How well do you know your plant floor? Is there a mix of brands for drives, controllers and HMI’s? Where do these products fall within the manufacturer’s lifecycle? Are replacements parts readily available or are they obsolete?
The average lifespan of an automation control system can be anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Similarly, an HMI computer lasts about the same time frame as your trusty desktop computer. These aren’t fancy personal gadgets that need to be replaced every two years when the latest model comes out.
Many controllers believe in running their system until it won’t run anymore. That mentality could turn into costly downtime quickly if you wait until it fails. One of the major risk factors when it comes to older production infrastructure is obsolescence. When a system or product reaches obsolescence, the supplier has discontinued production and no longer supports the equipment. At this stage, a minor fault can create a larger problem.
It’s not as easy as ordering a replacement part because spares and replacements for obsolete equipment is typically difficult to find. While you hunt around for the parts you need, your line remains down. How much profit is at risk if you lost production for several days while you hunted for spares? When you do find the parts you need, they’re from a non-certified, third-party supplier that is less reliable and potentially more expensive. On top of the equipment, expertise to service and repair legacy equipment continues to diminish as the workforce who knows the system retires. It quickly becomes expensive to maintain your current system.
The cost of doing nothing can exceed the cost of migrating to a newer system.
From our perspective, the best advice we could give is to start thinking about migration before a crisis occurs. Knowing exactly what’s on your plant floor and what lifecycle it’s in can help you plan ahead and avoid lengthy downtime.
The time to start making plans and thinking about migration is ideally when a product is moved from Active > Active Mature. However, when it is announced End-of-Life with last time buys, then the timing becomes critical. Once it becomes labeled as Discontinued 1-2 years after that, you are in the crisis zone.
Rumsey offers services to help you make informed decisions about your infrastructure. An automation assessment includes an evaluation of your installed base to paint a clear picture of all your assets and where your production is most at risk. From there, we help you decide the best route for your company– a unique road map to make educated decisions on what comes next. This could include spare parts you should have on hand as well as how to prioritize upgrades or migrations.
Take the time to make a plan with the full picture in mind before production comes to a halt. Rumsey’s here to help. Contact us about an automation assessment today.