A checklist for upgrading to the latest version PCS 7

Making the decision to upgrade can be difficult, so check out these tips and common pitfalls to help improve project execution

By Dave Perkon

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Many have upgraded their PCS 7 system in the past, and others are now considering it. Will the new features and functions be worth it, or should you just stay with the current version? If you plan to upgrade, what can you do to help ensure a successful transition?

"The PCS 7 system is relatively complex, as are the processes and machines it controls," commented Ken Jackson, automation and process control principal consultant for DuPont Performance Materials. "It allows designers and users to perform an amazing range of control. But with this complexity comes challenges. It's not just an upgrade to your computer or smartphone; it's more than just a button press."

Upgrading requires forethought, planning and decisions, which Jackson discussed along with a checklist of tips to avoid common pitfalls. "Project teams that have already gone through this upgrade process helped create this list," said Jackson. "Both good and bad projects were reviewed so these ideas, tips and experiences can be used to help plan and execute upgrade projects more efficiently while avoiding the bad things."

Jackson presented at Siemens 2017 Automation Summit in Boca Raton, Florida.

DuPont sets high core values, more than just goals. This includes safety and health, environmental stewardship, respect for people, and highest ethical behavior. They meet these values while providing products and solutions to a wide variety of markets including agriculture, electronics and communications, industrial biosciences, performance materials, nutrition and health, and protection solutions.

When considering a controller upgrade, Jackson suggests a good starting point is to perform a cost-benefit analysis to help decide if you are ready to upgrade. And he asks some questions about your motivations to upgrade: What are the benefits to doing the upgrade, and what are the risks of changing what you have that already works?

Get motivated to upgrade

"New features are a common reason to upgrade. Safety Matrix or Logic Matrix may have enhancements you are interested in, or perhaps you want to move to a new Advanced Process Library (APL),” suggested Jackson. "There also are new hardware innovations coming out, such as Compact Field Unit (CFU), AS 410 and ET200 SP HA that may drive your decision. Network innovations such as Profinet with redundancy, and virtualization and simulation enhancements may be what motivate you."

Operating system obsolescence is a big one, continued Jackson. "It's what drove the last upgrade for many of us—moving from Windows XP/Server 2003, due to security/patching, to Windows 7," he said. "Plant expansion is another motivation. Adding a new line with an upgraded system helps drive upgrading an existing line for compatibility reasons."

Siemens PCS 7 Upgrade Project Checklist

This checklist is intended to be used by project teams when upgrading to a new version of PCS 7. It incorporates learnings from several recent Siemens PCS 7 version upgrade projects and should be reviewed by project teams prior to generating a proposal request. And for it to work best, both Siemens and end user team members must be involved.

"The checklist and related actions involve several phases of the project including pre-proposal, project engineering, factory acceptance test (FAT) and commissioning," said Jackson. "Most suggestions came out front-end-loaded—to help the pre-proposal phase. This checklist was published internally and communicated throughout DuPont’s Automation and Process Control Network, and transmitted it to Siemens as well."

Here's Jackson's checklist.

The checklist starts with a pre-proposal audit considering the steps in this checklist; it is highly recommended to include Siemens resources. You really need to have Siemens folks involved.

Did you decide that you wanted some of the new features in PCS 7? Consider whether any new system features are desired for the upgraded system. If new features are desired, be sure to include the integration of these features in the upgrade project scope.

The same is true for hardware features. Consider whether any hardware upgrades are needed. This includes PCs, CPUs, network devices, etc. If you are adding new hardware, consider how it affects your project. Often this is necessitated by technology and/or operating system upgrades, and may concern third-party hardware or software connectivity.

During the pre-proposal audit, develop the scope of upgrade for the project for use by Siemens to create an accurate proposal. This should include:

  • Current PCS 7 version
  • Details about any Custom Library usage
  • Details about previous upgrades performed, including customization
  • Existing performance baseline and issues in current system
  • Current known errors (check logs on ES and OS)
  • Complete list of smart field devices (this is particularly crucial for PROFIBUS PA and should include GSD files)
  • Details about any included third-party communications (include in testing during project implementation)
  • Any deviations from your Best Practices for Factory Acceptance Test and Software Acceptance Test.

Jackson notes that the previous upgrade may have been years ago, and some upgrades may have been skipped, so a complete set of software licenses required for the upgrade should be identified and located/purchased. Include any missing licenses in a proposal request and include any intermediate version licenses if required.

This may be difficult to do, but request that the project execution team include Siemens personnel who will be involved in the proposal process. It helps to understand the history and scope of the project.

From a project engineering standpoint, create backups of all PCS 7 projects at the time of the code freeze. "But that's not enough," explained Jackson. "The backups need to be tested to ensure they reload properly. You need to know you have good copies."

During the factory acceptance test, “One problem that got us revolved around smart field devices, and we couldn't talk to them,” said Jackson. "Thoroughly test communications with each smart field device type, and thoroughly test communications with any additional third-party software," he suggested.

At time of commissioning, if any changes were made after the code freeze, redo those changes now per your detailed notes made at the time.

Test system performance. If any performance issues are encountered, consider using Siemens diagnostic tools.

Test all types of faceplates for functionality to ensure all necessary scripts and faceplate pdl’s are included in the new version of PCS 7.

Ensure any custom scripts from Siemens have not been overwritten by a newer version that does not include the custom edits. Taking careful notes beforehand and engaging people with a history of the system can be very useful to the project.

After upgrade is complete, projects should be cleaned up to eliminate unnecessary warnings. Make the system as clean as possible going forward.

After upgrade completion, make backups of all projects and images of all PCs.

Report additional suggestions for new/modified checklist items based on project experience.

"Following this Siemens PCS 7 upgrade project checklist is expected to improve execution of PCS 7 version upgrade projects," said Jackson. "It also will provide quicker adoption of product enhancements in newer PCS 7 versions. While initiating dialog with Siemens on strategic planning for these projects, it will lead to pre-project audits, and identifying testing and training requirements. This standardized approach to upgrade projects will also highlight potential product enhancements for ease of use.”

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