flu, and the email went out: the start-up team would be without PLC support for at least part of the installation and commissioning effort.
This was no small hurdle. For this complex batch mixing system, up to eight different bulk liquids, plus various dry ingredients would be mixed, heated, cooled, recirculated, and transferred in any conceivable order and quantity. Recipes were to be managed via an SQL database and the HMI, but all the batch control would be done in the PLC.


The Avanceon Solution

Avanceon’s standards, planning, and testing came together in a perfect storm of awesomeness to overcome this unique situation. Fortunately, the PLC approach was based on Avanceon’s tried and true Batch Manager. The Batch Manager is a methodology based heavily on S88 and steeped in Avanceon’s standardized PLC programming philosophy. In other words, standards built upon standards, and proven in practice.
The Batch Manager orchestrated the operation of 75 independent phases, which could be run individually, in parallel, or at multiple times during the batch. The phases themselves were built using Avanceon’s standard phase structure and PLI (phase logic interface). The phases in turn controlled devices, which were programmed using Avanceon’s standard device logic.


The Team

The project team was made up of Avanceon’s project lead, who handled the PLC programming and overall project leadership, our lead HMI developer, and a team of four programmers handling various programming and testing tasks. A very hands-on and technically involved client engineer was critical to ensuring project success through sharing his expertise on the required system functionality.



After three days of installation and operational testing, the system was up and running limited production, with full production planned for the next day, one day ahead of schedule. The client engineer, without prior training (and without breaking much of a sweat) was able to support the effort to its successful conclusion. There are unconfirmed reports that the Operations Manager may have even smiled.
All the modular standards came together to provide proven functionality, which reduced the need for review and testing of elements already known to work. Avanceon’s Agile approach to project execution ensured that the client had multiple opportunities throughout the development phase to verify that our programming aligned with their process needs, and our rigorous in-house testing teased out early all the bugs before the software made it into the field.
And what of our ailing hero? He recovered and was able to realize his lifelong dream of showing up on the last day of a startup, coffee cup in hand, to verify everything had turned out A-Okay.



Avanceon’s hard work, attention to detail and proven standards, including Batch Manager, saved the day for this client (and the still-queasy engineer). Implementing a time-tested standardized PLC programming philosophy meant that the team could still install, test and train despite losing a principal member. Applying proven standardized approaches helped the Avanceon team overcome unforeseen challenges in the field, and deliver quality results, on time.