At first glance, replacing old equipment with new would appears to be a relatively easy process. This may well still be the case in the office environment, although even here upgrading an existing PC with new software can cause problems. The situation faced in the factory is far more complex, where the installed platform generally comprises a conglomeration of gradually developed and extended systems, components and applications.
To a greater or lesser extent, the overall system will have evolved logically and will have been updated and maintained with limited interruption to production processes. Some elements are certain to be technologically out-dated, but the functionality as a whole is too valuable to allow the configuration to be altered. This naturally evolving hardware and software conglomeration will generally consist of a number of internally developed software components, hardware and software elements from different suppliers, using different generations of programming languages and programming environments, and be based on different software architectures. Each different area of expertise has installed the most favorable solution for its specific process. Networking based on individual standards and stand-alone solutions. Whatever had originally been incompatible was laboriously cobbled together. The inevitable outcome: incompatible data and uncoordinated processes, incapable of exchanging data. Yawning information gaps were left at the interfaces - between management and purchasing, sales and engineering. Not everyone concerned had access to vital information.
Changing over to different systems is far from simple in the field of production. Here, an enormous store of knowledge relating to the process routines of automation devices and control systems has been gathered over years. This is where a company’s expertise actually resides. It is a resource which must be maintained and protected at all costs when the time comes to make the change to a new system. For the technician, it is difficult to grasp the point of interfering with a process that is running well - particularly when it appears that a heavy investment in modernization serves only to exchange one successfully operating system for another. However, the point does eventually come when costs for repairs and maintenance increase to a disproportionately high level. Sometimes there is simply not an effective way to scale up and data exchange is no longer possible. This is the moment when it becomes necessary to invest in new hardware and software components, offering benefits such as extended functionality, improved operating behavior, advanced programming, better interfaces, enhanced graphics, etc.
But the decision to opt for a particular IT landscape is far from the end of the story. Additional investment can vastly exceed the original equipment outlay if the software must be integrated and maintained in the existing corporate landscape. We are all familiar with the factors to be weighed when considering the purchase of a previously owned car. Simply knowing the price is not enough: the added costs such as future repairs and diminished fuel efficiency all have to be factored into the equation. Seen from this perspective, IT is like a never-ending construction site. There is a good reason why plant owners tend to opt for standard components. This allows them to protect their investment, remain abreast of the latest technological developments and choose from a wide spectrum of different manufacturers.