Process control system upgrades: Like a race car in need of a good driver

System integration: Easier process control system integration requires knowledge of standards, experience with operational and functional requirements, device and system application knowledge, and meeting the needs of operator, maintenance, quality, and management. Learn more about these four key system integrator attributes to smoothly drive the next process control upgrade.

By Stephen J. Malyzsko October 30, 2015

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of process control automation systems have made continuing strides over the years to enable the deployment of their hardware and software platforms for easier integration. Some OEMs have worked hard to broaden the operational scope of their automation systems by adding components, such as robust data historians and event historians, software libraries of process objects, networkable variable frequency drives (VFDs) and instrumentation, and network switches quickly deployable in a secure environment. In addition, controller software is becoming aware of devices on the input/output (I/O) networks as well as their complete characteristics and operating parameters. 

Guide, analyze, report

Suppliers of today’s process control automation systems provide design and configuration tools that the suppliers endorse to guide the system integrator or system designer through the system configuration process; then analyze the design; then report on the design’s probable performance and robustness metrics. These process control system platforms offer the designer and integrator an opportunity to provide the customer (the plant’s production department) an unprecedented level of effective process control and the ability to efficiently troubleshoot and support production’s technical needs.

New control system platforms are like a well designed and finely tuned race car: ready to perform and help win the race under the hands a qualified and skilled driver. The right driver has the skill to win the race. The wrong driver may crash the car and never finish the race. So too are these robust and efficient platforms for process control automation. Let’s explore some considerations before climbing into the car.

The successful system designer or integrator has knowledge, experience, and credentials and fully understands the subtleties and nuances of deploying the many technologies underneath the hood of new process control automation systems. 

Four system integrator attributes

To drive these newer process control systems, designer or integrators need to:

1. Know programming standards, such as ISA88, Batch Control Systems, operator graphics best practices, such as High Performance Human-Machine Interface (ISA101, HMI), S-95 for enterprisewide control systems (ISA95, Enterprise/Control Integration Committee), CPwE (Converged Plantwide Ethernet) for networking, and SANS for system and network security.

2. Develop background and experience to create the operational and functional requirements required by the client to make the production environment more effective and able to meet the requirements of the client’s objectives.

3. Have an appreciation and sharp senses to address the needs of the operator, maintenance, quality, and management (like the race car driver knows the grooves in each turn of a track).

4. Properly apply and know when to apply the technological components and tools the automation system suppliers provide. Like the race car driver with the feel of when to push the race car and when to back off, so too does a good system integrator know how to make the most effective use of the technologies and combine those with the integrator’s sense and understanding of process control to deliver a process control automation system that makes production run better, faster, and produce a consistently higher quality product.

The results can be stunning when an automation project combines the effective and efficient platforms and tools provided by many suppliers with the process knowledge and project execution experience of a well-qualified and certified integrator. On the flip side, however, disaster can occur when the same automation platforms and tools are applied by the integrator who does not have the process knowledge, does not have the experience, or has not made the investment to have qualified and certified resources on system deployment teams.

Process control automation, like automobile racing, requires qualified high performance systems and operators. System integrators should have the technical knowledge, credentials, experience, and a sense of what it takes, to bring an automation project across the finish line and into victory lane.

– Stephen J. Malyzsko is president and CEO of Malisko Engineering Inc., which is a 2015 Control Engineering and Plant Engineering System Integrator of the Year. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • Process control system integrators should guide, analyze, and report.
  • Four system integrator attributes help a project go more smoothly
  • System integrators should have the technical knowledge, credentials, experience, and a sense of what it takes to bring an automation project across the finish line.

Consider this

Learn more about Malisko Engineering and other system integrators in the Global System Integrator Database, upper left at

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