If you’re running an older programmable logic controller (PCL), you should consider upgrading to a newer technology sooner rather than later. Your PCL may be completely functional at the moment, and it might’ve served you well for several years. However, like any computational device, you must keep in mind that your PCL won’t last forever, and the time in which it’s no longer supported is just around the corner. You scarcely want to be left high and dry when a component fails. You could discover that the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) no longer supports the device and can’t offer you spare parts.
An unexpected outage for a PLC that has fallen out of support can translate to prolonged system downtime, something that most small businesses can’t afford. Not to mention that the cost of spare parts has been skyrocketing, which is a good reason why you should take a proactive approach to replacing your outmoded PLC now. While there’s always a chance you might find spare parts on the secondary market, a question arises about who will fix it when the original manufacturer won’t.
It might be tempting to delay swapping out an old PLC and wait until it breaks. But this approach is frankly not worth the risk. With the current supply chain disruptions and the recent scarcity of new industrial automation solutions and parts, it’s not feasible to estimate exactly how long it might take to source a new unit. Once you decide to move forward with an upgraded programmable logic controller, that’s just the beginning of a fairly involved process and only the start of a long forking road.
Replacing an outdated PLC assumes two distinct paths: an upgrade or PLC migration. You will, therefore, have to commit some research and thought into which solution best meets the unique requirements of your business. This post will help you better explore your options and guide you through some important considerations to help you make an educated decision about replacing your old PLC. Let’s begin by establishing the difference between a migration and an upgrade before highlighting a few advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
Should you replace or upgrade your older PLC, and what’s the difference?
The most basic explanation of migration is one that describes the process of imposing a previous control system onto a new one. Alternatively, when you upgrade the computer, you’ll have access to the latest features and emergent technologies. Migrations are effective for businesses that need to essentially clone their existing PLC, keeping as much of it the same as possible.
When you migrate your control system, you shouldn’t notice any meaningful difference. Upgrades, in comparison, are beneficial for businesses that demand improved performance and enhanced efficiency from their PLC. Depending on your current setup, an upgraded PLC may also foster a safer working environment and help you reduce overall expenses. Engineers also treat the code differently during the PLC migration process, which typically requires a code conversion that transfers the existing logic code onto a new PLC.
The risk with migration is that the tools to accomplish the procedure are often less than perfect. While efficient ways of migrating outmoded ladder logic to new hardware exist, the process comes with a few inherent challenges. In comparison, if you elect to upgrade the PLC, the engineers will write entirely new code for the replacement unit. The I/O wiring differs as well. PLC migrations try to replicate the current wiring as closely as possible by inserting a designated I/O card that is attached to the replacement PLC. When it comes to upgrades, not unlike its coding process, the I/O wiring demands a comprehensive rework. This presents a good opportunity for the technician to rewire the PLC’s components for better functionality and stronger reliability. In short, PLC migrations seek the fewest changes possible, while upgrades provide you with an entirely new solution.
Regardless of which route you choose, EZSoft can assist in developing a plan that minimizes downtime and keeps the maintenance window as narrow as permissible. Upgrading the control system will require additional time. If you choose this option, expect more downtime than the migration process. In certain cases, you might consider a staged approach to upgrading your PLC that handles certain aspects of the upgrade in parts. For instance, we might start with the code first and install a new HMI before diving into complicated rewiring procedures.
PLC upgrade vs migration: What are the pros and cons?
Now that the difference between PLC migrations and upgrades is clear, how do you decide which option is right for your business? Deciding between the two requires ample strategizing, and your choice should always be informed by your company’s unique circumstances and requirements. As engineers, we can’t make this decision for you, but we can provide you with a set of guidelines for making the determination yourself.
Let’s begin by explaining the upsides and downsides of migration. Most business owners prefer migration because the costs are lower, and the process necessitates the least amount of system downtime. Less hardware is involved, and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel by designing new infrastructure and reworking the code entirely. At the end of the day, PLC migration is faster and less expensive than an upgrade.
A migration may disadvantage you in the sense that the latest PLC supports considerably different architecture and always lack a true 1:1 port when you transition from old to new. The discrepancy often leads to runtime errors. Migration is hardly a streamlined process. Problems can arise to where you might be left stranded, asking yourself, “where can I find industrial automation companies near me?”
As you might imagine, if you take the various pros and cons of migration and invert them, you’ll essentially have established the advantages and disadvantages of upgrading. Upgrading will cost you more upfront than migrating, and you may need to train your operators on a new control system, but modernizing your infrastructure carries less long-term risk.
Are you considering replacing an old PLC?
If you’re unsure as to whether or not it’s time to replace an aging PLC at your manufacturing facility, the experts at EZSoft can help you make this determination. Learn more about the differences between a basic migration and a complete control systems upgrade by inquiring online now or calling EZSoft at (484) 568-5040.