Stewardship and Uptime: What’s the risk?


The ‘Don’t Fix It Until It Breaks’ Mindset

Being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us is second nature to how we operate and make decisions. Yet, despite risk, the replacement or upgrade of PLC controllers and electrical infrastructure can often fall into the ‘don’t fix it until it breaks’ mindset. With the end of life announcements of Allen Bradley PLC-5’s or the Siemens APACS hardware, as well as a constant need to ensure electric rooms are safe and reliable, I’m guessing this conversation may have come up at your plant.

I sit on a maintenance committee in my community. Each year, we review the annual budget and plan for the next year. Last year, we had to replace two of three AC units unexpectedly and without the budgeted funds. Thankfully, through a special offering we got both units replaced. As we looked to the future, we thought it wise to place extra funds in the budget for the replacement of that third unit as it was of the same age as the two we had just replaced. This sparked a discussion on when we should replace the unit. The pertinent question was – do we replace it before it breaks?

When to Make Upgrades

How do we, good stewards of managed resources, determine when it’s important to make the upgrade? It’s all about risk. As for the AC unit situation, we decided to wait until it breaks. Our risk is essentially nonexistent and if it does go out, the temperature change would be minimal. Giving us plenty of time to get our HVAC provider to replace the unit with normal expediency.

However, when it comes to your plant and ensuring uptime, it’s a different story. Risk is everywhere. For instance, with some outdated controllers only available from eBay, there’s certainly a risk due to shipping time, extended downtime, and reliability of used equipment. Ultimately, the decision of when to make upgrades is unique to each plant and situation. However, it is important to understand that unplanned downtime typically costs more than a planned change over in an industrial setting.

How do you determine when to make upgrades?

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This blog post was written by Ben Whitley.