Jonathan Wilkins discusses the stages of hot cutover and alternative solutions to minimise downtime
Let me set the scene. As a plant manager, you've set your sights on a full system upgrade. You've broken the news to the rest of the team and you’re pleasantly surprised to see they share your excitement. You might think their happiness is a result of having a brand new system, but in reality it might be the prospect of having a short holiday while the upgrade is completed.
With hot cutover there's no need for a full plant shutdown. Quality assurance machinery can continue to run and the lack of downtime means your customers won't be affected. Hot cutover may sound like the perfect solution, but don't be fooled into thinking it's a simple process.
Hot cutover planning
After making the decision to go for hot cutover upgrades, the first thing to do is plan the logistics.
Cutover logistics should consider the space requirements of the old and new equipment, since both will be in operation as the cutover is performed. Power, communications and other connections must also be part of this planning since operator stations and I/O cabinets may be moved during the process.
Cutover sequence planning looks at the order that units will be converted from the old system to the new. Generally, a back to front order is used, unless factory conditions dictate otherwise. A key consideration is the switchover of PLCs. It's important that time and quality isn't sacrificed as a result of human error, so ensure that operators know which PLCs are in operation.
The logistics of hot cutover isn't the only thing to consider prior to the switch; a safety review should also be conducted. All plant operators should complete the relevant safety training and be provided with the necessary equipment well in advance.
The earlier you recognise any potential risks, the better. By conducting an initial field survey, challenges can be identified and solutions can be engineered. The most successful solutions consider the associated risk, cost and potential schedule changes.
Too much to ask?
If you're unsure whether you have the time and capacity to conduct a full system upgrade, there is another option. Implementing obsolete replacement parts can make your system as good as new. Whilst hot cutover ensures your system stays up and running throughout the upgrade, working hours can be lost on training and shifting machinery. With a vast network of authorised suppliers, European Automation sources and delivers parts anywhere on the planet, in record time, meaning your workforce can continue doing what they do best.
If you are considering an upgrade to tackle energy efficiency standards such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and ISO50001, don’t exclude obsolete industrial automation spares as a solution. Cutting the monthly bills and reducing your carbon footprint doesn't have to mean a costly upgrade. Industries from aerospace to oil and gas are already reaping the efficiency benefits of Eco Obsolete Technology (EOT).
EOT is the name given to products that comply with energy efficiency regulations, even after they become obsolete. Many industries rely on obsolete components to keep them up and running. Today, more and more companies are turning to EOT for their efficiency needs.
Once you have the facts for each option, it's decision time. Either way if you do it right, your workforce won’t be in for a long weekend.
Jonathan Wilkins is marketing director, European Automation.