control systems

Upgrading Your Control Systems Without a Lot of Downtime

Just like any piece of equipment in your facility, control systems age. Over time they grow outdated, in turn growing more and more expensive to maintain—and causing more disruptions to your operations. If this is true for your system, you’re probably nodding your head right now. If you know that you need an upgrade but are afraid of the impacts to your current production, you’re not alone! 

You can’t always eliminate all impact, but you can take a few steps now to mitigate upgrade heartburn—and even with the potential temporary speed bumps, the payoff of a well-executed upgrade is always worth it in the end. 

Understand Your Entire System

Before you try to migrate to a new control system, gaining a complete understanding of your system requirements and functions will go a long way in helping to minimize disruptions when you actually make the switch. Executing a front-end engineering and design study, like Revere’s FEED+, is key to understanding your current setup and eliminating costly surprises. 

Make sure you know every aspect of your system and how it works, including:

  • What devices each PLC is controlling
  • How your SCADA software ties into your existing PLCs and HMIs
  • Power requirements

This can prevent you from making any costly mistakes when it comes to keeping everything compatible with your entire system. An experienced systems integrator can be a great asset during this phase of your upgrade—he or she will be able to identify areas that could potentially cause issues, and they can plan ahead to address those issues ahead of time. They’ll also be able to tell you if any parts of your old system are sufficient for reuse. 

Plan Your Approach

Every controls upgrade is unique, and will require a different approach based on various factors—like time availability, system complexity, or the specific manufacturing process that’s involved. You should take some time to consider whether you want to use a phased approach for migrating to a new control system, or if you want to replace everything all at one time. 

A phased migration approach could potentially be less disruptive, and more cost-effective when it comes to large-scale system upgrades. The idea behind a phased migration approach is that you break the overall project down into smaller tasks, therefore minimizing risk and reducing upfront capital expenditure by narrowing the focus to one aspect of the system at a time. This approach has the potential to shorten downtime, but it also allows other portions of your existing system to remain online as a backup. 

The downside to phased migrations is that it could take more time overall to perform the upgrades—it’s easy for a project to get unintentionally extended over a longer period of time thanks to availability issues or increases to the scope of work. This can also lead to incurring additional startup or administrative costs, which can, in the end, increase the cost of the overall project. 

A full system replacement could be best for a situation where you have a set window of time during scheduled maintenance to get the project done, or if your specific manufacturing process requires that the project be completed all at once. Sometimes, the overall downtime associated with a full system replacement can be less than a phased migration approach. It really just depends on your specific operations, but it’s important to analyze which will be best before you begin the process. 

Update Software, Too

Once you’ve upgraded your controls hardware, it could be the perfect time to upgrade your associated controls software, too. Code should be checked or rewritten to make sure it’s compatible with your new hardware and to ensure all communication and security standards are met. 

Take time to include important modern features and capabilities that can effectively maximize your new system’s performance and productivity.

Upgrading your controls is never without any risk, but with good planning and the right team around you, the benefits far outweigh sticking with an old system.

Interested in updating your outdated control system? Contact the experts at Revere Control Systems.