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3 min read

An OT New Year’s Resolution

As we say goodbye to 2022, our thoughts inevitably turn to the new year and all the things that we will do better in the 12 months with which we have to work. Whether we are trying to lose weight, get in touch with long lost acquaintances, get in shape, or finally install the shelving in the garage, we all have at least one New Year’s resolution that we set for ourselves.  

In that tradition, we thought of a few New Year’s resolutions that could be applied to process control systems and the OT space for your consideration.  

Disaster Recovery

There are a number of circumstances that can lead to downtime, and it is important to be able to identify the issues and recover quickly. This could involve replacing broken hardware, restoring a device configuration, or being able to quickly troubleshoot a problem in the field.

New Year’s Resolution: Audit your process control systems to ensure that you have the hardware and tools to recover quickly including: control system drawings, commented backups of your code and network assets (e.g. drives), spare parts, control system engineering software, and a second level of support to fall back on if needed (e.g. a distributor or systems integrator).

Cyber Security

Whether you are already far along or not yet started with your OT cyber initiatives, there is always something that can be done. After all, nobody can ever really be finished with cyber security as it is an iterative process of review and implementation.  

New Year’s Resolution: Your resolution here will depend on what you have accomplished already. If you are at the beginning of your cyber journey, then you may want to develop your cyber posture or review your cyber requirements for new system implementation to ensure that they still properly reflect your needs. You may also want to review the lifecycle status on your hardware and ensure that your software and firmware versions have not been deprecated in the last year.

Design Early

There is no doubt that supply chain has been one of the biggest challenges manufacturers have faced in 2022. And it looks like those challenges will continue into 2023, as well. For control system projects, the chip shortage has led to extended delivery times leading to project delays and uncertainty.  

New Year’s Resolution: If you have a modernization or a greenfield project coming up in 2023 or 2024, start your control system design as early as possible. This will allow the system integrator to develop a bill of material and get long-lead equipment on order sooner, reducing the potential project delays.  

Improve your Manufacturing Process

If you do not want to deal with the supply chain issues that come with a modernization or new system installation, a resolution that deals with getting more out of what you have may be for you. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a measure of productivity and can be applied to discrete, continuous, and batch processes. These systems also track causes of downtime so that you can isolate these causes and improve your process productivity.

New Year’s Resolution: Start small on this one and set a resolution to determine the productivity of one area or line of your process. This will allow you to prove it out, refine your implementation, and show it off to management before expanding it to other areas of your process or adding other MES features, such as production tracking.

Institutional Knowledge

For over a decade systems integrators have been raising the alarm regarding a loss of institutional knowledge in the process operations space. The knowledge that had been amassed was often stored exclusively in the heads of one or two main operators of your systems. Years later these operators have now retired or are soon to be retired, meaning all that knowledge is gone or on its way out.

New Year’s Resolution: If you are lucky enough to still have access to that knowledge, make it a point to get them on the project to develop the specification for the modernization of your system. Develop a list of all of the workarounds that they use on the system and have them work with the team to generate a list of actions that should be taken based on the system alarms or a specific process condition. This step will allow your modernization efforts to be more effective and avoid the need to re-learn the lessons of the past.

Well, that is our list of process control system New Year’s resolutions, and it is by no means comprehensive. If you have questions about one of these ideas or have one of your own, we recommend reaching out to your system integrator to discuss how you might achieve your 2023 goals.  

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