General Questions

Trace Automation is a team of expert systems integrators that specializes in automating everything: from simple, small manufacturing cells all the way up to large chemical, oil, and gas processes. They are consultants, field technicians, and engineers who make automation easy to implement and troubleshoot. Their vision is to be a global leader in systems integration, always striving to build relationships that last a lifetime with a commitment to excellence, integrity, and growth. From concept discussions, new program and equipment installs, and existing system improvements, to onsite or remote short- and long-term support, Trace Automation can do it all!

We are a talented team of engineers from diverse disciplines—mechanical, electrical, chemical, and software—that is passionate about controls. Our unique background and innovative, big-picture thinking allow us to automate the things no one else can. We build lifelong, mutually beneficial friendships with our clients and partners around the world on a foundation of straightforward, down-to-earth communication.

We are Basic Orientation Plus certified, and our employees receive job-specific safety training that meets or exceeds OSHA standards.

We are based out of the Nashville, Tennessee, area, but our trusted engineers are from around the country. We will travel anywhere you need us—domestically or

Of course! We are a reliable team of worldwide travelers who will stay onsite for short- and long-term projects.

Yes, we are very experienced in remote work, and we commonly do this in addition to onsite support.

Cost Questions

Automation projects come in all sizes and financial requirements. But one thing is guaranteed: no matter the size of the project, you’ll feel like you got a good value and return on investment. If given a Request for Quote, we can bid on that. If you haven’t gotten to the RFQ phase, we will assess your needs based on what you have currently and where you’re trying to go. We also provide engineering services on a time and materials basis. Just reach out to discuss your needs and get a quote!

Not at all. While it is true that automation used to be for larger companies with deep pockets, automation is for everyone these days! The cost of automation has come down significantly in the past 40 years. Now, even small manufacturers can afford automation, including automated machinery, robots, smart cameras, and more!

No. Automation is expensive, but cost-benefit analyses of it consistently show a positive return on investment. If there’s a task being done manually on repeat, it should be automated. Automating redundant tasks improves safety and saves money and resources, enabling you to focus on innovation.

Automation Questions

We do all types of automation: from simple, small manufacturing cells all the way up to large chemical, oil, and gas processes, and from the PLC to the MES. We have experience in many industries, but we focus on oil and gas, chemical, water utility, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing automation. Always looking towards the future, we plan for your project’s continuous improvement and growth.

We have experience with the top hardware and software platforms for PLC, DCS, HMI,SCADA, and MES, including Rockwell Automation, Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Ignition, DeltaV, Yokogawa, Mitsubishi, and more.

Automation can be difficult. But when approaching any automation project, the most important thing you can do is get clear on what you want to achieve—is it to reduce labor costs, improve product quality, optimize your system, or something else? Then, develop a document that details your project’s requirements and objectives. If it starts getting too hard, contact us and we’ll walk you through it. Clear objectives, a solid plan, and our helpful engineers will get you past the “hard” parts of automation.

Don’t stress, we will help you figure that out! We take a look at what you’re doing and how you are doing it. After thoughtful consideration, we provide unique automation concepts that achieve your goals…whether it’s to decrease labor, increase throughput, improve quality, enhance efficiencies, or reduce downtime. Let’s discuss your project’s details and we’ll go from there!

No. You can start small. Pick the part of your process that is easiest to automate and start there. In the short term, you’ll get a quick, easy win for your company. In the long- term, it’ll be easier for you to get everyone on board with tackling more complicated automation tasks. And, the sooner you get automation experts involved in the process, the easier it will be for you to control costs, improve outcomes, and manage risk.

You should contact us as early in the planning and development stage as you can. The earlier we are involved in your project, the easier it will be for you to manage costs and stay on schedule. And, early involvement allows us to more effectively plan for your future business goals. As always, we provide insight and expertise every step of the way.

Absolutely! First, we discuss your existing process and your goals for it. Next, we develop custom automation concepts that significantly reduce labor needs, improve safety, and optimize your process. And our expertise is not only limited to the control system—we can help with mechanical design for equipment and machines and perform complete machine buildouts. A well-thought-out control automation plan along with custom-built equipment and machines will not only save money and decrease risk, it will streamline your business and launch it to the next level!

Yes, in multiple ways! We are experienced with many of the legacy systems that exist today and can most likely support you. Just contact us and ask! And while supporting you, we can plan an upgrade that meets your current and future needs.

We’ve successfully upgraded many control systems in the past, and we have several unique tools and techniques that minimize downtime and cost.

Designing & Programming Questions

As early in the project as possible. A thoughtfully designed system and the programming to support it are necessary for a seamless and profitable business operation. Getting engineers like Trace Automation involved early in project discussions ensures proper guidance on the system’s overall design and sets the system up for optimal performance in the future.

We discuss the style of programming (i.e., ladder logic, structured text, company-specific standards, etc.) that you prefer, and design the program based on those specifications. We then break down and organize the project into multiple programs and routines to provide order to the programming and make it easier for your staff to read and troubleshoot.

Commissioning Questions

Very! Commissioning ensures that systems are installed and perform properly, and are as efficient, safe, and cost-effective as planned. Each step of commissioning is not to be taken lightly. For instance, some companies might try to run their equipment right after the wiring is complete and the power is turned on without first confirming that the equipment is communicating properly. However, skipping steps runs the risk of damaging equipment and causing delays, costing you valuable time and money. 

A good time to start thinking about commissioning is after the project’s design is complete. While the final design is in the build and program development stage, we can put together a commissioning plan. Having a good plan in place ensures that commissioning activities can commence immediately after control panel and equipment assembly.

First, we terminate all the IO in the field. Each IO point gets connected to a corresponding field device, such as an E-Stop button or a run light. Additionally, we run communications and power cables to panels and devices. When everything is wired, we systematically check the connections and power up the complete system. Next, we perform loop checks on all field devices. We check from the field device to the IO point, to the program, and to the HMI to confirm that all devices are working properly and are mapped to the proper place in the program and HMI. We then test the program’s permissives, interlocks, and alarms using simulations to confirm appropriate action and alerts. Most importantly, we perform detailed safety checks on the code and machinery to ensure that safety and reliability are maintained at all times. After these steps are complete, your system is ready for start-up!

Start-Up Questions

As the final step of a project before going into production, start-up is of utmost importance. The start-up phase is where we run the completely integrated system and are given a final chance to flesh out program problems before going into production. Once the facility is running and functioning smoothly as a system, the program can be fine-tuned and optimized. Once these changes have been made, your system is ready for production.  

Anyone who just automated their business, because every project needs to be started up! If your new system is a copy of an existing one that has been well vetted over the years, then you may not need start-up assistance. However, in most cases, clients benefit greatly from having systems integrators along for the start-up phase because they provide guidance, confirm proper system functioning, and troubleshoot issues. 

We have a start-up plan that we execute for all projects. First, we look at the control system and the machine or process in sections and then test the sections individually. We test the safety circuits and programming, and we verify the safety actions taken for all safety devices (i.e., E-Stops, light curtains, safety door locks, etc.). Next, we test the function of the machine or process, again breaking up the tests into manageable sections. After each section is tested, we test the complete system for proper performance and quality assurance. 

Production Support Questions

Every manufacturing and industrial system needs production support. So, the real question is: do you want to perform this in-house or contract a systems integrator to support you? If contracting a systems integrator is your choice, production support is where Trace Automation shines! Most of our engineers have a background in machinery and processes, and we are exceptionally good at monitoring equipment, analyzing data, improving efficiency, and resolving issues. Additionally, we help train your operations team to run the equipment and troubleshoot problems.

Think about incorporating production support before production is scheduled to start, but don’t wait too long. Give the systems integrator, like us, advanced notice of your plan so that they have plenty of time to schedule resources. When they complete a project, they immediately move on to another one, so without advanced notice, they may not be available to help you.

In almost every case, the first opportunity a production operator gets to use the new system is when it goes into production. To make this go smoothly, we train your personnel to run the equipment and troubleshoot problems day-to-day without a control engineer. We also track machine or process issues, such as downtime, production rates, and quality issues, and we use this data to suggest corrective actions and make improvements. If you believe that your business would benefit from these services, then you need production support. 

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