One of the most difficult challenges many of today’s process manufacturing plants face is modernization. Operations and maintenance teams know that they cannot drive the best possible performance and sustainability using technologies that are 20 or 30 years old; however, many feel locked into their legacy control technologies because transitioning is complex, time consuming, and expensive.
Emerson’s Monil Malhotra recently shared how a new technology—the I/O-agnostic interface—is changing that paradigm. In an article in Processing magazine, Monil shared how many of these teams feel when assessing their options for a new control system,
“It can appear their only options are to continue running their legacy control system and I/O backbone — often paying high fees and experiencing long waits for frequent service from the manufacturer — or make a small step forward with a newer version of the same control system. Either way, they likely lose out on many of the advanced automation benefits they need.”
So much I/O, so little time
The core problem causing this difficulty is the need to transition all the plant’s I/O when moving to a new control system. The rip and replace projects necessary to replace all of a plant’s I/O wiring, terminations, and infrastructure add costs and increase strain on small teams that are already stretched thin. In today’s market, such projects can be a tough sell. As Monil explains,
“One of the key hurdles to modernization projects is capital constraint. In many cases, plants simply have a budget too limited for a full rip and replace of all control equipment. In other situations, teams may have digital transformation goals that limit available project capital. In both instances, teams need ways to better focus their modernization investments.”
Transition on a custom schedule
I/O-agnostic interfaces are the perfect solution to this problem. By using an I/O-agnostic interface, project teams can leave existing I/O in place and only change out the controller, removing the cost of I/O changeover from capital budgets. Teams gain immediate access to best-practice modern control technologies like alarm and alert management, intuitive human machine interfaces, wireless reliability equipment and control performance monitoring to drive fast return on the project investment.
This doesn’t mean that the I/O is never changed. Rather, teams can shift the work of transitioning I/O to the operations schedule and budget, performing those tasks at their own pace and spreading the cost over many months or years.
Monil explains that Emerson’s I/O-agnostic interface—DeltaV™ IO.CONNECT—is often more cost effective than the standard quo. Typically, support and maintenance for legacy systems are expensive, especially in an age of supply chain difficulties and personnel shortages. Monil elaborates,
“I/O-agnostic solutions like Emerson’s IO.CONNECT for the DeltaV distributed control system are typically more cost effective than the cost of maintenance and upkeep for existing legacy systems. By changing over to a modern DeltaV distributed control system with all the advanced automation and reliability features plant personnel need, they eliminate the high-cost, high-delay and low-value support they rely upon to keep legacy equipment running.”
In fact, Emerson’s DeltaV IO.Connect can save hundreds or thousands of hours and more than 40% of costs on a modernization project, and the savings continue even after the system is in place as efficiency gains and service reductions improve operations in the plant.
If you want to learn more about how DeltaV IO.CONNECT is unshackling modernization, you can read the article in its entirety at Processing magazine. And I’d love to hear more about the modernization initiatives in your plant. Feel free to comment below to share the strategies, successes, or even the pitfalls you have experienced in your modernization projects.