Considerations for smoother control system upgrades

Evolving a DCS requires a road map that leads to the ultimate goal after the project has been concluded. Sustainability, Reliability, Security, Maintenance, Transparency to Operations and Process Improvement all play a role in determining a successful project. These goals should be articulated at the proposal phase so that the DCS vendor understands the end user’s expectations. A comprehensive proposal will then lay out the end user and vendor responsibilities, discuss incorporation of new features and solutions, and examine installation options.

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With System 800xA version 6 several deployment considerations are prominent.

  • First, clients can use Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Enterprise as operating systems. This means that if the end user has already purchased computers that are compatible with either of these two operating systems, they may be utilized.
  • Second, 800xA version 6.0 has the ability to consolidate computer nodes without the use of virtual machines. This makes the maintenance easier because of the reduced number of operating systems deployed, and the virtual structure allows for faster disaster recovery by not requiring replacement of computer hardware in case of a VM failure.
  • Third, 800xA allows for wireless deployment at the IO and controller layers, as well as at the console layer, giving access to operations through hardened tablets.
  • Fourth, there are several options for clients: wireless (as discussed previously), panels, standard desktop computers with single or multi-screen displays, thin client boxes, and the ergonomically rich Extended Operator Workplace, which is built to maximize operator productivity.

In order to help ensure a smooth transition of the new DCS into the plant, the end user should benchmark the previous system before the project to encapsulate any system design flaws or deficiencies that should not be carried over to the new system. A second benchmark should be conducted prior to delivery of the new system to ensure that it’s configured in a fashion that guarantees optimization of design settings. These benchmarks, along with frequent communication with the project team leaders, help guarantee a new system that meets the original goals and expectations of the end user and results in a successful project.