Heterogeneous automation landscapes
Due to the long lifecycle of systems and the acquisition of production locations, many companies today operate control systems from different manufacturers and different generations. While modern systems mainly use open or standardized interfaces, such as Ethernet, OPC or fieldbuses, and rely on standard operating systems like Windows for engineering and operator controls, this is not the case for older systems:
Engineering and operator systems use proprietary hardware and software that is partially not supported any longer.
Proprietary communication interfaces, for example, between HMI, controllers and I/O modules, make data exchange and communication harder.
Standardized interfaces (for example, OPC) are only available as additional functions added at a later time, which makes it more difficult to connect to higher-level archiving and production control systems.
Engineering can only be standardized to some degree due to the different systems.
Different display, operating and alarm philosophies make the daily work of the operator harder, especially in critical situations.
This gives rise to even more problems:
The many different systems require an expensive spare parts inventory
Spare part supply and support by manufacturers of the old systems slackens or gets more and more expensive
The know-how of the old systems is slowly disappearing – for users of the systems as well as manufacturers
All this builds up the pressure to modernize the control systems. Another goal during modernization is to drastically reduce the number of systems that have to be maintained to one or only a few new system platforms in the migration.
Given the central role of the control system for production and the high costs of a control system update, a long-term, planned and gradual approach to the topic, which means the development of a migration strategy for one location or even the entire company, becomes indispensable. The central questions for this process are:
Which production lines with older control systems will most likely stay in operation and for how long?
Does the respective control system meet the current and foreseeable requirements regarding functionality, flexibility, expendability, interfaces to higher-level MES/MIS systems?
Are spare parts and support still available ?
What about the in-house know-how regarding handling and maintenance of the old system?
By answering these questions, you can determine which systems have the greatest need for modernization.
For some systems, you may be able to extend the life through corresponding service contracts with the manufacturer. For example, Siemens has started the "APACS 2020" program, so customers with APACS+ or Quadlog automation systems are relatively safe for the next few years even though APACS+ and Quadlog systems have been totally discontinued.