Planning for a major project, like installing a new main control platform, can never start too early. The long-term effectiveness of the new system depends on it.
If you feel like you’re seeing discussions related to DCS migrations everywhere you turn these days, you aren’t imagining it. Lots of people are talking about it because so many of those systems are getting very old, but surprisingly few companies have started replacement projects. The failure rates are only going to get worse and some of those companies without a plan may soon be in trouble.
The reason is simple: your control system and the instrumentation supporting it are your most important productivity tools. All the process automation equipment combined represents only 10 to 15 percent of the capital invested in your equipment and facilities, yet it provides almost all the leverage you have to improve yields, increase throughput, reduce energy usage and achieve more uniform product quality. Unfortunately, you can't always realize these benefits if you're still operating with an obsolete DCS. Migrating to a modern DCS presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance the leveraging power of your control system. If it’s something you’re thinking about, don’t miss the opportunity to add major improvements. Start working on your DCS migration project checklist right now.
Here are some things to consider when building your checklist:
- Are you going to stick with your current platform vendor or consider others? There are pros and cons either way. Our white paper Upgrading Your DCS: Why You May Need to Do It Sooner Than You Think [insert link] can help you decide.
- How faithful are you going to be when you reproduce the operating graphics? Are you going to make them look just like the old ones? The operators will certainly want you to. They’re used to what they look at and know exactly where everything is, but this could be a serious mistake. Screens with black backgrounds are so hard on the eyes and the brain, not to mention those horrible alarm colors and behaviors. Consider a change to high-performance HMIs to improve situational awareness for your operators. With critical analysis of your HMI strategy using recommendations of the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) Consortium, operators can have screens designed around the way they do their jobs for the greatest effectiveness. MAVERICK’s experts can assist with implementation of these recommendations.
- Be sure to include a detailed and thorough P&ID review as the lead activity in the design phase of the project, and make sure your operators participate. This is the one opportunity you have to make fundamental improvements and correct some serious deficiencies associated with your instrumentation and control system. For example, on your critical high-pressure boiler, you know you need a measurement of the combustion airflow for air/fuel ratio control or for tighter cross-limiting combustion controls. Now is the time to get a new flowmeter installed and get the measurement in the new DCS to improve the responsiveness of the boiler to changes in steam demand, improve combustion efficiency and reduce energy usage.
- Don’t forget your alarm strategy. A migration is a perfect opportunity to reconsider all those alarms that sound routinely and get shelved. What are the alarms you really need, and do your operators know how to respond when they sound?
- Cyber security is one of those things few companies consider at the outset, but the sooner it becomes part of the project, the deeper defensive strategies can be baked into the architecture, which improves effectiveness. And when implemented as part of a migration, the incremental cost is minimal.
These are just a few ideas. Many more are discussed on our website, in our white papers and case studies. You can always contact us, and we’ll be glad to help you get started. What’s on your DCS migration checklist?
This post was written by Jim Ford. Jim is a senior consultant at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.