Migration Versus Modernization for Process and Packaging Systems: What’s the Difference?

The choice between controls migration versus modernization for process and packaging systems for an outdated controls system rests on many factors, such as system performance, system challenges or pain points, whether the manufacturer is satisfied with overall functionality and productivity of the system, and budget availability.

Controls migration for process and packaging systems consist of replacing one or more hardware devices (typically starting with the PLC) in the overall control system to avoid the risk of failure, costs, and downtime associated with out-of-production parts. Modernization is designing and programming a brand-new system, in place of the old system. The brand-new system is custom built to the manufacturer’s needs and consists of the most up-to-date hardware, software, and programming practices available at the time.

Migration Simply Averts Risks

Migration averts or minimizes the risks associated with outdated hardware, but still leaves manufacturers with the same system functionality once migrated. By contrast, modernization essentially leaves a manufacturer with a brand new control system tailored to their process needs.  Modernization is the only way to achieve maximum productivity and product quality from the system. 

Forward-Looking with Modernization

Controls modernization for process and packaging systems is a forward-looking plan with immediate performance benefits. This prepares the company for the next 10-20 years of manufacturing. Migration alone is replacing obsolete hardware, and often times the company misses out on the opportunity to improve their systems. Migration is more like applying a Band-Aid to hold the obsolete system together for a period of time.

Migration Leads to Modernization

Inevitably, migration has to be done, as hardware nears End-of-Life, replacement parts and people trained to work on the systems are scarcely available and costly. When a migration is needed, manufacturers face:

  • long replacement times
  • lost production
  • huge price tags to obtain unsupported or discontinued hardware 

Without migrating the hardware to an updated version, the same problems and breakdowns will continue to happen, while also increasing in frequency. While migration helps to avert risk, migration should be considered as just one step towards a full modernization strategy.

Migration eliminates the risk of outdated hardware, but still leaves manufacturers with the exact functionality once complete.  Often times the PLC and HMI applications manufacturers are using are decades old and contain large segments of unorganized or unused logic. Often, they have been edited with minimal oversight multiple times over the years by different maintenance or support resources. This coupled with general limitations in the original software makes it very difficult for the manufacturers to automate the desired functionality needed to deliver an efficient process.  It is common to see a process run differently depending on the operator, often with varying productivity results and product quality.

While completing a migration is a step towards full modernization, it is not typically the most efficient approach to reaching the modernization end goal. For instance, migration is similar to renovating a home that was built many years ago to fit someone’s current needs, as best as one can.  

Modernization, by contrast, is like custom building a brand-new home, perfectly designed for one’s needs.  The decision whether to migrate initially or to rip and replace for a full modernization generally depends on both budget and the customer’s tolerance for a shutdown window, as modernization requires more startup time before returning to full production.

Benefits of Controls Migrations for Process and Packaging Systems

Migration can provide different benefits for manufacturers, with the most important being improving reliability and minimizing the risk of failure.  By replacing the obsolete hardware, a manufacturer can ensure that the part of the control system won’t fail. By eliminating failures, manufacturers can require less additional maintenance and downtime to repair a failure or break. This is a benefit of migration versus modernization for process and packaging systems.

Migrations do cost less than a full modernization. Migrating a part of a system requires much less downtime to implement. Often times, migrations can be completed with remaining budgets or maintenance dollars instead of requiring a full capital expense with an approved line item for it in an annual capital budget.  For these reasons, many companies like the staged approach to migrating and then eventually modernizing.

Modernized Process and Packaging Control System Benefits

Modernization ensures that manufacturers have the most modern and up-to-date hardware and software across the complete control system and the best benefits of design, programming, HMI standards, and data logging. A modernized automation control system is fully optimized and allows manufacturers to take advantage of the full functionality available in a modernized control system. 

Modernizing a control system leads to a variety of overall benefits for the plant. When modernized, a manufacturer will experience improved plant-wide control and optimization. The new, updated technology available allows for easier and more extensive visibility, data acquisition and analysis, as well as a more secure system that is open and information enabled.

Modern, optimized systems are scalable and modular, allowing them to easily accommodate for manufacturing changes and plant growth. By modernizing, manufacturers gain the ability to integrate with a wider variety of control and information systems. 

Modernized control systems allow for decreased maintenance and downtime. With a modernized system, there is a wider variety of more flexible resources for maintenance and support on the control system, making upkeep costs more affordable and manageable. Modernized systems also experience fewer failures and breakdowns, leading to increased productivity. With the overall data acquisition and visibility over the entire system, potential errors or issues can be avoided or mitigated before requiring a shutdown of the system.

Modernization as the End Goal

Manufacturers should look at obsolete control systems as an opportunity to improve and optimize their entire control system with a modernization. There are cost savings to modernizing in the first place as opposed to initially migrating and then eventually modernizing, depending on a manufacturers’ downtime tolerance, budget, pain points, challenges, and need.

Every manufacturer should aim to modernize their control automation system and implement data-driven manufacturing in order to:

  • increase production
  • minimize product changeover times
  • eliminate variability in production
  • optimize the entire production system

Contact us today to decide between your migration versus modernization for process and packaging systems!

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