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Avoid These Issues With Proper Maintenance of PLC Panels

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September 9, 2019

Multiple manufacturing and industrial industries depend on their PLC system to streamline machinery, maintain safety on their assembly lines, and monitor/automate both their mechanical assets and their entire network of machinery.

So, as you can imagine, staying up to date with the updates and maintenance of PLC panels is a pivotal part of businesses that depend on them.

However, updating that PLC control system is a costly and comprehensive project. If anything is done incorrectly, or even if simply one important step is omitted throughout the project, it can cost you time and money in setbacks. Not to mention the potential safety risk a non-functioning system poses.

Before you update your PLC panels, you need to ensure that you have all your bases covered. In this post, we’re going over some of the most commonly overlooked issues concerning a PLC panel update.

Let’s get started.

 

What Is PLC? A Quick Overview of PLC Control Systems

PLC stands for Programmable Logic Controllers. In the plainest of terms, PLC control systems act basically as relays but with a lot more functionality in a smaller package that can be reprogrammed (aka rewired like in a relay system) on the fly and can implement a variety of functions, including:

  • – Relay Logic
  • – Control of both analog & digital input and output signals
  • – Timing control
  • – Counting
  • – Arithmetic
  • – Sequencing
  • – Ethernet communication

Essentially, PLCs combine the functions of traditional relays, counters, timers, etc into one more efficient and compact system. PLC control systems also tend to be:

  • -More flexible in their programming
  • – More customizable to fit each individual industry
  • – More compact
  • – More reliable than other types of systems
  • – Cost-effective
  • – More easily integrated into a larger computerized systems/other hardware being used in the same area/industry

While PLC panels are reliable and efficient for many manufacturing and industrial applications, there are some issues to take note of when you’re updating the system.

Let’s look at a few of the most common ones:

Issue 1: Your PLC Panel Doesn’t Have Enough Processing Power

A PLC system is generally made up of the following components:

  • – Input and output modules
  • – CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  • – Memory
  • – Power supply

Basically, the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of the entire system. It’s this component that controls everything within the PLC and implements instructions/logic that’s pre-programmed within the memory of the PLC system.

How many inputs and outputs (I/Os) your system has, how many things the PLC is communicating with, the type of data involved in your industry, and the type of efficiency/speed you require affects how much processing power you need to run your system smoothly and efficiently. Are you just reading a few inputs and turning on a few outputs or are you trying to configure a multi-axis servo system?

You need to make sure that there’s enough power in your CPU to run the entire system at a fast enough speed to work for you. Without enough power, you may not be able to run your system at all.

This is especially true when you’re updating your system. Updating your system often happens as you expand, as you add more I/Os, as technology improves, etc. When you add tasks, I/Os, machinery, etc, you need to make sure you’re also adding (and updating) your CPUs power if you want things to continue to work as good, and hopefully better, than they used to.

Issue 2: You Don’t Have Enough Memory

Along the same lines as ensuring you have enough processing power in your PLC panels, you also need to ensure that you have enough memory to handle any and all programs you implement into your system.

As you review maintenance of your PLC panels, you need to ask yourself (or, really, the company you trust to build and install your PLC panel): does this PLC control system have the memory to run the programs necessary for my system to function?

You should be asking this alongside the CPU power question from issue #1 since the memory of the system and the power of the CPU generally go hand-in-hand.

Issue 3: You Haven’t Mapped Out Your I/Os

Before your PLC panel software is designed and the overall system is implemented/updated, you should have a map of all the I/Os that will be connected to the system. Not only should you know all of the I/Os, you also need to know the exact type of each I/O as well as map out where the I/Os are located.

Do you only utilize local I/Os? What about remote I/Os? Where exactly are the local ones situated? How many I/Os are going into your PLC system? What types, digital, analog, high speed? How many communication nodes? How many of each type are going to be used? How are these I/Os going to affect how much memory and/or CPU power you need? Can your PLC panel and the planned updates for it handle all of these I/Os?

You need to be asking (and answering!) these questions as you update and continue maintenance on PLC panels and overall systems. If you aren’t sure of the answers, don’t hesitate to ask us.

Issue 4: You Haven’t Been Implementing a Customized System

Some industries and businesses can do well with a pre-planned PLC panel system, especially those that need very particular designs that won’t be altered much moving forward.

However, many industries and businesses do benefit from customized systems. Think about it: why would a company that processes and produces paper products utilize the same industrial controls and automation as a business in the automobile industry?

There is some overlap, but ideally they would each be customized per industry, which is why a customized system can often be a smarter option: it can be easily programmed and adjusted to fit the specific industry it’s being used in.

Customized PLC panels allow you to more easily:

  • – Reprogram your system
  • – Implement updates in the future easily
  • – Adjust to changing technology in PLCs and your specific industry
  • – Specialize and streamline your system

You can see how we implement customized PLC systems in a variety of industries and applications by looking at our wide variety of past projects.

Be Mindful of These Issues with Your Updates and Maintenance of PLC Panels

For something that is almost entirely behind the scenes in your business or industry, it can’t be overstated how important PLC panels and control systems are. As you update and keep up with the maintenance of your PLC system, keep these common issues in mind so you can continue to streamline and improve your workflow and machinery.

If you need some more help or what to request a quote, don’t hesitate to contact us! We have highly trained and professional electrical engineers ready to design and craft your PLC control panel to accommodate all of your applications and specifications.

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