If you want to see friction, put a few process automation salesmen together and ask them whether it’s best for a company to support its legacy control system or to migrate to a new platform.
On the migration side, you’ll hear something like this:
Eventually, your system failures will become increasingly critical and frequent. Or you’ll learn that your original vendor is phasing out support for the system. In either case, it’s time to migrate. As a result, you’ll get faster processing time, and easier integration of diverse components and third-party systems. Migration is expensive, and worth it.
Those who make the case for evolution usually say something like this:
Evolution provides improved control of lifecycle costs and technology budgeting. It minimizes downtime and avoids the major diversion of resources to design, implement, learn, troubleshoot and train on a new system. Evolution preserves operator knowledge, plus all the engineering effort, application work, operations knowledge and programming time that have been invested in a control system over its lifetime. It costs less than migration and delivers more reliable results.
Ironically, most companies hear these opposing views and they come up with a middle-ground plan, best described as Evolutionary Postponement of Migration.
The folks in finance approve of this option, because it minimizes short-term spending. But competitively it makes the least sense of all. It institutionalizes the notion that the existing DCS is just temporary – starving it of the full commitment that a company’s critical operations require. At the same time, it puts off the day when the perceived long-term solution is implemented. It’s the worst of both worlds.
There are really only two strategies that result in a full commitment to peak performance: Evolve Always or Migrate Now. Either one is better than “none of the above.”
Is your company stick in the middle, or has it made a firm commitment to a long-term strategy for its controls?