Wunderlich-Engineering Keeps Silicon Fabs, Food Producers in Control

Keeping a large industrial facility running at peak efficiency is a complex job. With raw materials coming in, finished products going out, and a remarkable transformation occurring in between, it's no wonder that specialized firms like Wunderlich-Malec Engineering are called in to keep operations running efficiently.

The firm's Bay Area office, located in Hacienda, specializes in "control systems integration," the automation of the systems and machinery used to process goods of various types.

"We work a lot with Human-Machine Interface (HMI) systems, which are industrial computer-based software packages that allow you to do graphical representations of a process, monitor for critical conditions, and provide process feedback so that our customers can refine their processes for better bottom-line performance," explains Wunderlich-Malec's Bill Storey.

Simplifying the controls of complex machinery would be enough to bring in a good deal of business. With Wunderlich-Malec's help, however, the machines can also be used to monitor the machine or whole groups of machines to determine if there's a change in conditions that will require further attention in the short term or even if there are more subtle variables that could be changed for incremental increases in efficiency.

Typically, the firm works with its customers through all phases of a project once the initial design engineering - architectural, civil, and structural - has been completed.

"With large industrial clients, a package is created and we bid on it, either with an electrical contractor or as a prime contractor," he says.

From there, the real work begins.

"The fun thing and the hard thing about control systems integration is we're usually the last team (to work) on a job - so when a project is overdue, out of budget, and under extreme pressure from the client, we're brought in to make it work," Storey explains. "We have to figure it out and make it happen, and our success is a real credit to our guys."

The Pleasanton office's team of 16 engineers, whose expertise includes electrical, chemical, mechanical, and process control engineering, finds the best solution for their customers. Usually, that involves a highly customized combination of off-the-rack parts and software, tailored to work in a specific setting.

That multidisciplinary expertise has enabled the company to work in a broad spectrum of businesses, ranging from semiconductor facilities for Intel and Applied Materials to food processing plants for General Mills and Spreckels Sugar, to power plants for a number of other customers.

Recently, power monitoring and power quality programs have been a growing part of the firm's business.

"Power monitoring systems center around software that resides on a PC which talks to smart metering devices, gather that information, and display it," explains Storey. "We're able to show load trends, load profiling, and demand profiling, with the idea that we can help our customers with cost allocation. For example, if it's better for them to run a particular process at a certain time of day, we'll make them aware of that and the savings that can come about because of it.

"I think power management is going to be a big area of emphasis for this company going forward, and for California in general."

All told, the company has over 175 employees in 10 offices around the country, with a headquarters in Minneapolis.

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