Source: Lachlan Hardy, Flickr
We all have a favourite t-shirt, sweater, pair of jeans or trainers that have stood the test of time - in our own eyes at least. Comfortable, dependable and reliable, we only feel compelled to replace these items when they finally fall apart in the wash, or someone close to us takes drastic action and disposes of them on our behalf.
If it ain't broke...
But when it comes to technology, the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" no longer seems to apply. The decision to replace something no longer feels like ours to make: smartphone, tablet or laptop not compatible with the latest operating system? You "need" to upgrade before the risks of running unsupported software become too great, or to access the latest applications and features. A fear of falling behind, too often justifies an upgrade we could have put off. My new jeans never seem to offer more features than my last.
Those able to resist the urge to upgrade seem to be rewarded, a better model offering more for less emerges a few months later to the frustration of those who couldn't wait. In the meantime, the world didn't end because their activity tracker was a little more chunky, their phone couldn't record HD video, or smartwatch needlessly replicate every annoying Facebook notification (just me?).
... don't panic!
Whether you're at the cutting edge, or manage with last years model at home; the latest technology is a luxury many working on established process and manufacturing sites can only dream of. When it comes to ageing control systems different rules apply, upgrades are costly and come with a fair degree of risk. That said, having given good service over the years, so-called legacy systems become increasingly difficult to maintain:
- OEMs increasingly struggle to offer the level of service required as experienced engineers retire
- Spares are getting expensive, and suffer from extended lead times
- Reporting and monitoring requirements bring pressure to connect systems to enterprise networks, further exposing them to security threats
Your current vendor may offer a migration path to their latest system, and the justification is probably there. But is this the best option for your site? Would you like to evaluate the alternative options?
We can help
Having worked with many of the major DCS, PLC and SCADA systems, both old and new, Op-tec will give you impartial advice. If required, we can reverse engineer your existing system to produce a requirement specification for a current generation system.
However in many cases it is possible to prolong the life of existing technology, and plan the phased replacement or upgrade of existing systems over time, scheduling work during routine shutdowns.
As an independent service provider it is not in our interests to recommend expensive solutions where not required, or 'make things easy' with an initially attractive rip-and-replace strategy that risks disrupting ongoing production.
If it ain't broke don't fix it?
Recently, a PLC controlled heating system failed, product went over temperature resulting in substantial consequential losses.
An engineer dispatched to deal with the problem found that the CPU was not reading inputs, and replaced the input module to no effect....
Management of Legacy Controls and Automation
In his first post for us, Peter lays out why you should actively manage legacy control and automation systems. We so often see systems which have not been updated to reflect the current plant configuration, hindering efficient operation. Targeted small, low-cost actions can bring significant improvements.
IIoT and Industry 4.0 Explained
Recently, I spoke to the Food and Drink Engineering & Processing Summit, at Ricoh Arena, Coventry. I wanted to explain in simple language the meaning of these terms, and suggest an approach to projects which intend to leverage the technologies. Below is the gist of what I said....
Op-tec's main office has moved to Stockport
We've moved! Things were getting a little tight where we were, and with customers throughout the UK locating ourselves more centrally makes sense as we continue to grow. Our new home is Broadstone Mill in Reddish, Stockport. More specifically, the Stockport Business & Innovation Centre (SBIC), located on the 3rd floor of this imposing landmark....
Collaboration with Robosoft
Op-tec has, and always will be, an independent service supplier. Meaning we will always select the most appropriate technology based on your criteria for success, be that: cost, performance, reliability, or ease of integration. In the course of working with suppliers, we endeavour to develop lasting relationships valuable to both parties. This benefits our customers....
Different control system types
We often get asked the difference between DCS and PLC/SCADA-based systems, and where PACs come in to it. So here's an attempt to clear things up.
Op-tec achieves ISO 9001:2015 certification
After many years of operating with a compliant Quality Management System, we have now committed to regular external audits against the latest standard. This gives our customers and partners further reassurance that when they work with Op-tec they work with a company focused on delivering excellence through continuous improvement....