Modernization isn’t only a matter of upgrading older and obsolete production technology to reduce downtime risks. It’s also an opportunity to transform your operations to solve your top challenges and meet your business goals.
That could mean deploying new digital technologies to gain deeper visibility into production, connect staff to remote experts, and make operations more agile and responsive. It could also mean using modern systems to reduce energy usage and reduce waste to meet sustainability goals.
The challenge, of course, is turning your modernization idea into a viable concept – and then making that concept a reality. Change is difficult, and time, budget and personnel constraints can hinder your project. Modernization also may not be an area of expertise within your staff.
This is why a results-oriented plan and flexible, experienced partner should be central to your modernization project.
Plan Around Your Desired Outcomes
Your modernization project’s guiding principle should be the final result you want to achieve. Is it reduced obsolescence risk? Increased operational efficiencies? Better visibility? Reduced energy consumption? Performance improvements offered by newer technology?
Define not only the result you want to achieve but also the value associated with it. This is critical to creating business justification for your investments.
Then, assess the current state of your operations. Identify what products and technologies are installed and where they are in their lifecycle. Also understand the other aspects of your operations that will be impacted by your modernization project, like your network capabilities, data usage, security posture and staff skill sets.
These details will give you a baseline of where your operations are today so you can decide what’s needed to get you where you want to be in the future.
The planning stage is where you identify your goals and outcomes, project scope, budget sources, timeline, and how a partner will support your efforts. It’s also where you determine if you will modernize in phases or all at once.
It’s possible that the result you want to achieve won’t be a high business priority or that funding won’t be available soon. If so, you can turn your focus to creating a strategy to maintain your existing production systems until modernization can happen.
Find the Right Partner
No matter what shape your modernization plan takes, odds are good you’ll need an external partner to support it.
A service provider that offers end-to-end support can help you at any point in your modernization project. They can help you identify and plan modernization use cases, assess your operations, establish business justification for new investments, and implement new technology.
In one case, a global beverage company worked with Rockwell Automation to modernize an installed base of aging PLC-5® controllers and 1394 servo drives that faced obsolescence risks. The goal was to achieve more integrated control for several capping and filling lines, which would enable a more robust communication infrastructure and distributed HMI capabilities.
We worked together with the customer to complete the project within their limited schedule of available downtime. As the first step in a phased migration of the entire system, the project provided a modernized and supportable controller, drives, I/O, network infrastructure and distributed HMI solution. This gave production staff improved control capabilities and a user interface that’s now accessible to the entire plant.
When looking for a modernization partner, domain experience and breadth of capabilities are key considerations. But don’t overlook a service provider’s flexibility, which is more important than ever today amid challenges like COVID-19 restrictions and skills shortages.
For example, if you’re limiting plant visitors, can your partner provide remote support or capabilities like virtual training for new technologies? Can they assess not only your installed base but also your security posture and employee knowledge levels? Can they support you in other time zones and other languages if your project has a global reach?
A partner can also help you keep legacy assets running if modernization isn’t possible today. Repair agreements, spare parts and/or maintenance strategies, for example, can help minimize the risks of operating older or discontinued products. Does your partner offer remanufacturing services, last-time buy options and other service options to help keep production running smoothly?
Your Challenges are Our Challenges
A modernization partner isn’t just a solution provider – they’re a problem solver. They should be able to help you work through the people, process and technology challenges that arise as you progress your project toward achieving your desired result.
Learn how we can support your modernization project with our modernization services.