Plant Asset Management 

Plant asset management should include your industrial automation systems

If you’re looking for ways to improve your production uptime and efficiency, then plant asset management that includes your control systems is a vital practice you can implement. Cataloging and tracking your plant’s control system application program files is key to maintaining your production efficiency, and it’s something a good system integrator can help you address through good industrial automation practices. Proper plant asset management involves storing and maintaining application programming files and information in a controlled environment, having a disaster recovery plan and setting up defined procedures for your automation support team.

Proper plant asset management of your automation systems mitigates production risk

Having a controlled and restricted central repository for the storage of relevant industrial automation assets, such as the application programs running in your PLC’s and SCADA system, is too often overlooked. This includes, but is not limited to, PLC programs, HMI applications, network configurations and hardware configurations. It’s a MUST to have the most current versions of these files readily available while providing a high level of confidence that the files are in fact the most current. In the high-paced plant floor environment, it’s easy to lose sight of this and not realize there’s a problem with your file storage and retrieval procedures until it’s too late.

At any time, any part of your control system may need recovery. Your engineering and maintenance resources should have no question about where to find the files needed to quickly restore your control system if necessary. Having proper asset management that includes your control system application files can be vital to properly and quickly getting a process or line back up and running. Additionally, if you’re in a government-regulated industry, such as pharmaceutical, it can be a valuable tool for meeting regulatory requirements.

Manufacturing asset management is affected by your human processes 

Your facility might currently have some method in place for tracking automation system files and data; maybe not. In the past, many plants put paper-trail-based systems into policy to track changes and versions of important automation assets. In those instances, it was often common to find a manually updated log where each individual was responsible to update the file when a programming or configuration change was made. These systems were frequently based on an honor system within the department that the file would be updated and the most recent version would be there when needed by everyone. It was also common to find deficiencies in this method because the culture had not been developed to stress the importance of an effective and disciplined program file storage and revision control.

A significant shortcoming encountered with this manual method of plant asset management is unstructured accessibility. If someone who needed an automation file could not readily access it, then that person would typically keep their own, personal copy of the file on their own computer or memory stick. As this became common practice, it became nearly impossible to maintain most current application files.

No matter what your current procedures are for plant asset management, it’s vitally important to promote the right culture and discipline within the engineering and maintenance teams. Defined procedures combined with a disciplined culture promote proper asset management. However, procedures and a good culture alone might not prevent personnel from performing actions on any automation asset outside of your established process.

Plant asset management solutions

Although a manually-based, user-maintained file storage system can be effective, there are several commercially off the shelf (COTS) asset management systems that can serve as a central repository for your automation assets and much more. Rockwell Automation’s AssetCentre and MDT’s Autosave are leading examples of asset management software packages geared specifically toward manufacturing automation. These systems greatly increase the assurance that your support resources are using the latest versions of control system application files. The following are just a few of the features and benefits you can expect when using asset management software for your control systems:

·         File version control – Find not only the latest versions, but recall an old version of the program. Any time a file is changed, it’s stored into the system.

·         User accountability – Logs will specifically track who makes what changes, when the changes were made and

·         Backup and compare – On a set schedule, compare the archived control system application files with the live files being used on the floor.

·         Feature security – Create user groups that can have unique permissions based on user credentials.

·         Email alerts – Receive an email when a change has been made.

·         Hardware asset inventory – Track the hardware on the floor.

These asset management systems are generally deployed using a server/client hardware architecture. Files and logs are typically stored on a redundant server, while client computers are configured to access and use the files stored on the server.

We’re experienced in plant asset management for automation systems. And we can help.

In our experience, we’ve seen many times where deficiencies or the lack of any asset management process has cost a producer time, money and lost productivity. We have considerable first-hand experience with the robust methods of asset management for control systems and would be happy to help you implement a system that’s best for your organization. If you’re not confident in or you’re unsatisfied with the effectiveness of your current asset management methods, we can possibly assist you in implementing a better method. We’ve seen it done many ways — good and not-so-good. And we want to share that experience with you to improve your operations. If you’ve got any questions about industrial automation, plant asset management or simply improving your production operation through automation, just click enquiry to ask. We’ll give you an answer or point you in the right direction.