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How to replace your aging DCS: lessons learned from the 800xA community

System 800xA user shares migration experience

This post reported by David Huffman, Business Development Manager for Chemicals at ABB.

Are you about to launch into replacing an older automation system with a state-of-the-art platform and wondering how you can be successful? Then you should have been in the DCS Migration Case Study presentation at ABB Automation and Power World on March 2nd.

Presented by Joop Peeters (Trinseo) and Joe Beatrice (ABB), this case study about a risky and often daunting task could apply to anyone in any industry that needs to modernize their control platform.

In case you are wondering how Trinseo identified the success for this first of many DCS replacements, here are the stated results for their Polystyrene site in Indonesia:

  • Schedule was met to allow the system replacement during a scheduled turnaround. Missing this window would have meant waiting 6 more years.
  • No incidents that resulted in environmental, health, or safety issues
  • First month of operation following the plant startup on the new platform was the second highest production month in the plant’s history
  • Lowest energy consumption per unit of product in plant’s history
  • Confidence the new platform will allow them to:
    • Improve operation and plant efficiency
    • Standardize automation practices across business units and product lines
    • Attract and retain younger people into the workforce for competitive advantage

Although the content of the session was specific to migrating from MOD5, a proprietary Dow Chemical Company DCS, most of the challenges, work processes and lessons learned would apply to almost any DCS replacement.

The challenge for Trinseo is large and far reaching. As the leading global supplier for Styron Butadiene Latex, Polystyrene, and Synthetic Rubber, the company has an aging automation infrastructure in 67 individual process units spread across 27 countries. Known issues include licensing concerns, obsolete hardware, operating knowledge capture, real-time information dissemination, quality and cost improvement, and maintaining high safety standards.

Adding to the driving forces behind this effort is a business-imposed timeline to compete the modernization of all current platforms by 2020. That is to be achieved while maintaining zero impact on safety and environment, having no detrimental business performance impact, and positioning Trinseo to maintain its leading market status into the future.

Critical to the success of this endeavor has been a truly collaborative partnership working environment between the Trinseo and ABB teams. Peeters emphasized that the partnership had to exist from the very beginning. The work process included executing a one year pilot, allowing for the two teams to build a solid working relationship in an environment that would not lead to HS&E or business impacts. Now, with one successful project completed and several others already started, the planning and learning that has taken place is paying off.

The need to avoid a strict owner/supplier relationship was recognized early on, starting with a joint oversight program management team that provides direction to a Core Team. In addition, each of the individual project teams, the uplift activities team and the services team were all similarly comprised of members from both organizations. A joint steering committee was added in the late stages of the first project.

Core project steps were identified and each step was assigned a responsibility owner by either Trinseo, ABB, and in many cases, a shared responsibility. Those project steps included:

  • Project preparation with steps owned by ABB, Trinseo, and shared
  • Hardware with steps owed by ABB or shared
  • Software with steps owned by ABB, Trinseo, and shared
  • Site servers where all steps are shared

Peeters also revealed that Trinseo realized a successful implementation would not be a “like-for-like” solution. The operation of each plant is expected to be the same as before, but the coded solution was going to be different. To achieve the transformation, the teams worked through a series of steps:

  1. Reverse engineer the Dowtran into a “Legacy Functional Specification” (LFS)
  2. Re-engineer that LFS into a “Transformed Functional Specification” (TFS) that puts requirements in terms of the new control platform
  3. Perform Forward Engineering based on the TFS that results in new application code specific to the System 800xA AC 800M controller hardware.
  4. Create/maintain/use library objects that create a basis of reusable code blocks and applications. Some of these were developed at the pilot stage and others are built and added to the library throughout the engineering process.

In addition to the collaboration, other success factors included management support from both companies, clear guidance from the core team, the use of a Cloud Development System that has proven invaluable to the global engineering teams, a detailed FEED Study to fully define the existing state of the automation system without relying on available documentation, and identifying both subject matter experts (SMEs) and technology coaches.

Among the key lessons learned were:

  • Testing takes a long time. Recognizing this in future projects will be key to defining project timelines. Using the Cloud Development System is a key enabler to minimizing testing time.
  • A short downtime to switch systems is possible. All of the upfront planning and extensive testing allow for this.
  • Cyber security cannot be overlooked and must be included in the overall planning and implementation.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Hurdles will appear and collaboration to create a solution is vital.
  • Everyone needs to keep an open mind on how to solve problems.
  • Using multiple engineering locations around the globe can be done successfully.
  • At the beginning, Trinseo and ABB spoke two different “languages” but team building and focus on joint success can overcome these differences.
  • Preparation, planning and management buy-in are all essential.

Replacing an aging DCS is a major challenge, but as the Trinseo example shows, it’s one that can be met successfully if customer and supplier are committed to working in a collaborative, open way.

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