Spring Automation 101: Answering Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1

Answering FAQs as a provider of Control Software

As a provider of turnkey controls and control software for automated material handling equipment used in distribution and order fulfillment centers, Spring Automation partners with customers to ensure project success. That’s why we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and share the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) we get to see if we are the right partner for you.

We get a lot of questions, so I’ll be answering them in this post and in a part two. Here, you’ll learn more about the solutions Spring Automation provides and types of projects we work on, and where we fit into the design process and project lifecycle.

What solutions and services does Spring Automation provide?

Spring Automation provides complete, end-to-end controls for automated material handling equipment. Our projects typically include programmable logic controllers (PLCs), control software, communications hardware and protocols, SCADA, human-machine interface (HMI) control systems, and more.

Additionally, we offer our proprietary Voyager warehouse control system (WCS) software, built with a modular design that enables easy configuration, or reconfiguration, as an operation’s needs change. Voyager can incorporate a variety of functions, including proactive monitoring in real-time to enable more informed decisions, highlighting key events in daily operations, an alarm tracking function to identify and track faults and errors, and more. Voyager can be configured to control destination routing, sorting, order consolidation, print-and-apply solutions, dimensioners, in-line scales for weight capture, and many other processes, systems, and tasks.

Spring Automation also offers service and maintenance contracts tailored to match our customers’ needs. We make recommendations to help operations managers strategically plan updates and modifications with our guidance to prevent any issues or code errors, avoiding unexpected downtime. Spring Automation further assists in troubleshooting and provides support to customers who are making changes to their current system. Our highly experienced controls engineers can travel on site for upgrades, modifications, expansions, and software updates.

What types of projects and industries does Spring Automation work on?

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators engage us to provide the controls hardware and software that make automated material handling, distribution, or order fulfillment operations function and perform as expected. We provide controls, electrical, and software packages for Greenfield facilities, retrofits and expansions of existing operations, updates, and modernizations of current control systems and software, and software updates for controls systems.

While we work in a broad range of industries, with the tremendous expansion of e-commerce and online shopping over the past few years, we’ve experienced an uptick in the number of parcel handling, logistics, and retail projects. The size and scope of our project work ranges from small engagements lasting a few days to large, multi-phase projects spanning multiple years.

Where does Spring Automation fit into the design process?

Spring Automation becomes involved early in the design process upon being invited by a system integrator or OEM to provide a controls and software design proposal for an automated system.

We start each proposal with a mechanical drawings package for the overall system design, a complete equipment list, the proposed project timeframe, and target go-live date. After evaluating this information, our solutions team then puts together a recommended design plan for the controls and electrical packages, as well as for any necessary software — such as our Voyager warehouse control system (WCS).

We work to provide solutions that enhance system usability, minimize the potential for unnecessary complexity in the controls, and prevent system errors or faults. For example, we propose the placement of key automatic identification and data capture technologies to maximize read rates and minimize errors.

Additionally, we try to gather as much information about the project’s current objectives, as well as any anticipated growth or phased expansion plans. Knowing ahead of time that an operation will likely be expanded in the future helps our engineers provide a design for installing equipment and controls that allow for the addition of more automated equipment. By investing in a larger or more expandable controls solution, an operation generally saves a significant amount of time and expense during the later phases of a system’s design.

Want to learn more about Spring Automation?

In my second FAQ post, I’ll explain what sets us apart as a turnkey controls and control software provider, how we’re proactively addressing the supply chain disruptions and lead time challenges, and how Spring Automation’s solutions are a key part of the digital innovations enabling distribution and fulfillment operations to maximize their automated system investments.

If you have any questions that I did not answer — or you want to learn more about our solutions, services, and software — connect with me at [email protected] or by calling 615-472-9454. I look forward to hearing from you.


Alex Smith

About the Author

Alex Smith joined Spring Automation in December of 2021 as Director of Sales and Marketing. Alex graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication. He has held a CMSE (Certified Machinery Safety Expert) certification since 2018 while working for a safe automation company providing engineering services and products to OEMs, integrators, and end-users. Before joining Spring Automation, Alex spent 8+ years in the automation industry, serving in various sales roles. Most recently, he worked for an automation company specifying equipment for barcode scanning, dimensioning, and presence sensing, among many other applications in Logistics Automation. In his spare time, Alex enjoys playing golf, spending time with family and friends, being outdoors, and watching sports, especially the Kentucky Wildcats and Atlanta Braves.


Reid Foster - Director of Controls Engineering

Press Release

September 15, 2022


Spring Automation is pleased to announce internal advancements within the Engineering department.

Nashville, TN — Thursday, September 15th, 2022 — Spring Automation is pleased to announce the promotion of Reid Foster to Director of Controls Engineering. Reid will play a key role in establishing standards, processes, and tools for programming and design that will result in high-quality and efficient engineering. His responsibilities include managing team capacity, verifying critical technical tasks, providing technical expertise to his team and other departments, and meeting regularly with leadership and team members. In addition, Reid will provide technical expertise to project engineers, team leads, and application engineers.

Reid graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering Technology. He joined Spring Automation in 2018 as a Controls Engineer. After joining the team, Reid quickly became Engineering Lead, where he technically led a series of successful projects for multiple customers. During his time as team lead, he focused on taking Spring’s engineering practices to the next level while mentoring team members. Throughout projects, he has completed engineering work such as design, programming, and system start-up while overseeing electrical installers and procurement.

Director of Controls Engineering, Reid Foster, with Spring Automation Commissioning Engineers in California.

Before Spring Automation, he worked as a systems controls engineer deploying WCS, writing PLC code, creating HMI applications, and commissioning systems. In his spare time, as if being an excellent engineer wasn’t enough, Reid is also an avid farmer, helping his family out on their farm on his free weekends.

About Spring Automation:

Spring Automation provides material handling controls, software, and installation services to end-users, integrators, and OEMs across North America. We specialize in bringing our customers high-quality and dependable programming, design, and build solutions for their projects.

At Spring Automation, we are a family by our shared purpose: To Have Fun Building Legacies Together. We are a team that loves each other and what we do. We design and implement high-quality controls solutions. We strive for growth through diversification while maintaining a culture of teamwork and innovation. Whether we are serving our customers, community, or family, we take pride in everything we do. When we win, we win together.

Join Reid and learn more about opportunities at Spring Automation by visiting our Career Page.


Preventing Last Minute-itis

The curse of the modern office or workplace is Last Minute-itis.  It is wasteful of our time, increases our stress, and the errors that are made cost us a fortune.  Even if this wasn’t the case, how many of us can say that they like to be rushed – even if it is work that we usually enjoy doing?  We can’t always do much about disorganized coworkers, demanding clients, and the procrastinators around us.  But don’t despair, at least we can make sure that we are not sabotaging ourselves.  Here are a few methods that we can use to help reduce the occurrence of last minute-itis.  These all seem like common sense and they are.  But how often do people violate what they know is common sense and do something because they think it is easier, it will be different this time (the definition of insanity), or they are too tired and don’t do what they know they have to do?

Last things first – there is a famous Lewis Carroll quote (or was it the Cheshire Cat?): “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  A corollary is “If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, it doesn’t matter much what you do."  Countless hours are wasted producing products or doing jobs that either don’t need to be done or you are working on something that really isn’t what the customer wants.  Client’s often ask how long it will take or what it will cost to do something.  I have to ask them first “What do you want it to do”?  They might not know, and you might have to provide them with guidance.  After you get their answer, produce a prototype or use an example from a previous job and ask the client if this is the result they are expecting.  You can save a world of time by doing this and avoid costly errors.  You may even earn the admiration of a customer because you asked them what they really wanted.

Embracing the Process – Once we know what we are trying to accomplish the next question is how is it to be done.  The process engineer is taught to think backwards, and you should too.  Starting with a result will direct you to think in reverse.  What do I need to achieve the product?  Then go the next step repeatedly until you reach base information.  Insert the checking, review, and validation steps until you have the entire process mapped out.  Whether you do this on a whiteboard, in a graphics program – like Visio, mind mapping software, or just scribbling on paper - mapping out the process and following it is a sure way to get the result that you want.

Everything in order – After you have defined the process, now stick to it.  As a controls engineer, I have often worked with programmers.  Programmers love to write code.  That’s what they do.  But there is a time for everything.  Make sure that you have the foundation work done first and get an agreement that this is really what the client wants or needs before wasting time producing something unnecessary or unwanted.

Hurry at the beginning - when you have the time.  It has often been said that “hurry is the
sign of a weak mind”.  I don’t really
know you but if you are reading this
article you don’t have a weak mind.  People
tend to get more dedicated to a project the closer they get to the due
date.  This is because at the beginning
the objective is so far away and the time seems limitless.  There is nothing like having a schedule with
firm due dates to ensure that work is getting done in a timely matter and that people
are working to avoid entering a crisis mode the last week of the project.  Make sure that the work is broken down into
discrete tasks that can be completed.
Assume that there will be problems, and leave yourself time to fix them
as they arise.  There is nothing as
enjoyable as reaching the end of a successful project and knowing that it was
accomplished without a frantic dash during the last few weeks to get it done.

First things first – There is work that we have control of and work that we have little or no control of.  Let’s be sure to identify what we have no control over at the beginning of the project.  As you have less control of items that come from others, you will have to put a structure in place that will allow your suppliers time to get the information to you in a timely matter.  Ask yourself if the materials that you have provided to your supplier define what you want.  Are there areas in the documentation that might be confusing?  Do they have enough time to provide you with the product that you need?  Anything that you receive from an outside source must be checked.  It is your job to make sure that the product that you receive is checkable (more about that in the next article).  If mistakes are made (either by your supplier or by you) is there enough time to redo the work and still meet the deadline?

Avoiding what we like to do – There is work that we love to do
(work that puts us in “the Flow”) and work that is necessary but not our choice
to do.  If there is something that must be
done, and it cannot be delegated to someone else, learn to avoid doing just the
work that you want to do because it feels good.
If you have done a good job of formatting the project, you will have
time to do the work that you love doing.

Painting yourself into a corner – We all (at least most of us) have this surge of expectations when we start a project.  It just feels good to be doing something new.  We have all gone through the steps of defining a concept, getting the client’s buy-in, and working on the project.  But what if it doesn’t work as we imagine.  Do you have a plan “B?  What is the worst that can happen?  Make plans to resolve these problems and prepare for the worst.

Now that you have my ideas, apply them and your own ideas toward being more effective.  I would like to hear your comments about what you have found to be effective.

Mark Goldstein, P.E. - Senior Controls Engineer

Mark joined Spring in 2015 and has been a key contributor to the business. Prior to joining Spring, he worked for consulting engineering firms, control system integrators, manufacturers, and OEM’s in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, and Missouri, in various roles, including process engineer, project engineer, project manager, and department manager.

He is a licensed professional engineer and has completed project work consisting of engineering, design, programming, installation oversight, and commissioning.

Mark Goldstein