Some of the issues with outdated DCSs include:
- A shortage of spare parts that can jeopardize or even interrupt production for several days or even weeks
- A shortage of original display consoles for operator stations
- Subpar spare parts sold online through third party resellers
- Outdated operating systems that are exposed to cyber threats, including:
- Windows 8 and earlier versions
- Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 and earlier versions
- Difficulty finding labour to operate these systems
If you see yourself here, you may need a DCS migration, but where should you start?
Starting your migration project
Before even considering how to carry out a system migration project, you must first ask yourself what it will be used for. If your facility already has a DCS, why should you migrate to a newer system? To answer this question, you need to assess the cost of risks: production shutdowns, equipment breakdowns, production losses, overtime during breakdowns, poor information quality provided by operational teams, cyberattacks, etc.
Once your organization understands the merits of a DCS migration project, here are the possible avenues:
- Status quo
- Radical approach
- Phased approach
The status quo approach is hardly desirable in the long term. Despite the appearance of cost savings by postponing a DCS migration, the accumulation of breakdowns, production losses, the overtime required by maintenance teams and the increased costs of spare components adds up. The key benefit of a new system isn’t immediate productivity gains, it’s the reduction of operating losses. However, a modern DCS can result in medium- and long-term optimizations that were simply impossible beforehand.
The radical approach means replacing the old system with a new one. This approach is usually risky and difficult to implement if you don’t plan for any extended shutdowns. BBA fosters the phased approach to minimize risks and spread out costs over time. Sector by sector, your facility is refurbished; the old system can even be used for troubleshooting.
At the highest degree, phased migration includes two major components:
- Phase 1 – Operational infrastructure and human-machine interfaces (HMIs)
- Phase 2 – Migration of industrial controllers, I/O and control programs
Phase 1 is generally the most counterintuitive in its early stages. As surprising as it may seem, a modern DCS is inevitably dependent on information technology (IT). The following operations technologies (OT) are therefore involved:
- Ethernet connectivity
- Data servers
- Virtualization technologies
Before investing any amount of money in automation equipment, you need to ensure you have adequate network connectivity. If it was state-of-the-art in the 1980s and 90s, your OT network is now a thing of the past if it uses coaxial or twisted pair cabling. Until your network is up to speed, your plant doesn’t have the “nervous system” it needs.
Along with networking, you should consider installing new data servers and virtualization technologies at this stage. The combination of these two elements makes it easier to modernize facilities and upgrade the system in the long term. This digital shift also makes it possible to implement new features that weren’t originally planned.
All required operating system configurations are stored in the virtual machines so they can be easily migrated or recovered if the physical servers become obsolete or fail.