As you are reading this blog post, thousands of industrial production sites around the world continue to use control systems that have been installed more than 20 years ago. These aging automation systems are facing increasing reliability risk. This risk stems from higher failure rates, declining replacement parts availability, and more expensive service and support costs. As a consequence, a solid business case for modernizing these automation systems is often developed.
These modernization projects, however; bring their own set of risk; which includes switch-over impact on production. This is especially in sites, such as refineries, where continuous operation and minimal downtime is a business imperative.
Modernization projects also include the unknown risk of converting legacy control algorithms in automation systems. While the software configuration found in these systems is often inefficient and likely contains some unused code, in most cases, it has run the process and supported production needs for many years.
So, end users see value in their legacy code and consider it intellectual property. They don’t want to throw away proven control strategies. They also don’t want to expose it to their competitors’ eyes. Furthermore, many process owners are apprehensive about touching the legacy code or changing it because, in many cases, detailed documentation of what’s exactly inside the control system may not be available.
This is where TAS (Tool Assisted Services) come into play as deployed by Emerson’s Modernization Services team. TAS can play a significant role in reducing risk associated with legacy database migration, minimizing human errors, and improving overall project metrics. These tools start by analyzing existing databases (both control modules and graphic files) to determine which part of the control strategies is good enough to be reused and which part should be reconfigured to increase code efficiency. Then, where feasible, automation tools are used in the conversion process to reduce the cost of engineering hours and, crucially, to minimize risk of human errors.
TAS can also be aligned with the various phases of the project (see figure below). In the Appraise phase, more accurate project hours’ estimates can be generated through the use of CBA (Content Based Analysis) tools. In the front end engineering design (FEED) and detailed engineering implementation phases, quality of work can be improved and cost can be reduced by employing tools within TAS.
Tools Assisted Services Align with the Project Process
The true value of working with experienced modernization consultants applying these Tool Assisted Services comes from the fact that it combines the best of both worlds. It preserves and protects the end user’s intellectual property embedded in their control system, while improving project execution quality and cost by allowing engineers to spend more time updating the design using modern process control technology.
From Jim: You can connect and interact with other modernization experts in the Improve & Modernize track of the Emerson Exchange 365 community.