Are you in a break-fix mode with your machines?
Many companies are, and that model fits them just fine – for a while. There’s a limit to the number of fixes you can apply before this reactive methodology ends up costing more in downtime than you can afford.
I know. I’ve been there.
At some point you have to ask yourself the question, “Would I rather wait until my machine breaks down to fix it, or prevent the problems from happening in the first place?”
Money Matters (But So Does Time)
We all would prefer to prevent the problems from happening, but it’s not always that easy. Mostly because a proactive approach can require a sizeable upfront investment.
However, you should not forget that time is money, so all the stoppages and break-fix situations can add up quickly.
Our food producer client had a challenge. An obsolete, light-on-documentation DCS system was controlling their fermentation process. The backbone of the system was running on unsupported platforms. A complete system failure was a real possibility.
Even if the worst case scenario didn’t happen, the system was limited in memory and communication, and with inadequate spares, the process could not continue to be supported.
Break-fix was no longer an option. The downtime alone was threatening to outweigh the cost to replace the system.
Three main drivers helped them justify the capital expense of migration:
- Operations: Improve processes, efficiency and productivity. More output, more money.
- Financial: Stop the continuous drain simply to maintain. More uptime, more money.
- Strategy: Implement corporate standards for consistency and ease of use. More comfort, better results.
In this case, with 24/7 operations and a 30-year-old system, the first two drivers easily justify the effort. Corporate strategy can also be an easy discussion because it is the future of the company. But the underlying factor, and it’s one that companies cannot afford to underestimate, is people.
Don’t Let Fear Wreck Your Plans
How quickly and easily employees (production, maintenance and quality) can learn the new system is one of the biggest factors toward adoption.
You can migrate to the latest technology and achieve your operational goal of improved processes, but fall short on efficiency and productivity if the system is hard to use.
In addition to the costs involved in being proactive, I’m convinced that people are one of the primary reasons companies delay migration. Employees familiar with operating one system can worry that any changes – no matter how much better the process will ultimately become – will cause disruption to their routine. Employees don’t realize what’s possible when they are accustomed to an obsolete system that can’t handle the latest visualization technology, or when real-time data is available from any mobile device, anywhere, at any time. Fear of a new system can lead to just as much downtime as a legacy system if the employees do not approve of or accept it.
We knew how important it was to work with our client to find the right solution – one that was easy to learn, use and maintain, and provided immediate benefits to the users. For this client, we selected the PlantPAx® distributed control system.
This system uses a common control engine creating standardization across equipment and functional areas so it is easier to operate – more output.
With an improved infrastructure, the system is reducing maintenance and troubleshooting time, increasing adoption rates, and downtime due to physical failure is almost zero – more uptime.
The standardized solution made it easy for employees to learn, understand, and control all parts of the system – more comfort.