Elena Haiduk

INFOCOM LTD

How Project Designers and Software Developers from Zaporizhzhya Help Oil Extraction Plants Operate Around the World
Elena Haiduk
INFOCOM LTD
How Project Designers and Software Developers from Zaporizhzhya Help Oil Extraction Plants Operate Around the World
INFOCOM LTD company from Zaporizhzhya has been working in the world automation market for 25 years. Now the company staff counts 170 people who accompany the production processes of Ukrainian and foreign plants. In addition, other innovative areas are being developed. How INFOCOM deals with oil extraction plants and grain elevators, what customers' requirements are and how innovative solutions help automate, we had a conversation with company representatives.

From service to full automation

INFOCOM LTD company was founded in 1996. After 10 years of work as a software engineer at the Zaporizhzhya Automobile Plant, Eduard Trotsenko decided to create his own business. In the beginning, the staff of the company consisted of 5 persons. At first, INFOCOM LTD provided services for the maintenance and service of automatic control systems of enterprises.

During the first year of operation, the company became an official partner of Siemens AG, which produces, among other things, components for automation, and in 2005 INFOCOM LTD received certification from Siemens.

Gradually INFOCOM LTD mastered the whole cycle of work in the automation of production processes and power supply of the enterprises. Engineers provide design documentation, develop software for Automated Control Systems of Technological processes, manufacture control systems, power distribution and power supply cabinets, carry out turnkey installation services and control system set up.
"We started designing automatic lines at our factories 5 years after the start of the company. At first, we were engaged in software development, and then we began to recruit people. The design department appeared, and we began to develop a complete set of technical documentation. Then the production team and the IT department were added. Now the company employs about 170 people in seven departments," says Eduard Trotsenko.
Виталий Костырко
We started designing automatic lines at our factories 5 years after the start of the company. At first, we were engaged in software development, and then we began to recruit people. The design department appeared, and we began to develop a complete set of technical documentation. Then the production team and the IT department were added. Now the company employs about 170 people in seven departments.
says Eduard Trotsenko.
At first, INFOCOM LTD company implemented automation projects for metallurgical and chemical industries.

"We built our business on the metallurgy of China. We have designed and commissioned iron desulfurization units," says the founder of the company. According to Eduard Trotsenko, for 10 years now, INFOCOM LTD has worked with the 30 largest metallurgical plants in China. He added that the specialists from Zaporizhzhya were not in demand in Ukraine at that time.
With the onset of the 2000s, the agrarian sector began its rapid development in Ukraine, there was a demand for automation of the processes for grain processing enterprises. INFOCOM LTD started working with oil extraction plants and granaries. The American company Cargill became one of the first client companies in the grain sector. Gradually, the agricultural sector became the main, but not the only direction of work of INFOCOM LTD.

Cooperation with grain processing enterprises generates more than 70% of the company's income. As experts say, the automation of the agricultural sector in Ukraine is one of the most promising businesses. It will continue to develop because granaries and oil extraction plants are still under construction. If recently new facilities for storage and grain processing appeared in the southern regions of the country, now there are more customers and new projects from the central and western regions. In addition, enterprises that have been operating for a long time are actively being automated.

Oil extraction plants, terminals and elevators

The first project for automation and power supply, which was implemented by INFOCOM LTD in the grain sector, was executed 15 years ago for the Cargill oil extraction plant. This was the outset of cooperation with grain growers in Ukraine and in the world.
"The first deliveries of control cabinets for automation were at Cargill's oil extraction plant in Donetsk region. At that time representatives of Cargill from Great Britain came to audit and check the assembly quality. After that, we delivered to the Cargill Kakhovska Extraction Plant. Having passed the check of assembly quality and the test of time, INFOCOM LTD delivers not only to Cargill enterprises in Ukraine but all over the world," recalls Alexander Ivanov, head of the company's Design and Development department.
Виталий Костырко
The first deliveries of control cabinets for automation were at Cargill's oil extraction plant in Donetsk region. At that time representatives of Cargill from Great Britain came to audit and check the assembly quality. After that, we delivered to the Cargill Kakhovska Extraction Plant. Having passed the check of assembly quality and the test of time, INFOCOM LTD delivers not only to Cargill enterprises in Ukraine but all over the world.
recalls Alexander Ivanov, head of the company's Design and Development department.
In early 2021, INFOCOM LTD participated in the automation of 12 oil extraction plants, 10 elevators and 3 transshipment terminals in Ukraine. Among the completed projects are Kernel's Bandurka Oil Crushing Plant, Ukrainian Black Sea Industry in Illichivsk, Oleina crushing plant in Dnipro, and a number of terminals, including M.V. Cargo transshipment complex of TIS in Yuzhne and Greentour terminal in Mykolaiv.
"Now we are participating in the construction of Starokostiantyniv Crushing Plant. It will be the largest oil extraction plant in Ukraine. Also, we are on the final stage of the second phase launch of TransGrainTerminal, and the third phase of the transshipment complex will be completed this year," says Oksana Ignatenko, Commercial Director.
Виталий Костырко
Now we are participating in the construction of Starokostiantyniv Crushing Plant. It will be the largest oil extraction plant in Ukraine. Also, we are on the final stage of the second phase launch of TransGrainTerminal, and the third phase of the transshipment complex will be completed this year.
says Oksana Ignatenko, Commercial Director.
The company from Zaporizhzhya has automated 14 oil extraction plants in 11 countries. Those are enterprises in Egypt, the UK, Turkey, Zambia, etc. The list of foreign partners of INFOCOM LTD also includes Europa Crown company. Engineers from Zaporizhzhya had participated in the construction of an oil extraction plant in Bulgaria with this company. As the founder of the company noticed, INFOCOM LTD has been operating for 25 years because of its wide presence in the world market.

"We have a developed network of companies in Ukraine proficient in automation. Their level is quite high, competition is strong, so we have chosen our own vector, including the western direction," says Eduard Trotsenko.

In the office of INFOCOM LTD, there is a world map with marked geography of presence, not only in grain projects. The company from Zaporizhzhya has worked on almost all continents.
Automation engineers of INFOCOM LTD continue to be present "virtually" as a technical support team and downtime insurance for completed projects in Ukraine and abroad. If suddenly breakdowns or malfunctions occur in enterprises, the engineers will help to eliminate them quickly. This is very important for large oil extraction plants, where an hour of downtime costs tens of thousands of dollars.
"We have remote access to servers, engineering stations through an encrypted communication channel. We can either make changes to the control system or monitor technological processes. If there are problems at the oil extraction plant related to the software of the automated process control system, we fix them. If the problems are of different nature, then we try to put temporary "patches" so that the plant or area can continue operating until the problems are eliminated," explains Sergey Lebedenko, head of the Automation Systems department.
Виталий Костырко
We have remote access to servers, engineering stations through an encrypted communication channel. We can either make changes to the control system or monitor technological processes. If there are problems at the oil extraction plant related to the software of the automated process control system, we fix them. If the problems are of different nature, then we try to put temporary "patches" so that the plant or area can continue operating until the problems are eliminated.
explains Sergey Lebedenko, head of the Automation Systems department.
Now many large companies are interested in reducing the time of putting equipment into operation, says Alexander Ivanov. For this, preliminary testing of equipment is carried out. For example, Europa Crown company requested extended testing of all cabinets prior to shipment to the oil extraction plant. The same trend can be seen in energy supply projects. The head of the Design and Development department adds that large companies — Kernel, Bunge — check the reliability of power supply systems in order to avoid problems in the future.

As the company marks, in general, customers automate grain enterprises to make them more productive, remove people from some technological lines, and minimize the human factor.
"Now everyone is trying to optimize energy costs and cut staff. Enterprises want to keep a more accurate accounting of incoming and outgoing products, eliminate cases associated with theft,"
assures Commercial Director Oksana Ignatenko.

Automation to the next level

INFOCOM LTD specialists note that today the customer's request goes beyond the automation of only technological processes. Enterprises, especially large companies, want to control much more processes. One of the requests is logistics automation.
"The agrarian business has become demanding in costs reduction and profits growth, so the level of automation at such enterprises is starting to rise higher. If earlier the basic work of the company consisted in automation of technological processes, now the customer wants to see automation of a higher level. For example, in-plant logistics. The throughput of the enterprise and its profit depend on how accurately and quickly the receiving and shipment are processed. At the moment, the main direction of our department is the automation of logistics," says Sergey Opara, head of the IT department.
 Михаил Тюляков
The agrarian business has become demanding in costs reduction and profits growth, so the level of automation at such enterprises is starting to rise higher. If earlier the basic work of the company consisted in automation of technological processes, now the customer wants to see automation of a higher level. For example, in-plant logistics. The throughput of the enterprise and its profit depend on how accurately and quickly the receiving and shipment are processed. At the moment, the main direction of our department is the automation of logistics.
says Sergey Opara, head of the IT department.
Specialists from Zaporizhzhya have developed and implemented Automatic Vehicle Identification Systems (AVIS) at several Ukrainian enterprises. The technology allows determining the vehicle number using self-learning neural networks and machine vision. The system makes it possible to control the receiving and shipment, to carry out anonymized analysis of grain in the laboratory, and even to form queues from machines for unloading according to a specific raw material indicator, for example, moisture content.

Such a project was implemented at the Oliyar enterprise in Lviv. Also in 2020, INFOCOM LTD launched a pilot for AVIS at Bandurka Oil Extraction Plant of Kernel and at Potoky processing facility. Now an automated station for unloading railway wagons at TransGrainTerminal is in operation. The number, weight, sequence, weighing of grain carriers are recognized and entered into the system automatically. According to Sergei Opara, Kernel has very high requirements for the automation of in-plant logistics processes, which INFOCOM LTD strives to match.
Technologies make it possible to exclude the human factor from the key logistics processes at the enterprise, the specialist stresses. Up to the point when the weighing machine functions without an operator. One of such projects was implemented at Bandurka Oil Extraction Plant where the weighing machine works in automatic mode. Before weighing, the driver identifies the vehicle using a card, the weight of the vehicle is recorded and displayed on the screen, then it is automatically transferred to the company's internal accounting system.

Another level of automation, which is also above technological processes, is the Manufacturing Execution System, or MES. This is the automation of the work of the enterprise as a whole, up to the fulfillment of production tasks and the duties each employee in a workshop has. MES is in demand at enterprises all over the world, and in Ukraine, it is just beginning to attract the attention of companies.
"MESs help operators to go through the entire technological cycle of the plant, prompting what operations need to be performed to receive the product. Essentially, this production control system synchronizes the process control systems. The point of the system is to learn from the experience of employees, reach a stable level of work and monitor the progress of the production plan in real time," says Olga Belokon, head of IT projects.
Максим Пилипенко
MESs help operators to go through the entire technological cycle of the plant, prompting what operations need to be performed to receive the product. Essentially, this production control system synchronizes the process control systems. The point of the system is to learn from the experience of employees, reach a stable level of work and monitor the progress of the production plan in real time.
says Olga Belokon, head of IT projects.
As she explained, many enterprises plan production based on Excel sheets, which is very labour-intensive. Sometimes the work of the plant is supported by a few experienced employees, and they cannot even go on vacation or call in sick. For these purposes, a system of operational production planning is introduced, which takes over the function of constructing a production schedule.

According to the head of IT projects, INFOCOM LTD is already negotiating with large companies in Ukraine that are interested in using MESs and operational planning systems.

Synergy of directions

It is impossible to visit INFOCOM LTD company and talk only about automation. When we first entered the office of the company, the first thing that caught our eye was comfortable and beautiful open spaces on four floors. The new part of the building was completed 3 years ago. There is a lot of light and greenery here, and it is also very quiet, despite the working hours. Programmers and engineers were looking in their laptops with concentration, and we were walking around and making noise. We were especially noisy when the smiling TIMA robot started operating.

The fact is that INFOCOM LTD is engaged not only in enterprise automation systems. As CEO Eduard Trotsenko said, automation is "the core on which the company earns." At the same time, specialists from Zaporizhzhya are developing unmanned technologies, solar energy, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and technologies for energy storage. As noted by Oksana Ignatenko, some Ukrainian oil extraction plants are already interested in the possibility of installing solar panels to compensate for part of the electricity consumption.
And in the field of unmanned technologies, INFOCOM LTD has developed different versions of robots. The smiling TIMA robot was originally conceived as a guide, a "nurse" with elderly people, a waiter. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the TIMA robot has been adapted to work in hospitals — it can deliver medicines to patients. There are no orders for such products in Ukraine, but in US hospitals, in Japan and Europe, robots from Zaporizhzhya are sought after. Logistic robots capable of lifting and moving loads up to 250 kg around the warehouse are also in marketable abroad.

Generally, all the company's specialists state that innovative areas not only go forward but also help improve the automation industry.
"New technologies used now in unmanned areas — machine vision, neural networks — can be applied in an enterprise's operation. For example, we use machine vision to recognize rail cars and neural networks for recognizing and accounting of trucks,"
explains Eduard Trotsenko.
Now the founder Eduard Trotsenko is passionate about a new project — he is developing the concept of a rover for an American company. By the way, INFOCOM LTD became the best company in the field of innovative technologies in Ukraine in 2020. We wanted to have a bit of fun that soon robots will work at oil extraction plants and grain elevators, yet INFOCOM LTD specialists are convinced that this is actually a real future.
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