• The Path to Modernization, Part 1

The Path to ModernizationExtracted from our Modernization seminar, conducted in March 2016

Why Modernize Your Control Systems?

Statistically speaking, it is likely that your existing control system is part of the $22 billion in control systems that are nearing the end of their useful lives, most of them more than 20 years old. Taking into account the number of systems that offer no capabilities to address the increasing level of cybersecurity threats, that figure grows much larger. Loss of manufacturer support for software fixes and upgrades, difficulty and cost of getting spare parts, and the loss of valuable production time due to these two issues are strong reasons supporting some form of modernization initiative. If you’re experiencing challenges upgrading or expanding your system, interfacing to modern ERP systems, or keeping your system running because of lack of access to spare parts or support, it’s time to take action.

Modernization Scenarios

There are three possible levels of modernization that may be implemented.

Level 1, Exact Replacement: This has the lowest initial cost but also the lowest ROI and may not provide desired features such as security and ERP interface.

Level 2, Functionally Equivalent, with some enhancements: This takes advantage of some newer technologies to expand functionality and features. It offers a middle point for both risk and ROI.

Level 3, Full Modernization: Taking every possible advantage of new technology. This has the highest initial cost, though possibly a better long-term cost when unplanned outages and other production impacts from obsolete controls are factored in. This also offers the highest potential ROI.

Because every process and business model are different, there is no “one size fits all” modernization solution. A thorough business analysis should be done to determine the best approach for your operation.

Modernization Project Phases

When performing an analysis of your situation, you should understand that there are four phases to a modernization project:

  1. Define project objectives: Know what the project needs to accomplish
  2. Investigate the current situation and develop a scope of work (SOW): There are several processes for accomplishing this, but we use a FEED+ study approach.
  3. Business analysis and project funding: Required before proceeding.
  4. Project execution: Implementing the scope of work for which funding is approved.

Modernization Project Considerations

Any modernization project must consider several factors, primarily centered on identifying available skills and resources. The people resources, whether they be internal or external, need to have significant understanding of the available technologies and the practical considerations such as constructability, migration approach, and the hot vs. cold cutover issue. Resources are also required to develop the scope of work, the business justification, and the project plan, as well as to execute (or manage) the project. And since a modernization project of any significant scope will need a team in order to properly implement it, gathering the right team is critical and involves committing internal resources and identifying external resources if needed.


In Part 2 of this post, we will examine in more detail the implementation of a modernization program, with particular focus on assessment and development of a scope of work. Stay tuned.

PLC Modernization Program Introduced

To help owners achieve an assessment of their current situation, we are offering a special program, which you can read about by downloading our PLC Modernization flyer.

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