Kostas Tzimas Business Development Manager Automation System Hellas
The combination of aging manufacturing plants and tight budgets during the last years has taken its toll on the competitiveness of many factories. Old equipment that runs on outdated control systems leaves Operation Managers frustrated. As a consequence, maintenance teams struggle to implement plant improvement projects and support the plant’s outdated hardware and software. The inability to gather and analyze meaningful data, prohibit the engineers to make the right decisions while production costs are mounting.
A decision to upgrade old automation systems, will yield an excellent Return on Investment (ROI) and will improve the competitiveness of the Plant substantially, if done right. To start with, on the investment decision one should calculate the costs associated if no action is taken. These costs could include:
- Downtime caused by frequent malfunctions of old equipment and limited availability of spare parts. Legacy systems are phased out of production and spare parts for older systems will be harder and harder to find.
- Quality issues due to sub-optimal control of the process.
- The quality issues could cause returns of products.
- Lost orders. A non-streamlined operation limits the production capacity.
However, this is only the beginning. The real ROI shines when we calculate the benefits of a new automation system.
Benefits of upgrading a legacy system
Better product quality
With a new automation system and real-time data capabilities, there are significant improvements in product quality to be made through a precisely controlled process. As production escalates, accurate control of the equipment is enabling factory managers to deliver an improved and consistent quality.
Greater production output & minimized Downtime
Old systems become very costly to maintain and are very unpredictable performance-wise. A new automation system can be specified as a redundant system, and significantly decrease downtime. Upgrading your control system will also upgrade your process, and drastically reduce bottlenecks. Furthermore, product changeovers are much faster and trouble-free with a new automation system.
Older systems run on operating systems software that are not supported anymore (for example, Microsoft ended support for the Windows XP operating system in April 2014). The operating system no longer receives security updates and Microsoft does not provide any technical support for XP. These systems are the IT Department’s nightmare as they are prone to infections from viruses and potentially they could cause a complete shut-down of the plant. If your system crashes, there may be very little support available, even from third-party services, to get things back up and running.
Reduced operating & energy costs
Again, data analysis on resource consumption can offer insights on the better use of them. New automation systems can provide a wealth of information (even in real time) and ensure efficient use of resources (raw material, energy, water, chemicals). Smart automation for CIP equipment for example, will drastically reduce the amount of water, chemicals and energy consumption and ensure at the same time a thorough cleaning of the production lines.
Reduced maintenance costs
Legacy systems are more prone to malfunctions. With technology always racing ahead, it is getting more difficult to find technical staff who are knowledgeable about older control systems. New automation systems, on the other hand, are much more reliable and require less maintenance. Even then, one has a lot of options to perform the maintenance task since there is a broad knowledge base for the new systems.
Case study: Upgrading SIMATIC S5 to S7 (SIEMENS)
After nearly 30 years of production of the successful SIMATIC S5 series, SIEMENS AG decided to discontinue it (2003) and then cease its support (2013). During these years, the next series S7-200, S7-300, S7-400 and S7-1200 appeared, and finally, a few years ago, SIEMENS introduced the latest generation SIMATIC S7-1500 series.
Given that the spare parts stock of the S5 series is now scarce, resulting in limited and very high prices, it is considered necessary to replace these systems with new equipment so that they can be technically supported.
SIEMENS has taken care of both hardware and software to support the necessary upgrades of S5 systems in the most efficient way. Depending on the requirements of each installation, the optimal upgrade solution is proposed, which can be a simple replacement of the S5 series materials with last generation materials, up to the total replacement of the automation system.
Automation System Hellas
It is much more expensive to keep an old system running beyond its capabilities, than investing in a new system that will provide significant cost savings, a substantial Return On Investment (ROI) and finally will help your business remain competitive.
At AS Hellas we have extensive experience in dismantling old automation systems and replacing them with modern SIEMENS SIMATIC S7 automation material. Sometimes such replacements are complex projects with several parameters to consider. AS Hellas has standardized the upgrading process so that with the proper preparation you need the least possible interference in your production schedule.
Contact us to give you a free quotation that is based on your needs and will have a direct impact on your profitability!