Control system failures are a possibility for which we need to be aware and prepared. One way to prepare for a failure in the system is to perform an automation system installed base evaluation. A good evaluation is more than just creating an inventory of your parts; it is a detailed analysis of your critical plant assets and the conditions of these components. It also allows you to develop a proactive strategy to obtain lifecycle data on your aging equipment, thus allowing you to understand what is current, outdated or even obsolete.
As your control system ages, you need to identify, mitigate and eliminate the obsolescence risks associated with a dated system. As automation products approach their expected end of life, the availability of the parts and resources to support these products becomes a challenge. It’s also important to consider the financial consequences of extended downtime caused by failed components that have become obsolete. A proactive strategy will allow you to consider options to migrate products to newer technologies that are more easily obtained and supported and will increase your uptime and financial returns by ensuring that critical spares are readily available.
A good installed base evaluation will include these essential steps:
• Field collection: Develop a systematic model for data collection, including an on-site review of the electrical installed base with a focus on critical processes and machines.
• Analysis: Off-site processing to determine plant lifecycle risks, maintenance, repair and operations inventory status. Determination of recommended inventory levels.
• Delivery of reports/recommendations: Delivery of the analysis to provide the recommendations and start the action plans. Reporting to detail what is installed or missing, and equipment that is nearing the end of its life or is already in legacy status.
• Implementation: Implement processes to improve productivity and lower costs by maintaining proper inventory levels, documenting lifecycle status and replacing legacy components.
Along with these essential steps, some additional actions to consider during a system evaluation include identification of environmental conditions in which the equipment is installed, identification of installation issues, and evaluation of the current state of the control system documentation. If your control system is aging and you do not have a plan in place to deal with unexpected—but inevitable—failures in the system, this proactive, strategic approach could help you limit the downtime of your facility.
Jeff White is director of technical services at Interstates Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Interstates Control Systems, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.