Producers are continually faced with the daunting task of how to balance current goals and objectives with the limited capital funding available to update an aging automation infrastructure.
According to a study conducted by ARC Advisory Group, a leading technology research and advisory firm for industry and infrastructure, about $65 billion worth of automation products in the field today are reaching their end of life, and should be updated. As time passes and technology changes, equipment needs to be assessed to help identify, mitigate and eliminate risk.
Modernizing aging automation equipment has far-reaching benefits. Updating can help improve productivity and access to plant-wide information, extend product lifecycle and make product development more agile by offering increased system flexibility.
By modernizing controllers, drives and associated software, companies can help decrease the risk of unplanned downtime, limited parts availability, and help support safety and sustainability. As a part of this, they should also consider the changing nature of the skills required by their workforce and any regulatory requirements that need to be met.
But where do you start? The best way is through an evaluation that looks at the inventory of parts, state of panels and controllers, condition of machines, and overall usability of each piece of equipment. As a part of this, products can be categorized by where they are in their lifecycle: active, active-mature, end-of-life, or discontinued.
Once complete, consider sharing the evaluation with a trusted systems integrator or distributor for feedback.
Along these lines, another approach is by having an evaluation done by a third party. Known as an installed base evaluation, this in-depth review helps to determine the lifecycle status of the overall facility, offering detailed reports and guidance on how to approach and manage a modernization project.
For either scenario, map out a timeline for the updates you believe make sense. Most transitions will need careful planning around production schedules and staffing levels, and can be mapped out in conjunction with operational needs.
Whichever approach you choose, having the right products, and the right lifecycle support is important to help increase output and productivity of your operations.
For more information on modernization, please see our modernization eBook.
Co-authored by Robert Kellogg
PLC-5 Manager, North America, Rockwell Automation