As the existing installed base of industrial automation assets grows older, and as marketplace conditions increase in complexity, more manufacturing organizations are finding it difficult to remain competitive. As a result, many of these businesses need to modernize their automation infrastructures. When modernizing a plant, the degree of change required will depend on customer demands, the strategic vision of the corporate leadership, and both physical and financial constraints.
Three Reasons for Industrial Automation Modernization
We at PCI Industrial Automation, an experienced industrial automation systems integrator and recent winner of the Schneider Electric 2020 Alliance Partner Award, have participated in hundreds of modernization projects across large and small manufacturing sites. Customers who ask us to help modernize their industrial automation operations do so for multiple important reasons:
Updating obsolete hardware to maintain operations
Some modernization projects are initiated just to keep the plant running. As industrial systems age, spare parts become increasingly spare. If a plant experiences a major breakdown with no spare parts available, the parts will then need to be custom built at an extremely high price. Production delays could last weeks and even months, effectively putting an end to operations. The best approach for remaining in business is to re-engineer core operations from the ground up. In these cases, we conduct a thorough analysis of the entire operation and review operational sequencing, recipe management, control systems and networks. With this information, we help the manufacturing team to structure a plan for progressing towards Industry 4.0. In this way, we minimize risks, help safeguard the client’s long-term profitability, and introduce value-add elements such as automated reporting and operational monitoring. We also introduce methodologies that help end users minimize the duration of planned shutdown when the reengineering takes place. These include using conversion software and performing simulation and testing in parallel.
Reducing cyber security risks
Many manufacturing sites are equipped with older systems that can easily expose a business to hackers, who can then interrupt production and cause unanticipated plant downtime. On the software side, some SCADA systems use IT servers that run antiquated operating systems like Windows™. These systems offer little cyberattack protection. It is simply too risky to maintain such old computers on an OT network. The IT/OT convergence and Internet of Things (IoT) trends add to this threat as more devices are connected to industrial automation networks, thereby widening potential entry points for hackers. Upgrades that consist of cybersecure solutions minimize the threat of security breaches and the spread of viruses.
Deploying new technology to gain competitive advantage
A third modernization goal is fueled by a corporate desire for continuous improvement to either establish or maintain competitive advantage. A consistent and steady approach to modernization safeguards previous investments, keeps the operation running, and positions the company for long-term profitability. We support our customers by recommending scalable, open systems architectures as opposed to closed proprietary systems. In cases where the architecture is open, like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ architecture, hardware and software can be dynamically updated using EcoStruxure software tools, thus eliminating the need to remove or replace hardware components. When technology architectures are brand-agnostic, it is easier for systems to communicate and the execution of systems integration projects is faster and less expensive.
Strong Industrial Automation Partnerships Ensure Modernization Benefits
Our collaboration and partnership with Schneider Electric places our firm in a strong position to support customers across short- and long-term modernization scenarios. By supporting the deployment of open industrial automation systems, clients who invest in our services and technologies avoid the inability to connect to future differentiating marketplace innovations because their systems are no longer based on proprietary protocols.
Schneider Electric web sites help us determine important modernization decision points such as the availability of spare parts and show us when new software updates are available. By advising our customers on which direction to take, we help them to avoid situations that place their business growth and profitability at risk. Schneider Electric also supports our end users with products that are both portable and secure, and architectures and services that allow for full cyber security assessments of industrial automation operations.
For More Information about Industrial Automation Solutions
To learn more about how industrial automation digital solutions can enable modernization and enhance manufacturing efficiency, security, and output, visit the PCI Industrial Automation web site and the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ web site.
Congratulations to PCI Industrial Automation for their outstanding performance as a member of the Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program.