Published May 16, 2006
Volume 14, Number 5

Wunderlich-Malec Engineering Helps Major Northern California Industries Keep Control

Jerry Alexander of Wunderlich-Malec works on a pumping plant control 
panel for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

By Scott Eldredge
Special to NETWORK

Wunderlich-Malec Engineering, Inc. provides a full range of engineering services across a broad spectrum of industries, including chemical, gas and oil, mining, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, power plants, and water. Headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, the company has 13 offices across the United States and employs 160 people, ten percent of them at its California office at 5880 West Las Positas Boulevard.

While the Hacienda office of Wunderlich-Malec can provide all the usual engineering services, it has expertise in systems integration and process control and does a lot of its work with the industries Northern California is known for such as semiconductor, biotech, and pharmaceuticals. The company attributes its success to its flexibility and depth of talent.

"At our core we're an engineering company," explains Bill Storey, business development manager, "but our expertise takes us into the realm of software implementation as well. Our guys average 10 to 15 years of experience. What we do is not something typically for guys coming right out of school. People usually have some practical experience working in industry, and then join us."

This real plant experience is used to design and implement process control solutions that involve many systems and multiple levels of software. At the plant-floor level, Wunderlich-Malec implements PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to control the specific tasks associated with an industrial process; tasks such as temperature and humidity control, chemical dispensing, and fermentation batch control.

The next level includes what is called HMI (human-machine interface) software, which the company designs and deploys so plant-floor personnel can monitor and control facility operations. HMI software is interfaced to other plant application software and business software, providing real-time data used to monitor things like performance, quality, efficiency, downtime, and productivity.

One of the more significant local jobs Wunderlich-Malec has completed was an extensive upgrade for the Zone 7 water district, the wholesale water supplier for the Dublin, San Ramon, Pleasanton, and Livermore areas. Wunderlich-Malec replaced the entire control system, including all the controllers in 2 treatment plants and 35 remote sites. A new security system was implemented, water quality reporting was improved, and redundant systems were installed so that in the case of an event such as earthquake damage to one plant, the whole system would continue to operate.

On-the-job training is not enough for systems as complex as this. Previously, as part of projects, the company conducted training at customer sites. But with continuous advances in technology and the need for specially trained operators, the company wanted a better solution.

"Probably the biggest new thing we've done in here in the last year is deploy our own 1,500 square-foot computer-lab training center," say Storey. "Now we not only develop the software, design and build the control systems, and integrate all the components, we also hold workshops and conduct training here to teach people how to use the HMI software and program and maintain their PLC systems."


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