5 Tips for Smart-Sourcing Pump Automation Controls

One reliable supply source for all your pump controls and automation needs—PLCs, HMIs, I/Os, VFDs, Software, and Support—can simplify your projects. This article tells you what to look for when you choose a supplier.

“Hidden leaks” are the inefficiencies and unexpected costs that erode profitability. These leaks can take various forms, from wasted energy due to improper pump operation to excessive maintenance needs caused by reactive, piecemeal control systems.
This article explores how a single-source solution—multifunction PLCs, VFDs, and automation software—can plug these leaks and optimize your pump system, to reduce operating costs while simultaneously implementing precision control.
Below are 5 features to look for when selecting your supplier.

1.The PLCs: the Foundation for Pump Automation

Look for PLCs that deliver the functionality needed to control pump installations, machines, and processes. PLC + HMI controllers, with their small footprint, can be an excellent choice for a crowded skid or cabinet.
An example of such PLCs are Unitronics’ controllers. They are true workhorses, with controllers in the field continuously automating pump applications for over two decades.
It is the unique All-in-One combination of features that have won these controllers multiple awards in industry competitions—and that makes them particularly suitable for pump automation and control:
Rugged PLCs & PLC + HMI controllers: All Unitronics controllers support HMI applications, via built-in HMI screens and/or virtual HMI. The controller’s CPU efficiently runs both applications. The small footprint of All-in-One controllers makes them excellent space-savers and eliminates PLC to HMI wiring.
Powerful PLC features: Up to 64 auto-tuned, independent PID loops, Recipes, Data tracing Data Tables & Data Logging, and more.
Expandable I/Os: digital, analog, high speed, temperature, and weight measurement; advanced PLCs support up to 2,048 local I/O, plus nearly limitless Ethernet remote I/O, as well as IO-link.
Communications: Built-in or add-on ports can be RS485/232, CANbus, Ethernet, USB. Support is built in for a broad range of communication methods:
o Plug & play fieldbus: Ethernet/IP, EtherCAT, MODBUS, CANopen, CANlayer2, BACnet, OCCP, HART
o Advanced communications – OPC UA, REST API, MQTT, Web Server, GPRS, FTP, SNMP, SQL, email, SMS, VNC, Telegram & more.
Multi-Language HMI: built-in screens range from 3.5 to 15.6” touchscreens, supporting Video, Audio, & PDF files; free drag & drop graphic library included.
Unitronics controllers come in three main families: UniStream: for high-end, complex applications, Vision for medium-sized projects, and Samba for small applications.
Note that specific features, such as the number of PID loops, type of HMI screen, expandability, etc, vary between controller models.

2. VFDs— Indispensable for Pump Applications

Ensure that your inverters provide the functionality and safety features you need; Unitronics VFDs are simple to use and robust. Offering a broad power & voltage range, available as 1 and 3-phase devices, Unitronics VFDs optimize machine performance with integrated—and precise—torque, speed, and position closed-loop control, while boosting safety with built-in STO.
Offering advanced motor control with features typically found in specialized drive solutions, plus automatic integration and easy configuration, these VFDs can be used as a standalone product or as part of an All-in-One solution with Unitronics PLC + HMI controllers.

Instant Integration: Automatic Setup, Communications, Commissioning—all components work together perfectly—no communication configuration is required.
Pre-designed HMI screens–These enable to easily—and remotely—enter the application, commission the VFD, enter configuration parameters, and instantly start moving.
Remote Access: you can remotely perform any task that does not require an actual screwdriver.

3. Programming: All-in-One Free Software

Unitronics software is forever-free and provides a single, unified environment for all tasks.

Setup, Configure, Program, and Commission All Hardware: PLCs, HMIs, AC Servos, VFDS, and I/O in one simple environment.
Control Application Programming: Drag & Drop Ladder, C, or Statement List; develop your PLC, HMI, VFD, and Servo applications in one programming environment.
Advanced HMI / Web Page Design: Free, full library of Drag & Drop quality images, plus colorful widgets for Trends, Gauges, and much more.
– Transparent communications between all Unitronics hardware components
– All industrial fieldbus and advanced protocols → Simple to configure & implement
– Build your own protocol → Communicate with any third-party device.
Complex Tasks Made Easy: Auto-tuned PID, data-logging and file management tools, Recipes, Alarms, multilanguage support, multi-level passwords and more.
Cloud Connectivity & Notifications: Cloud services, Routers & Modems, MQTT, SMS, Email and more.

4. Future-Proofing your Pump Applications: IIoT

You may not need IIoT now, but you will almost certainly need it in the future. Unitronics customers with remote water installations use UniCloud, Unitronics an end-to-end, scalable and secure IIoT platform, compatible with Unitronics controllers and MODBUS devices.
These customers design their own dashboards to monitor these installations and to record data, using UniCloud’s no-code Dashboard Designer to quickly build dashboards with simple drag & drop elements, easy Widget Wizards for Gauges, Graphs, Charts, Tables, Maps, and more.
This do-it-yourself approach enables them to take advantage of powerful IIoT technology, without any need to invest in programmers, IT or Cloud professionals.

5. Support: Available and Free

Support subscriptions can be costly, and the level of service varies from company to company.
Unitronics’ customers consistently rate the technical support received from Unitronics as excellent. Support is personalized and forever and membership in the lively, moderated technical forum are free, providing support 24/7.
In addition, Unitronics maintains a worldwide distribution network, with distributors that provide local sales and tech support in your local language.

One final point: choosing the same source for all control and automation needs benefits you with a single point of contact, to smooth your ordering and delivery process