Evolution, not revolution

Sophisticated control systems are continually improving the performance and efficiency of customer processes. But as control systems evolve, the challenge for customers and control product vendors is to ensure improvements can be integrated into existing automation, which may be older but is still a vital and sustainable part of the business.

There are several ways to deal with an aging control system. One is to simply maintain what you have, which eliminates the need for capital expenditure, additional training and problems with operator familiarity. This approach usually means potentially higher maintenance costs, the inability to meet new strategic functionalities, and the certainty of ever scarcer and higher- priced spare parts.

Another way is to gut the existing system, to “rip and replace.” Installing a new system would certainly provide the functionality needed, ensure the longevity of systems and software, and also reduce maintenance costs. Of course, sometimes the situation demands this, but it inevitably means production downtime, capital costs and increased training requirements.

But there is a third approach: ‘System Evolution’, ie. upgrading existing control automation to provide new features and flexibility without compromising existing system investments.

For more than 25 years, ABB has been committed to the idea that future advances in system technology should enhance rather than compromise current system investments. An installed automation system is a vital and sustainable part of a business and manufacturing strategy, an asset which can be enhanced and extended for years to come in a way that presents the lowest lifecycle costs and lowest risk.

ABB’s evolution policies are designed to mitigate the risks of system change by minimizing process/system downtime and protecting long-term investments in control applications, process graphics, and historical data. As a result system owners get the maximum useful life out of their control systems and the intellectual assets built on them.

ABB system evolution consists of a four-point strategy.

  • Each new development step is like a natural progression of the current system offering. New features can be seamlessly adapted into existing applications, with minimal impact, and all versions and models of system components are compatible with each other.
  • Customer business goals drive the evolution plan, to help minimize negative production impacts of the upgrade process. Following a comprehensive audit of the existing system, areas of greatest risk and potential are identified and targeted. A long-term plan is periodically reviewed and updated, to incorporate changing needs and solutions.
  • With a proactive approach to hardware and software upgrades, the evolution process helps customers stay current and avoid obsolescence with stepwise, incremental upgrades, continuously improving productivity as new technologies and products become available.
  • Skilled and highly trained system engineers are equipped with the tools and resources to do the job. Because they know what is installed and what is needed to meet future goals, they can deliver maximum benefit with minimum impact.

Significant benefits of system evolution include:

  • Unparalleled life cycle support of control systems
  • Reduced system support costs for multiple, aging system technologies
  • Extended life of existing systems
  • Budgeting uncertainty removed
  • Unplanned production losses and system interruptions eliminated
  • System investments and assets maximized
  • Service relationship with ABB strengthened

Does it not make sense then to consider this third dimension?

Read more
ABB white paper: Lowering control system lifecycle cost and risk through system evolution. 

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About the author

Ronald Becker

I am the global business development manager for Power Systems aftermarket services. I focus on customers’ system life cycle business needs to ensure that our system users have a continuous viable control system to support their production requirements.
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