TRENDS & TECHNOLOGY

Managing Control Assets

POSTED BY TURTLE & HUGHES INDUSTRIAL CONTROL & AUTOMATION DEPARTMENT BLOG IN PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY


 
As control systems are increasingly being installed on manufacturing Ethernet networks, the opportunity to manage control system assets in a more efficient and productive manner has grown as well. In the past, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), variable frequency drives (VFDs), and operator interface terminals (OITs) were isolated from each other.
 
If maintenance on a controller or drive was needed, the technician would take their laptop computer out to the system, connect to the device via a serial port or through a proprietary network, check the issue, make the required updates, disconnect, and move on to the next task. If the facility had an enforced operating procedure, then, at the end of the day, the technician might remember to upload the changed parameter file or program file to a central computer system for archiving. More often, however, the updated program was just on that one PC. If the PC was lost or damaged, the updated files only existed on the equipment itself.
 
Documentation of these changes was another challenge. The condition of the program or parameter before and after the change might have been documented, along with the reason and result of the change, but specific information such as the tweaking and tuning of the system was not always well documented.
 
When we visit facilities and participate in a plant tour, we will frequently point to a controller that we are examining and ask the guide, “Do you know who has the most recent copy of the program running here, and do you have any documentation about the most recent changes?” This question is usually met with some laughter and a comment that they think they have the program updated somewhere. This is not a good scenario when looking to manage a control system and is especially not a satisfactory operating procedure when trying to recover from some type of disaster.
 

Is There a Better Way?

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk® Suite includes a product called AssetCentre. This product is designed to work with both Rockwell and third party control devices and computers that are part of a control system. The software can be configured to automatically scan your network and identify the control equipment. Once discovered, you can then select the equipment you want to include on a scheduled automatic scan of these assets. You can perform a file upload and compare it against a centrally stored and organized set of programs, files and folders. All of this will then be documented as to who worked on a program, what changes were made, and when. A report can then automatically be generated to show what has changed, when and by whom. Rockwell products can produce even more detailed information, tracking keystroke by keystroke changes that have been made. They can also produce graphical reports that show program changes, rung by rung.
 
AssetCentre can provide archiving of programs, logs of activities, authentication to control access to assets, reports of changes and disaster recovery, as well as instrument calibration and configuration. Contact our Automation department (automation@turtle.com or 973.386.1122, ext. 4130) to schedule a demonstration and detailed review of this powerful software package and find out how it can benefit your goals of better control asset management.
 
Turtle & Hughes is an Authorized Distributor of Rockwell Automation in the following areas: New Jersey: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon (East of Route 31), Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Union. New York City: Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. New York State: Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster (South of Route 28, excluding the township of Kingston) and Westchester.

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