ESE’s John Luther and John Tertin recently wrote this article on facility modernization for Plant Services.
Are legacy control systems dragging down your maintenance KPIs? You may be ready to modernize your assets.
What is legacy hardware, and how do we look at it? Is it just old stuff that’s hard to find and hard to replace? Is it unsupported equipment? Is it older tech for which it is difficult to find engineers who are experienced in working with it? Is it ultimately a combination of all three of these?
It can be difficult to visualize what operations will look like after a technology modernization initiative. This article takes a look at how legacy technologies can ultimately impact your competitive advantage as an organization, preventing internal progress and overstressing your maintenance teams. This article also walks through a quick modernization exercise, from the technology components to the controls platform and production processes involved.
The first issue when it comes to modernization is to assess the maintainability of your equipment. For example, there are a large number of legacy control networks out there in industry (i.e., DeviceNet, Modbus, BACnet, ControlNet, Profinet). From a supportability standpoint, when something happens within a given network, it can be difficult to identify what the specific problem is. Even when the problem is known, there are few people that have the experience and expertise on older and/or mixed control technologies who would be able to support them.
Even if resources on your team are available to support the tech, rectifying a given issue on your control network(s) can require excessive effort. For example, it may be necessary to shut down an entire network in order to replace a single control device, which can create significant interruption to plant operations.
Read “How a system integrator can save a control project”
One option to consider in this case is reducing development and deployment maintenance time by centralizing applications. For example, when you have a facility that has many separate operator interfaces, a centralization initiative holds the potential for you to operationally see different portions of a facility through one single centralized application, as well as achieve new operating expense (OpEx) efficiencies. Also, maintaining a single application rather than managing multiple legacy applications can result in reduced troubleshooting and maintenance times, allowing the initiative to pay for itself pretty quickly.
Some of the most heavy-hitting benefits that you can achieve with modern control infrastructure are based on the plant floor. Imagine an operator who goes to the CIP system, selects a circuit, pushes the start button – and nothing happens. Within 15 seconds, there’s a call to maintenance to figure out why it’s not working. Before you know it, multiple people from several stakeholder teams have been taken away from their core functions to solve the problem.