The struggle in maintaining aging automation platforms is very real. According to ARC Advisory Group, there are $65 billion worth of installed distributed control systems (DCSs) nearing their end of life, with many of those systems over 25 years old. Unfortunately, manufacturers experience a much greater rate of failure with aging components, along with a host of other associated issues and risks, not least of which is the scarcity of suitable replacement components. It should be noted that most electronic components have a usable life of ten to twelve years before they start to dry-up or become at risk, so overcoming these obstacles and finding the best path forward toward a more effective automation solution is key to future success. Areas that we believe are today’s biggest challenges are as follows:
Sourcing spare parts becomes increasingly difficult as control system suppliers can no longer source component parts to build their control systems, or as replacement parts to existing installed systems. Suppliers may choose not to redesign the old circuit boards with new components either due to significantly increased costs, or impractical and cost prohibitive recertification. This forces users to rely on the aftermarket for used parts or remanufactured components, which simply don’t have the reliability of new parts. Failures in systems without redundancy often cause immediate production downtime, even systems with redundancy will eventually experience failure rates high enough to impact production due to multiple failures occurring before parts can be replaced.