100% Employee Owned, Founded 1954


100% Employee Owned, Founded 1954


100% Employee Owned, Founded 1954


How To Evaluate a Systems Integrator for Your Distillery

John Loose | October 30th, 2018

Evaluating a Systems Integrator for upcoming projects is an important part of the project process and the decision typically affects more than one project. This will end up being a relationship that lasts over a number of projects and multiple years.


A well-established documentation system is a key to any project’s success. Any Systems Integrator should be able to describe their documentation system to you. A Systems Integrator should also have a team of well trained and versatile engineers that can support your system. A Systems Integrator can provide their engineering team’s resumes giving the customer a deeper understanding of their experience and expertise.

Previous Experience

Examining a Systems Integrator’s previous projects will be useful. Ideally, you would like to have these projects fall within the same industry as yours but it is not necessarily a requirement. There are only two types of processes: Continuous and Batch. In the case of Batch operations, they are similar in many ways so programming is straight-forward. The differences comes down to features and what special functions that can range for simple to complex and fully customization.

Focusing on these key points are essentially for determining a Systems Integrator for your next project.

How Early Should You Bring in a Systems Integrator?

In any project, it is best to get all parties involved as early as possible. That being said, a Systems Integrator does not need to be a part of building design. Once the discussion of Piping and Instrument Diagram (P&ID) has begun, it would be a good time to get the Systems Integrator involved. This will give the Systems Integrator the ability to review the P&ID’s, estimate an I/O list, and gain an understanding of your process. Another key point here is reviewing the tag-names of the devices. this may sound insignificant but experience has shown that naming conventions, even if already established, tend to have deviations.

Benefits of a Systems Integrator

A good Systems Integrator will be able to:

  • Help you design your control system from the ground up.
  • Design and build panels.
  • Provide guidance on a control system platform.
  • Create and review P&ID’s.
  • Provide onsite support or mobilize an engineering services group that can provide help with systems.
  • Provide a knowledgeable sales staff.
  • And an emergency service, available in the event of worst case scenarios.

The Cost of a Systems Integrator

Hiring a Systems Integrator may cost more up front compared to vendor services or in-house personnel but the benefit to a Systems Integrator is that you get access to a much larger knowledge base that can resolve the majority of control system problems. Most Systems Integrators also have support contracts with their major suppliers that allow them to have priority over many others calling in for support. With access to a Systems Integrator and their team, you will have an easier time maintaining a schedule and sticking to deadlines.

Typically when using vendor services or in-house personnel, documentation is often overlooked. One of the major benefits of using a Systems Integrator is that you are forced to document the facility’s process and control system. These documents are given to the end user at the end of commissioning. Using a Systems Integrator allows for your in-house personnel to stay focused on their day to day and other tasks within the project.

How to Evaluate Different Control Systems

Evaluating different control systems is a difficult task that requires extensive knowledge of your process and operations. It is recommended to get some feedback from your operations department and operators that work the day to day.

The majority of control systems provide the same basic functions but differ in their special features and complicated task functions. Questions to consider:

  • Am I running a continuous or batch operation?
  • How much interfacing do I or my employees want to have with the programming after the conclusion of the project?
  • Do I need redundancy?
  • What communication do I need?
  • Do I have any customization in my current control system? Do I want/need customization?
  • What historical data do I want to retain and for how long?

Another determining point is the existing control system:

  • Is this a legacy system and – if so – does the company still exist? Is there current support for the system?
  • Do you want to upgrade the control system? Is there an upgrade path for this system?
  • Is starting with a completely different system the only option if no upgrade path is available? What features do I want to retain from my existing control system?
  • Is my current system redundant?

These are just several questions to begin your focus on when evaluating different control systems.

Systems Integrators Are Cost-Effective vs Vendor Services

Having a local Systems Integrator is a luxury that most facilities do not have, so if you are fortunate to have one nearby it is strongly recommended that you use them. When planning any expansion or new facility in a different city, it would be wise to locate the nearest Systems Integrator.

Being able to have such expertise within such a close range can lower the obvious cost on travel time, hotel, food etc., but more importantly in emergency services. If critical issues arise that need to be addressed and a Systems Integrator is within a close proximity, this can drastically reduce the amount of downtime and lost production. With the increasing threat of cyber attacks and increased security, it has become more and more cumbersome to gain remote access. There are even limitations to remote access and having a Systems Integrator onsite same day is a big benefit.

The down side to Vendor Services compared to a Systems Integrator is the breadth of knowledge across multiple platforms. If you have a complicated system that is communicating from a Siemens PLC to a third party Allen Bradley PLC with an Iconics HMI and Pi historian, typically a Systems Integrator can handle all of those different platforms whereas a vendor from each would have to be contacted to troubleshoot their equipment resulting in a lot of lost time.

Cross Group - Process Control Integration

Case Study: APACS DCS Migration to Siemens PCS 7

Josh Dalzell | November 30th, 2018 An industrial utility service company in Kentucky needed to upgrade and migrate its distributed control system (DCS), which came with a few challenges. DTE Calvert City (DTECC) made the decision three years ago to upgrade their obsolete Process Suite HMI to APACS OS. For 15 years, APACS DCS had been

Read More »
Cross Group - Process Control Integration

8 Factors For Process Automation Project Success

Robbie Peoples, P.E. | September 24th, 2018 Complex integration projects can present a level of ambiguity even for seasoned project managers. Keeping a close watch on budget and schedule are critical for success, but are not enough to ensure the project is a success in the eyes of a customer. Maintaining customer satisfaction can be the most

Read More »
Cross Group - Process Control Integration

OEM Skid Integration for Batch Process

New processes, or the expansion of existing processes, typically include Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) skids. Skid mounted equipment can provide a faster implementation time versus conventional process system building from scratch. Skid equipment can provide fast deployment with a high-quality cost-effective solution for both utility and main processing functions. The integration of skid equipment can be

Read More »
Scroll to Top