Preparing for DCS Control System Upgrade


Thread Starter


Hello guys,

Hope all of you are doing well.

We are about to go ahead for an upgrade for DCS Control System in our Plant. We are in the phase of data collection to know which doors should we knock.

Our Current DCS System (that should be replaced) includes: AC450 Controllers & SG415 (ESD) Dual Controller - ABB.

So, please I need suggestions for "potential systems with high reputation" from experienced fellows in the field.

So, I've seen some amazing things done with off-the-shelf and inexpensive components, even in redundant configurations--but the key was NOT the hardware or even the software. It was in the experience and expertise of the people designing the system who understood the process(es). These people are often called "system integrators" because they design the systems using components from other hardware and software designers to meet the Customer's requirements.

When you're looking for an upgrade like this many of the larger hardware and software manufacturers won't do this kind of work--they sell the hardware and software to system integrators to actually configure, program, install and, in many cases, commission the equipment.

I can't emphasize this enough: The success or failure of your project depends not on the hardware and/or software used <i>it depends on the experience and knowledge of the system integrators and their expertise with your process(es) and requirements.</i> By the way, some of the larger hardware and software manufacturers have some in-house system integrator divisions, some better than others at some process(es) and plants.

The hardest part of choosing any equipment/supplier for a project like this is to ask for the names of references--plants like yours where the supplier has done work previously, and then contact those plants to see what their experience was with that supplier. You may find that some system integrators can supply hardware and/or software from multiple manufacturers and can successfully configure it to meet your plants' requirements.

I have gone to MANY sites where they chose not to use the OEM for upgrades to their control systems and were not happy with the results. And very well-known hardware and software was used for their system--but because of the inexperience and lack of knowledge on the part of the system integrator the result was less than desirable. I have even seen some of the larger manufacturers with in-house system integrator divisions do some very poor jobs on some plants because the people assigned to the projects were inexperienced and didn't have anyone in the company to ask questions of and review their work.

So, don't look specifically for hardware/software recommendations--check on references on any supplier. It's uncomfortable at best calling people you don't know, or emailing them, but I have run into lots of sites who learned after they'd bought and installed and commissioned their systems that others had had similar experiences and wouldn't do it over again. Often they learn of other's experiences at trade shows and seminars--so visit those and talk to other people about their experiences with both hardware and software AND their system integrator/supplier/commissioning. I have seen some sites that just needed competent commissioning and troubleshooting to resolve some lingering issues which were not resolved by the integrator/supplier--simple things, really. But without knowledge and experience they can be daunting.

Just about any hardware and software can be "made to sing" by the people with the right experience and knowledge. Check the experience and knowledge of the people who will be packaging and programming the hardware and software--if they're qualified, and knowledgeable on the hardware/software you might prefer--you will likely be happy with the results.

Hope this helps. Ask for and check references--or you may be very, very sorry and wished you had (checked references). Don't trust some magazine reprint some salesperson hands you. Ask for names and email addresses of plants where the prospective supplier has done work--preferably ones similar to yours. And, contact those people for their experiences and insights. The best hardware and software that aren't properly configured, programmed, installed and commissioned can seem like the worst at the end of a project which runs long and has lots of unresolved problems.

Oh--and check on the after-installation service and support, too!

You'll be glad you did!
All major automation vendors have competitive, comparable and similar cost range systems. PLC and DCS features and costs have come together. Your current system supplier, ABB, may have a very suitable upgrade option. Honeywell Experion PKS, Emerson Delta V, Rockwell ControlLogix, etc will all have very similar capable systems.

While both DCS and PLC have similar capabilities, DCS sytems have
more built-in functionality but also higher possible costs for servers and licensing. While PLC systems have less licensing costs, but also are more programming required for extra functionality.

The success of your project will depend on the completeness of your scope document, having a complete list of system functions, loops, points, logic I/O and field I/O.

good luck