Automation service strategy: 5 things to consider

5 tips for developing and documenting a life cycle services strategy


As the automation workforce ages and nears retirement and as the competitive pressure to “do more with less” accelerates, what does this mean for a plant’s automation service strategy? Manufacturers must continue to be flexible and efficient when automating and servicing their plants. A well-developed and documented life cycle services strategy is core to your success. Where to begin? Consider the following five items. 

1. Scheduled and documented preventive and corrective maintenance is proven to improve system reliability. If you are not already doing so then implement measurement and tracking for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to maintenance and service activities. Identify the important KPIs for your plant and then measure, report and implement improvements based on them. If there are several plant sites, consider standardizing maintenance practices across sites and compare KPIs to drive improvement.

2. Review your plant’s human resource depth and bench strength taking into account not only internal personnel but also what is available from your automation service providers. When you need support, evaluate the responsiveness of your automation vendor and whether they have the depth of technology experts to adequately help implement solutions and solve problems. Test that you can access these experts quickly and efficiently. Make sure that the skills of your staff are up-to-date to support your automation and make sure you have a viable and current personnel succession plan in place.

3. System lifecycle planning, management and total cost of ownership go hand-in-hand. Have plans in place to address obsolescence and review them during each budget cycle. Know what programs and new features are available from your automation service provider to keep your system current. Ask what ROI and risk mitigation you can expect to see from these programs. Be aware of unique vendor programs to extend system hardware life and take advantage of parts repair and refurbishment programs. A careful analysis of system life cycle total cost of ownership may uncover ways to optimize you plant further.

4. Supplement your in-house staff by using qualified outside system and process experts. Experts and expert tools are available to perform high-value tasks such as system health checks, process loop optimization and advanced process control services. These can be performed economically through the use of secure remote connections to efficiently access experts in technical areas. If you do not have a remote connection option for your equipment then it is recommended that you engage your control system vendor and your IT departments to get one implemented for your plant.

5. A cyber security strategy is extremely important to protect the control system from internal and external attacks. In case of a security breach, verify that there is a dependable system backup strategy in place to ensure that your system can be restored quickly. 

The effectiveness of your automation service strategy is an important contributor to your bottom line. A well designed and executed strategy can significantly reduce downtime, off-spec production, costs, and safety issues, while improving overall operational excellence. With forethought, planning and execution, worries about the future can be addressed and minimized.

Andrew Kovach is Regional Director for ABB US Service based in Wickliffe, Ohio. He has been with ABB for 20 years in various roles including project management, engineering operations management and service management.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.