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How a Modern DCS Can Enable Your Digital Transformation

Learn how a digital transformation strategy that includes upgrading to a modern DCS can help producers be more productive, profitable and reduce risk.

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Producers and manufacturers – operating in industries ranging from pharmaceutical, Consumer Packaged Goods, and food and beverage to mining and chemical – are adept at navigating the complexities and challenges of staying competitive.

Producers must strive to protect the bottom line and optimize production by expanding throughput, decreasing downtime, improving consistency, delivering quality, and keeping employees safe. They also must consider the lifecycle costs associated with engineering, inventory, and system maintenance and support.

Throw a worldwide pandemic into the mix, and it becomes clear just how important it is to be as productive and profitable as possible while reducing operational risk.

So how can a process industry producer or manufacturer move beyond the status quo to keep up with industry and technological trends? How can they take their operations to the next level of sophistication and innovation to help achieve success and growth in the short and long term?

A one-size-fits-all solution just won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to get surgical about solutions. Enter: Digital transformation as enabled by the modern distributed control system (DCS).

A Digital Transformation Strategy for your DCS

Digital transformation can be described as modernizing, upgrading, or improving operations by integrating digital technology into all areas of your business.

Digital transformation is a fundamental, cultural shift impacting how organizations work, how the plant floor operates and how value is delivered to customers. It’s about outcomes and meeting ever-changing customer needs. It’s a systemic change for any producer – and that’s why a modern DCS can be a cornerstone of this transformation.

Developing a strategy for your digital transformation means determining objectives and business goals, assessing the system needs to achieve those objectives, and planning the execution of your strategy. With competitors investing in technology and transforming their operations, the pressure is on to do your research and make decisions. A good question to start with is, “Do I need an upgrade?”

A traditional DCS features a closed system design, is difficult to migrate and modernize, and has a higher total cost of ownership in most cases. The modern DCS is preferable for many reasons, including higher performance, site-wide availability, scalable system capabilities, the open technology stack and the ease of integration. A plant-wide control system using common automation technologies enables seamless integration for process control, discrete control, power control and safety control with plant-floor and business systems.

If you think your DCS has run its course, you’re not alone. The global DCS installed base nearing end of life totals about US$65 billion. And many of these systems are more than 25 years old and in dire need of updating.

Reasons to replace a DCS can include an increased failure rate, higher incidence of off-spec product, accelerating maintenance costs, lack of legacy DCS expertise, capacity limitations, and inability to interface with contemporary systems.

A Modern DCS Addresses Modern Challenges

The latest DCS platforms have kept pace with technological developments. And more DCS users are now considering upgrading and modernizing their systems for optimal performance. A modern DCS can help build a Connected Enterprise as part of a digital transformation strategy.

PlantPAx® 5.0, the latest DCS release from Rockwell Automation, will reduce the architectural footprint with fewer servers and more powerful controllers, drive consistency with embedded process instructions in the controller, streamline workflows with an improved development experience of system attributes, provide robust analytics for real-time decision-making, and align with international cybersecurity standards.

What does that mean for producers? It makes life simpler. A modern DCS should enable producers to achieve plant-wide control and optimization, maximize operations, achieve high availability, reduce costs and increase production. Additionally, a modern DCS can help address three major challenges faced almost universally by producers and manufacturers:

  1. Addressing the challenge of productivity. How can producers best innovate when disparate systems throughout the enterprise create bottlenecks and inefficiencies? The sheer amount of information from supply chains, plant assets, and business systems can overwhelm teams trying to function in real-time or create a new concept. Rapid improvements in technology enable producers to access more information than ever for decision-making purposes.
  2. Doing more with less to help the bottom line. Production teams must do more with less to meet budget expectations throughout their plant’s lifecycle. Operators must find ways to gain the visibility and control needed to reduce unplanned downtime, prevent quality issues, and eliminate waste from production. Producers are looking for plant-wide automation that is easily updated and supported, and technology must help the plant remain in continuous operation.
  3. Reducing operational risk. Risk is everywhere and takes many forms respective to your network infrastructure, the backbone of your system. Even when contingencies are considered, unforeseen events can impact safe and reliable plant operations. As producers identify factors that contribute to unplanned delays, downtime, product safety, and worker safety, they require systems that can navigate dynamic conditions and that enable them to aggressively respond armed with information. As threats shift from operational risks to external actors, control systems need to be strong yet adaptable. Are you implementing a robust infrastructure for your system?
PlantPAx 5.0: The latest DCS release

The significance of PlantPAx 5.0, a system that has a smaller footprint that’s easier and faster to deploy, provides real-time data and analytics for informed decision-making, and is supported throughout its entire lifecycle is not lost on producers. Those in batch, hybrid and heavy industries can benefit from a DCS that is purpose-built for plant-wide control and able to serve larger and more complex operations securely.

What should a producer look for in a modern DCS?

  • Data, analytics and insights that enable real-time decision-making. This includes visualization and dashboards for operations that provide production and operator KPIs, sight to abnormal situations like alarm logs and unexpected downtime events, and a modern approach to HMI graphics.
  • Support for a system over its lifecycle. You know you can depend on our products will last a long time. Beyond the initial purchase and commissioning, you will continue to get customized support for years to come. That includes access to subject matter experts, field services, support contracts, and long-term product availability.
  • Workforce solutions. From remote access and mobile devices to training for the shift from specialist to generalist, the modern DCS can help address common workforce issues. It provides an enterprise-wide view so staff isn’t needed onsite, and encourages the shift from reading and memorizing manuals to being able to access expert help as its needed.
  • Cybersecurity for systems. Adhering to cybersecurity standards and certifications for standards such as ISA99/IEC 62443 should be the expectation for any producer.

You can find all of this and more in PlantPax 5.0 – a version that empowers producers to expand what’s possible.

Don’t be left behind

Digital transformation is a trend that isn’t going away – at some point, every manufacturer and producer will have to start their journey. For many, it’s considered the new normal.

At its highest level, digital transformation is a foundational and potentially radical evolution for producers in the industrial space. Embracing new technologies will fundamentally change how you do business – for the better.

Evaluate your legacy DCS to see if the latest DCS platform can help in your digital transformation journey. This decision can allow flexibility so you can better meet customer needs, and provide data and insights to help you improve performance, decision-making and profitability. It doesn’t have to be difficult or disruptive. With the right solutions in place, you can embrace tomorrow’s challenges with confidence.

Learn more about how PlantPAx 5.0 can help you do just that.


Blair Wilson
Blair Wilson
PlantPAx Marketing Manager, Rockwell Automation
Blair Wilson
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