Most people on the hunt for a new DCS system have never been through a migration before. The industry average life of a DCS is about 17 years, so it’s not something that happens every day. A DCS migration is a substantial investment that should be carefully weighed and fully vetted before making a final decision, so consider these important factors before you migrate.
- Cost — This is almost everyone’s most important decision point. Don’t make the mistake of focusing only on the system hardware cost. There will be system installation service, configuration, training, commissioning and maintenance on top of it. Narrowing the list to two or three DCS vendors can help drive down hardware costs. From there, consider using other qualified suppliers to lower the cost of related services.
- Interoperability — Define what systems the new DCS will need to interface with, then determine which DCS systems can most easily meet your needs. Be sure to consider asset management, workflow, batch control databases, existing instrumentation, communication networks and other sub-systems. You’ll probably hear all DCS vendors tell you they can interface with anything. This is probably true, and it’s just a simple matter of programming (SMOP). Yeah, right! You’ll want to dig deep to find the truth here.
- Advanced features — One DCS will handle basic process control as well as the next. But do you have needs for advanced applications? Today’s DCS systems are feature-rich. When replacing a legacy DCS, be sure to define process control needs based on today’s operations and a vision of future needs rather than a simple replace-in-kind system. You want a DCS system that will control your processes well into the future, not a replica of the same system designed to control your process 15 to 20 years ago.
- Long-term support — Investigate the various DCS vendors’ records in the industry. Ask them to define commitments for future support and to provide referrals, white papers or case studies that are relevant to your needs. You could be living with this system for the next 20 years, so consider all aspects of a vendor’s capabilities.
DCS migration is a great undertaking, to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be costly or confusing. Consider these factors, and insight from a DCS Next consultant, before you migrate.
What are your biggest concerns about DCS migration?