By Carol Schafer, Global Sr. Marketing Manager, LifeCycle Services, Rockwell Automation
It takes a focused effort and dedicated resources to keep your continuous or batch process operation up and running. You spend considerable time and money annually for plant maintenance, repairs and system modifications. Many process operations are running at 100% of capacity, squeezing everything you can out of every production run and pushing legacy systems to their limit. Key process industry workers with specialized knowledge on aging systems help keep plants operating.
Now manufacturers are dealing with a severely stressed supply chain and scarcity of skilled workers. Process facilities are under pressure to decarbonize, meet tightening regulations and make progress on aggressive corporate sustainability goals.
And with consumer demand trends shifting constantly, you must be able to turn on a dime to stay competitive. All this while keeping the workforce safe from harm and happy enough so they stay with the company.
No wonder many manufacturers are hard-pressed to explore the possibilities that modernization can bring them.
The wonders of digital transformation (DX) might sound enticing, but for plant managers, getting a large-scale distributed control system (DCS) project funded and supported is often challenging. They also know a project of this magnitude isn’t without operational risk as they deal with the reality of daily production, quality and profitability requirements.
Many process manufacturers ask, “Why should I ‘digitally transform’ my operation at all? It’s running fine just like it is.”
Problems and Pressures
Empirically, you might know you really need to modernize. After all, most operations are facing well-known legacy system risks, such as:
- Lack of flexibility/agility. Aging systems can’t adapt quickly enough to changing production needs nor easily interface with modern software applications.
- Unplanned downtime. When a continuous process breaks down, the cost to diagnose, repair and bring it back online is high. A single equipment failure could cost tens of thousands of dollars — and the repair doesn’t even improve performance. When unplanned downtime involves a safety issue, the cost can be much higher.