System Health Check – Is It Necessary?

Oct 19, 2011 2:54:00 AM | Posted by Bill Stewart

The thing about getting older is, well, things just don’t work the way they used to, and we can’t do everything we used to do — at least not with the same degree of certainty and confidence. Process automation systems are no different; they have their own set of aches and pains and performance issues as they age.

When I hit a certain age, I decided the medical profession probably had more smarts than I did about how I was doing. I had my own feedback mechanisms of “I can still get up in the morning, I can still eat by myself and I only need glasses when I really need them.” But my doctor found a few other things to test, like reflexes and blood and general health and other long-word topics I didn’t fully understand. The result: I now know what I need to do to be even more healthy, and I know my boundaries: less salt, more exercise, more rest, a lot of water and admitting that “vacation” is not a bad word.

My doctor is a generalist, and a good one. He not only ordered the tests I needed but explained the process I would be going through, what they were looking for and what to expect. He then pointed me in the direction of some specialists who checked me out further. The key for me was to seek out the expert, go through their process, let them evaluate the results of the test — I am big on letting the data tell you the story — and then listen to and act on their plan.

How about your process automation system? You know, the one that has 17 different versions of software and eight eclectic platforms from six different companies? The one that was the result of four different company objectives, visions and strategic directions! Who can understand all of that complexity, help you manage the risks and not sell you a product only based solution? Who is your generalist that can look at your total process — unit operations process flow down to your field devices and then back up to your business systems? Do they have a proven in use solution for this process and what can you expect when it is completed? Will I know more or will I just have a plan in place that requires me to mainly buy more hardware and software? I know what I wanted from my general practitioner and he delivered. What are your expectations for your legacy process automation installed base — run to failure or implement change based on a documented plan?

I think we all know the right option of the two. Have a healthy checkup!