Having Control System Problems? 3 Signs it’s Time for a New One
July 9, 2019
Improving your control system — even though it may be working smoothly for you at the moment — should be considered a regular cost of doing business. But knowing when your control system problems indicate that it’s time to an entirely new control system is a separate issue than continuing to fix what you’ve been operating on.
Someone who relies on their automobile to make money doesn’t want to be left patching up an exhaust system here and a new timing belt there, waiting for the next item to put the vehicle in the shop. And while your products might be rolling off the line and electrical systems switching on and off just fine during the normal course of business hours for now, anyone left waiting for a maintenance crew to arrive and diagnose a problem once the next one comes around — and then fix it — is only waiting to lose time and money.
So, how can you know in advance when it might be time to stop patchworking your existing control system and upgrade to a new one?
Here are a few ideas:
Take an inventory: You can’t understand what may need fixing if you first don’t know all of your equipment in the first place. How old are the parts in your system? When was it installed and by whom? Has much of it has been replaced? When did the replacements occur? By having a central file recording all of the updates your system has needed — assuming you don’t have this already — you can then assess what might need fixing in due time.
If there are some major parts that are relatively newer, perhaps you can wait. At the same time, older parts that are creeping upwards of 20 years could end up being a liability. In addition, you want to ensure that even the newer parts are reliable ones — not bought off eBay from some unknown place with quality control that’s questionable at best. So determining how much old and recently-replaced equipment may need to fit with both new and old pieces in the future is something you will need to address.
Is your control systems integrator reviewing your control system properly? Make sure you have a partner you can trust when it’s time to upgrade.
Look at the light: What kind of shape is your human machine interface in? Operators need to be able to see clearly in order for the rest of the work that your control panel operates to run at its fullest capacity. With a dim background on a fading screen, the wear and tear can be difficult to see. And while HMIs are replaceable on their own, they are one of the more expensive costs involved in a control system. A new system as a whole could be worth the investment, depending on where your business is in its life cycle and how old the rest of the equipment is. If you see much growth in the next couple of years, starting with a new control system to grow with you — instead of just going out and buying another HMI — could be worthwhile.
Consider efficiency: Replacement costs are one thing, but what about the daily — or hourly — costs that add up of having an old system that lacks the efficiency of a new one? Maybe the control system you retrofitted from its use in a commercial bakery to your brewery worked to get you off the ground, but now as you grow you’re seeing opportunity cost drip down the drain with every other bottle that rolls off the belt. A system doesn’t necessarily have to be old for it to be the wrong fit anymore. Perhaps it’s time for a custom designed control system.
Don’t wait until it’s too late and your control system problems leave you in the lurch. Take a good, hard look at how your systems are performing right now and consider whether or not an upgrade is worth the investment — before it’s too late.