Countering the risk of ageing PLCs

Ageing PLCs are becoming a real headache for industries that rely on them. Often they are part of equipment that is supposed to last for several decades. When they break down they are difficult to replace. When another component is replaced, the PLC is not easily reprogrammed. The key to countering these risks is getting access to specialized knowledge.

Whether you are mixing ingredients for mayonnaise or silage, punching holes in steel sheets or controlling a power plant, chances are that your equipment relies on PLCs for low level control of your processes. These PLCs may have been in place for thirty or forty years, perhaps even longer. And that’s fine, because they are durable pieces of electronics. At some point, however, you will probably own a malfunctioning PLC. If you are unlucky a critical function in your process grinds to a halt. You call your service provider and say it’s urgent. They say they’ll have to read up on this matter. And then reality kicks in: these PLCs have been out of production for decades. Documentation has been lost. It’s hard to see even whether your problem is hardware or software related. Surely, there must be a solution. But where to find it?

Clearly, what you need is knowledge. Not only about the hardware and possible spare parts if these are neede, but also about ways to programme them. After all, if you do not find an exact replacement for broken components, some adjustments to the software may be needed. This may also apply when it is not the PLC that breaks down, but another piece of equipment that is attached to it. Its replacement may come with new drivers that in some way have to communicate with the old PLC. Identifying the knowledge you need is one thing, finding it quite another. Such knowledge is becoming scarce. Even if you stuck with your supplier since the system was installed, you would be lucky if that knowledge was maintained. After all, why invest in knowledge that may not be needed for decades?

Still, such knowledge exists, with someone, somewhere. Matching you or your service provider and that someone is what Support Points is setting out to do. SupportPoint maintains an network of tested PLC experts all over the world, all of them with deep knowledge of legacy systems. Even in the dead of night there will be someone ready to fire up that critical process. Working with SupportPoints is easy. Make an account on the site, select the expert you would like to work with, agree on a price per hour, and get things sorted.

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