Fieldbus / Wireless / OpsManage

Migrating to I/A Series Connects Users to the Enterprise

Careful Planning Needed to Bring Aging Control System Infrastructure into the Future


By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

Thankfully, some leaps don't need as much faith as they used to.

For example, moving process control applications closer to the business level is becoming increasingly essential for many users and their companies. The good news is that it's getting much easier to accomplish these migrations, according to Graham Bennett, senior principal technical migration consultant, and Mandy Smith, product marketing manager for DCS, both of Invensys Operations Management.

Bennett and Smith presented "Migrate Your Legacy Control Systems to Foxboro I/A Series" this week at Invensys OpsManage in Nashville.

"Today, the need to move to enterprise control is critical for all organizations today as they look to optimize their business performance," said Bennett. "At the simplest level, enterprise control is achieved by integrating the two major manufacturing and production operations capabilities with your corporate systems and then embracing the IT platform that is already in place."

In general, Invensys enables the creation of users' enterprise control system by providing:

  • One integration platform that unites the two operations components and integrates them tightly with the user's existing IT infrastructure. This platform allows users to align Invensys' and non-Invensys offerings;
  • A wide range of hardware and software and solutions at the automation and production software levels, which are extended by offerings from Invensys' partner ecosystem;
  • Proven expertise in designing, implementing and supporting complete enterprise control solutions, beginning with consulting services to help users identify the opportunities within their organizations and deliver an execution plan.

Smith added that users typically seek to migrate to prevent unscheduled downtime that's leading to production losses, and because older technology is offering no competitive edge; suppliers aren't offering enough support, which makes spares and repairs more difficult; maintenance costs are exceeding the value of existing systems; and the workforce is aging and its expertise is dwindling. "In fact, ARC Advisory Group estimates that $65 billion worth of automation systems are facing end of life," said Smith. "Fortunately, there are more migration options now than ever before."

To begin the migration process, Smith added that selection criteria must be applied and some crucial questions must be asked, including:

  • Are you taking advantage of new technology, such as an open platform, superior integration, ease of use, flexibility, reliability and cybersecurity compliance?
  • Does the supplier offer a solid path to the future and long-term support? For example, I/A Series is 25 years old and has made continuous investments and innovations during its entire lifetime. 
  • Does the new platform accommodate advanced applications?
  • Have you done a site migration audit?
  • Are you able to preserve existing investments?
  • Are you replacing hardware assets that offer no value?
  • Is this solution a standard or is it a customer interface?
  • Does this solution minimize costs, risk and process impact?

"The migration path has a few fundamentally different approaches from which to choose," explained Bennett. "Performing a migration site audit is necessary to help determine the best migration path for your system from a functional, technical and financial perspective. Your legacy systems have been operating in your plant for years. A wealth of intellectual property and expertise has gone into your operation's existence and development. This is why it's important to ask if the proposed solution allows you to preserve your existing investments. Likewise, striving to minimize the cost, risk and process impact to your operations is critical."

Bennett added the four typical approaches to DCS migration are:

  • Bulldozing the whole application and ripping and replacing all of its equipment. This is the most comprehensive solutions, but it's also the most costly and causes the most downtime.
  • Cabling solutions consist of gutting all I/O cabinets, installing a new one with the new systems I/O, and re-mapping I/O over to the new system. This tends to be a quick solution with lower risks than bulldozing, but it requires a larger footprint and can lead to lengthy time to install, re-map I/O points and cost to construct the new infrastructures.
  • Transition solutions involve replacing the HMI, controllers and I/O modules, which are smaller investments and require only incremental changes, but can be more costly over time and also require a larger footprint.
  • I/O replacement that involves plugging into existing legacy system racks and replacing individual I/O points. 

"I/O replacement is really unique to Invensys because we physically replace all the I/O devices in a system," said Smith. "This is a very cost-effective solution that reduces downtime and is easily reversed if needed. The problem is that it's not available from most suppliers.

"We manufacture our I/O modules as form-fit replacements for your existing I/O equipment. These standardized I/A Series migration modules plug directly into your existing racks. We reuse your existing termination assemblies, cabinets, power supplies and field wiring. Then we add new I/A Series controllers and workstations, and you have a 100% new, fully warranted I/A Series system. All end-of-life issues are addressed—down to the I/O—so users don't have to worry about costly and disruptive additional phases looming in the future. Our solution can minimize downtime to a matter of hours, thanks to our plug-in cards. In an industry where the average impact of unscheduled downtime is about $20 billion, this is a huge benefit to our clients."

Bennett concluded that, "Migration requires users to plan, plan and plan some more. Engage all relevant stakeholders early. Plan schedules carefully to address the outage period. Do as much infrastructure preparation as possible. Document status of online and offline equipment, alarms and loops. And, finally, use simulation for checkout and training."