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AND THE number one reason to migrate your control system: “(1) You need to update your collection of hats and jackets.” Well, so say the ControlTalk Boys, Greg McMillan and Stan Wiener. Ah, but is that new collection of hats and jackets worth the hard work of determining when and how to upgrade your control system, and whether to go with your current vendor or seek a new one?
Once upon a time, you installed a shiny new control system for your plant. You loved it, and it worked pretty much as you expected. Over time, though, just like your car, you’ve seen new models, and those new models had features and functions that you’d really like to have, and that can’t be found in your current system. Just as with any product, the further you get away from the warranty period the higher the failure rate, and the faster the failure rate grows.
Eventually, parts become difficult to obtain, and very pricey, if you can get them at all. The vendor tells you the product is so old that it isn’t officially supported anymore. Now management tells you that they want you to connect your control system to the business enterprise. You call your vendor, and they laugh at you.
If this sounds like your predicament, you aren’t alone. You have a new end-users’ ailment called “migrationitis.” You now have to figure out how to migrate from your existing system to a new one, select a new vendor, possibly select a systems integrator to do the work, and make sure that you neither lose data and functionality you have now, nor cause the plant to shut down while you make the changes necessary to migrate your system.
“We found that our analog turbine control system was one of the top three causes of trips and transients,” says Marlon Dempsey, instruments and controls engineer for Duke Power’s Oconee Nuclear Station (Seneca, S.C.). “This was primarily because its components presented a single point of failure.”
During the 1990s, consolidation of the automation industry’s vendors made the situation even more difficult for end-users, especially when it came time to upgrade their control systems. Some systems were basically red-headed stepchildren to their new vendor-owners.
Roger Bailey, head of ABB’s systems business, is blunt about the issue. "To be honest," he says, "until System800xA was introduced last year, I think many of our employees were reluctant to admit that the Mod, Harmony and other products were really ours because they didn't know how we were going to handle legacy systems.”
It took a significant management shakeup at ABB to solve this problem. Bailey says of ABB’s staff, “Now they know, and I think you’ll see a change." And not a moment too soon. End-users like Wintershall, Germany’s largest crude-oil producer, were being courted and wooed away, because of the ease with which ABB’s competitors could apply FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
Other vendors haven’t been as publicly forthcoming as Bailey, but most large system vendors and even a few second tier suppliers have had similar issues. One major software control system has changed ownership three times since 1990, and changed its name twice.
Migration Road Paved with Good Intentions
Dinesh Paliwal, president of ABB Inc. and global head of ABB’s automation business, said in early 2005, “60% of all potential systems business is upgrading and migration in ‘brownfield plants.’ ” If ABB understands this, you can bet the other vendors do too. At the Honeywell Users Group (HUG) meeting in June 2005, Kerry Sartain, of Georgia-Pacific, co-chair of the User Input Subcommittee (UIS) told CONTROL that one of the most valuable things the HUG has done has been to keep Honeywell focused on producing deep and detailed migration plans from older TDC systems to the latest Experion products, (See Figure 1). “It isn’t enough to say we can migrate from a TDC2000 to an Experion PKS,” he said. “The details have to be clearly worked out as well.”
|FIGURE 1: EXPERION PKS OPERATORS' CONSOLE|
The operators' console may be the pretty part, but it is what is between the console and the field instruments that makes or breaks an upgrade.
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