Five Hidden Issues Impacting Control System Modernization Success

Modernization risks

By guest blogger Steven Hawkins

Implementing and managing system upgrades have been identified as an area of major concern by control system users surveyed. These concerns should be addressed as identifying risk, whether you upgrade a legacy system migration or expand focus based on current and future business needs. In your modernization approach, you need these projects to deliver value to your organization. Below are several factors that can impact your success if the issues are not addressed.

  1. Modernization transformations can fall short of expectations. Leading causes include:
    • The current company culture is resistant to change. Modernization is going to require change, and if a culture accepting of change has not been encouraged and nourished, resistance will make successful changes difficult to fully achieve. Culture and its impact are often underestimated.
    • In some cases, the focus is on the short-term results, the low-hanging fruit, instead of including a longer term approach with sustainable long-term benefits. Control system modernization is more than just replacing some PLCs. It should address current and future areas of process modernization, including system visibility, production reporting, and process / system intelligence.  These areas of focus would include industrial networks, cyber security hardening, mobile device usage, visual systems, and numerous other elements.
    • Implementation without detailed planning, employment of proper expertise, and good risk management practices can be disastrous.
  2. Many companies install tools without consideration of following a proven process to achieve desired results.  Without following a proven process, such as “Operation Excellence”, Lean / Six Sigma, etc., this could lead to only addressing non-confrontational items while not addressing all issues affecting the business.  Not addressing true business needs and proceeding without established processes can mean that implementation is looked at as a one-time event without pay back.   By using a continuous improvement process, a successful company understands there is a beginning and a middle, but never an end. Sustainability efforts change in accordance with business areas of focus needed to make the company successful. Sustainability results are typically impacted by:
    • Planning and resource allocation for total transformation
    • Establishing a governance process for sustainability
    • Establishing a structure to support transformation and ongoing operations
    • Encouraging and measuring knowledge transfer to the organization
  3. Most organizations need implementation at a speed that requires an expert.  These same organizations underwhelm the sustainability by using under-trained internal resources. Continuous improvement is actually most effectively achieved by living through an expert-led transformation.
  4. Companies serious about continuous improvement should choose a path, set clear achievable goals, select teams to address the problems that lead to achieving success, train the teams, measure the success, and continually address areas of focus. Without clear goals and team accountability, success will be difficult to achieve.
  5. Project definition is critical. Considerations in project selection include the following:
    • Who is the customer? It can be internal or external.
    • What is important to the customer? Define it and how to measure it.
    • What impact will the project have on the customer? Define the value.
    • What will be the value to the customer? Define the value.
    • Does this help my business? The answer must be “yes.”

Companies on the rise recognize they are not experts in modernization and look to partner with a company who can recognize these hidden risks and work toward achieving modernization goals.