Working Close to Home


Headquartered in Sioux Center, IA, we've completed projects across the United States and even internationally. Recently, we were pleased to do a project a little closer to home. “It was nice to have a job site that I can see from my house,” says Cary Bandstra, Lead Control Systems Analyst at Interstates.

The City of Sioux Center needed to update its wastewater treatment plant, and we provided automation, power engineering, and panel building services. The city’s existing wastewater facility was aged and unable to meet new, more stringent DNR standards. The new plant will take the wastewater department’s operations from push-button procedures to efficient, wireless accessibility; employees will be able to run the entire plant from a PC or tablet. “Everything has been automated and is on the HMI, which means it can be controlled wirelessly by iPads or even on a phone,” says Kris Hulstein, Senior Project Manager at Interstates.

Upgrading the wastewater department to a brand-new plant came with a unique set of challenges – weather delays impacted the hard construction deadline, and government requirements lengthened the project timeline considerably. Designs had to be submitted long before the project began. “By the time we were able to do the automation/programming side of the project, the engineers had been done for some time, so finding answers to questions wasn’t simple,” says Bandstra. According to Hulstein, there was a “learning curve” for this particular type of project. “We got slightly behind at the beginning because we don’t typically design a project an entire year in advance, but we made catching up a priority and were well prepared before startup,” he says.

While the project's length was challenging at times, most of the issues encountered on the project were turned into growth opportunities. “From a controls perspective, Interstates doesn’t do a lot of wastewater systems. So, this project was an opportunity for us to learn and explore using the submittal process and all the required steps. We also leveraged a whole new library of development tools that we didn’t have a lot of previous exposure to,” says Ben Langstraat, Automation Manager at Interstates.

Any difficulties on this project were offset by the convenience of working close to home. “It was nice to use our talents and deploy our services within our own community,” says Langstraat.

One of the most gratifying interactions was User Acceptance Testing, when the client gets to see and experience the new automation programming for the first time. “The UAT experience with the city and the general contractor went really well,” says Langstraat. “We had everything documented and ready to go, and that was impressive to them. Our preparedness helped startup and checkout go successfully as well,” he says.

The proximity will also come in handy as we provide support for the facility in the long run. “Being close by will definitely be helpful in the future as we provide support to this site. It was great that the City of Sioux Center kept some of their business inside the community,” says Hulstein.

This article was originally published in Current Connections Spring 2020 issue.


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