Replacing an Obsolete Control System in a Chemical Plant

What should you do when a control system that’s critical to your manufacturing process is no longer supported?

Control system replacement is a common challenge for industrial manufacturers. It’s even more difficult when you can’t afford the downtime to convert to a new system because you need to meet the demands of your customers.

Here’s how Matrix Technologies helped a chemical company in Indiana migrate from an outdated legacy control system to a modern new system with limited downtime.

A Mission-Critical, but Obsolete System

An industrial chemical company is a primary manufacturer of a key ingredient used by many other companies. Because its products are so crucial to its customers, the manufacturer cannot tolerate any more downtime than absolutely necessary. Additionally, once the system is started, it must run 24/7.

The problem: The company’s legacy Honeywell Experion PKS 3.1 system was no longer being supported by Honeywell, leaving them with a system that was not easy to support and difficult to upgrade with the current hardware. They needed to change to a new system with minimal downtime.

Matrix Technologies was selected to plan and implement the control system upgrade and replacement and provide electrical design and software development services.

We carefully evaluated the manufacturer’s needs and recommended upgrading to Rockwell Automation technology. Using a new ControlLogix platform would give the customer many advantages, including improved batch, historian, and reporting capabilities.

Strategies to Reduce Downtime

One of the biggest challenges of this project was getting the new PLCs to communicate with existing Honeywell I/O.

Matrix developed the architecture to switch back and forth from the existing DCS to the new PLC which allowed testing, monitoring, and troubleshooting ensuring operational compatibility.
We took the same approach with the HMI system so the actual startup time would be minimal along with the risk.

For the HMI, Matrix used Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk View SE and PlantPAx objects. We developed the system with full simulation to provide for Factory Acceptance testing prior to implementation. Commissioning activities included I/O checkout and startup, within a five-day shutdown.

To keep downtime to a minimum, Matrix performed a phased startup. Matrix engineers set one tank up with the new system and updated the HMIs plant-wide to train technicians and supervisors before receiving the upgraded control system.

The customer was extremely pleased with the smooth startup of the new system. Using the PlantPAx object libraries, they now have a standard software package they can use on future systems, both upgraded and new.

Control System Replacement: It’s All in the Planning

Obsolete equipment that’s no longer supported can put your entire manufacturing operation at risk. The key to a successful control system replacement or any legacy system upgrade is thorough planning.

Your manufacturing automation solutions provider should conduct a detailed review of the current state of your system and carefully plan every step of the migration to ensure a smooth transition to the new technology.

It’s also wise to partner with an industrial automation engineering company that knows your industry and can recommend the best system for your needs.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our industrial automation services and our in-depth experience with legacy system upgrades, contact Greg Pfleghaar at (419) 897-7200 x 343.

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