Case Studies

Apex Automation and Controls: Smooth Operation Systems

  • Written by: Apex Automation and Controls: Smooth Operation Systems
  • Produced by: Apex Automation and Controls: Smooth Operation Systems

Apex Automation and Controls (Apex) has been building and installing electrical automation and control systems since 1996. The Virginia-based company specializes in complex computerized systems that monitor and control the operations of processing and manufacturing plants. Apex has performed design, installation, start-up and operator training on projects across the United States, including Puerto Rico and Canada.

The company has built a vast product and service portfolio, including small, single-operation systems and large systems that control almost all process components of a facility. Apex goes to work on all aspects of the project and offers full-performance or single-phase assistance for new construction or retrofitting. Apex performs everything in-house – from manufacturing control panels to full system development – working alongside customers to achieve individual project goals and standards.

Jonathan H. Keene, president of Apex, has been with the company for four years. Though Apex has been established for 10 years, Keene has made some impressive leaps since his involvement. “My current business partner, also part owner of Apex, wasn’t seeing a lot of growth,” he explains. When the previous owner pursued other ventures in Colorado, Keene was offered a stake of 50-percent ownership of Apex. The business has been growing ever since.

Connecting People to Processes

Even following its recent success, Apex is still a fairly small company. “It’s just me and three other electrical engineers,” says Keene. He goes on to explain that the company is in the process of expansion, however, with plans to hire two more engineers by the end of 2013.

In the meantime Keene will be working in Toronto on a project for a major client, where Apex is performing start-up and operator training for a sludge incineration system for a large water pollution control plant that treats wastewater for one of the largest growing suburbs in the area. The booming population demands a major upgrade at the plant, and Apex’s automation systems will help workers in the plant monitor and maintain systems with the aid of sensors and a fully networked Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to allow the operators to view and control the process.

The Apex team is focused on the control development for the plant’s sludge incineration system, which makes up only a portion of the automation present. “We are involved with programming three GE RX3I Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC) with over 1,800 total input/output points,” says Keene. The SCADA system consists of two redundant GE iFIX servers and six iFIX clients distributed between the main control room and the process floor.

Apex performed a project in 2003 at another waste treatment facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The company was contracted under Infilco Degremont – a repeat client – to assist with the programming and start up of the sludge incineration system in San Juan. These systems are used to incinerate bio-solids that are created during the process of treating wastewater. Apex spent over two months on site performing the set up and training of plant personnel in the operation of the system.

In 2009 Apex was contracted to retrofit an existing SCADA system at a wastewater plant in Fredericksburg, Va., where the original system was nearly 20 years old. The system had stopped functioning properly and was costing the city both time and money in maintenance. Apex manufactured custom, efficient panels for the facility that were designed to be more effective and last longer than the former system. The system consisted of seven independent Allen-Bradley (AB) CompactLogix Automation Controllers with over 600 total input/output points.

The new SCADA system consists of two redundant AB FactoryTalk View SE servers in addition to two SCADA clients that are located in the main control room. The company programmed and tested the panels at the shop before delivering to the field, where local electricians at Apex’s direction installed the panels. Once the panels were installed, Apex performed the required commissioning and training for the facility. The entire system is now connected through fiber optic Ethernet cables, allowing information to transfer both faster and safer.

Communication Skills

Keene and his fellow engineers find the biggest challenge on many sites stem from poorly designed or improperly installed existing systems. “Sometimes our scope of the work involves quick reprogramming that borders on violating the laws of physics,” he jokes. The team of experienced engineers has the know-how and the patience to deal with all aspect of projects, although sometimes, according to Keene, shifting customer demands require a bit of diplomacy.

Navigating project and customer requirements is where Apex excels, however, and the final product is consistently a better-wired machine. “In the water/wastewater treatment industry, our systems help purify water to a degree usually better than their discharge locations,” explains Keene. Improved automation systems help workers at the plants better control and monitor how the processes function, which allows for better maintenance, more efficient performance, as well as a quicker response to hiccups in machinery.

In order to uphold the company’s reputation, Apex is constantly making advances in its research-and-design department. Keene reports that current projects include improving network wiring solutions to speed up information exchange. Many of the sensors and devices in these systems are going wireless and the company is working on durable, high-speed, integrated solutions.

Power efficiency regulation is another focus, and the company is researching advanced metering solutions for generation and distribution. Apex is finding better ways to use the data exchanged between devices and interfaces through improving communications so that information is more easily available by plant owners in the public and private sectors.

Apex has found sustained growth through reliable expertise over the years. “What gives us the greatest sense of pride is when our clients receive more than what they were expecting in terms of service, system capabilities and efficiency of design and implementation,” says Keene proudly. The team is constantly seeking out the latest in interface and systems technologies, delivering high-quality service and equipment to industrial and civil projects all over North America.

Nothing comes shop standard at Apex; every system is designed to meet the specific needs of the client. Apex Automation and Controls offers a continued guarantee of successful implementation on every project, regardless of scope or complexity, and is positioned to experience sustained growth.

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in US Builders Review” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


I would like to commend the US Builders Review staff for their work in developing and writing a fantastic article for Miller Contracting Group, Inc. It was truly a pleasure to work with their professional and well organized staff.
— Chuck Daniels, Business Manager, Miller Contracting Group Inc.
The staff was very helpful and easy to work with while developing our story. They were always open to our ideas and provided us useful information to maximize our visibility using social media. We were certainly pleased with final article.
— Daryl Whitmer, Marketing Program Manager, Harrison French & Associates (HFA)
We are excited to be featured as a case study in US Builders Review and look forward to sharing our company’s story with a national audience.
— Ryan Sanzari, Director of Operations, Alfred Sanzari Enterprises
Thank you all your efforts in putting together such a great article about our company in US Builders Review. DH Construction appreciates the professional manner in which your team worked with us to achieve the stateside exposure we were after; especially taking the time to get all of the facts correct. In short, the article was extremely well put together and we have already received a great deal of feedback, interest, and compliments as a result of the piece. Once again, we appreciate all the effort, and without a doubt, we will not hesitate to work with your organization again in the future.
— Daniel Harrigan, Principal, DH Construction
Ryan at TrueLine was a pleasure to work with and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend him or TrueLine to anyone in the future. They were professional, organized and great to work with through the process!
— James Cahill, President and Partner, J. Calnan & Associates
I would like to commend the US Builders Review staff for their work in developing and writing a fantastic article for Miller Contracting Group, Inc. It was truly a pleasure to work with their professional and well organized staff.
— Chuck Daniels, Business Manager, Miller Contracting Group Inc.
I was contacted as a nominee for the Greenbuild Editor’s Choice 2016 recognition and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Working with US Builders Review has been a blessing for my company. Erica Berry took an awesome interview in the initial call as she gathered data for the article. She was concerned about how we became us, and she made me feel important by listening and taking notes. Then there is Ian Nichols who made me feel so comfortable in sharing my story, and Molly Shaw who interviewed me as well, as she was getting ready to create an awesome article about my company -- and I must say she nailed it on the first run! What a pleasure it has been to work with everyone. This feature on Container Homes USA will help me push the company into the forefront at the Greenbuild Expo 2016.
— Derrick C. W. Childs, Director Construction & Design, Container Homes USA
It was an absolute pleasure to work with the writers and editorial team at TrueLine Publishing for our recent article in US Builders Review. From the start of the project, it was apparent that everyone involved was very concerned with accuracy and getting the facts right. They were also very conscientious about soliciting our feedback and ensuring that we were happy with the content and with the manner in which Giroux Glass was described in the finalized piece.
— Barbara Kotsos, Director of Marketing & PR, Giroux Glass
Kyle Gahm was instrumental in coordinating this project from beginning to end. He was always available and a pleasure to work with. It would be a pleasure to work with Kyle down the road. Bill Keaton was very impressive in raising money from advertising which resulted in ASE getting the cover story, so thank you Bill. Lia Prysunka and Jeanee Dudley are both very impressive individuals who deserve a lot of credit for this featured piece. They were both very patient and accepting of any changes we suggested. The format, quality, and resolution was awesome. To sum it all up: Our upper management, who never have been high on PR and things of this nature said that it was "absolutely fantastic" and were blown away. They now are requesting multiple copies of the full magazine and are very proud of the work you all put in. Thanks again.
— Ryan Sanzari, Director of Operations, Alfred Sanzari Enterprises
The process was simple: we were provided questions that the writers wanted to discuss, we were interviewed, and then we got to see a few drafts before the final version went to print. Given the quality of this publication, on behalf of Giroux, I can assure everyone that all of my partners would be happy to participate in similar articles in the future.
— Barbara Kotsos, Director of Marketing & PR, Giroux Glass


Greenbuild 2016



From the latest
digital edition
to industry trends,
we’ll keep you
in the know.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.