Low Cost Automation Upgrade – 3 Things to Know

Do you think it is time for an upgrade? Yes we think so too but…spare a moment to think things through. As System Integrators (SI), we have found that automation upgrades often fail because end users fail to make a few critical decisions early in the upgrade process.


There are decisions you should carefully consider before upgrading. It doesn’t matter whether you are just upgrading individual equipment – like PLCs, HMIs – or upgrading larger plant systems as a whole, a systematic approach to analysing the task early can help avoid problems and even identify opportunities for performance improvement.

As a brief guide, a review of the following points would help alleviate some of these concerns that could otherwise lead to pitfalls down the line.

1. Decide why you want the upgrade.

This basically covers your goals for the upgrade. What do you intend to achieve with this? Make sure you have a plan for identifying your needs, for documenting those needs, and for identifying the best vendors to approach for proposals and/or bids. Whether you are engaging the services of a CSIA certified SI like GIL Automations or considering doing this yourself, your end goal should be clearly spelt out.

Why do you want to upgrade? If you can’t identify compelling reasons, don’t do it. Answers like “because it’s time.”, “It doesn’t look good anymore”, “The competition has newer models”, simply put, aren’t compelling enough to warrant an upgrade.

In fact, expert opinion suggests the only good reason to upgrade is because it achieves one or more tangible or quantifiable business goals; however, the exact goals will vary from company to company. What’s important is that those goals be identified and quantified, and that they become the most significant criteria in selecting a replacement system.

2. Decide what it will take to achieve your upgrade goals

Will a newer version of your current system achieve your stated goals? Do you need to replace all or part of your hardware to achieve those goals? What new technologies can be applied to achieve the company’s business goals? Typically, concise answers to these and other questions end up in a specification that is ultimately put out for bid.

3. Decide what you want from your vendor

Go shopping! A thorough evaluation of vendors and their responses to your questions should be a combination of art and science – a combination of corporate chemistry and bottom-line common sense.

Of course, cost is an easy factor to quantify. But it’s not so easy to compare less quantifiable factors like customer references, project experience and delivery methodology. It’s especially difficult calculating the effectiveness of a long-term relationship with the vendor. Certified vendors and SI partners should serve you well to this end. In our own words, “Get the right people on board”.

Answers are only as good as the questions they address. If you ask the wrong or irrelevant questions, you will probably get wrong or irrelevant answers. To base your decisions on good answers, you must ask good questions – of yourself, your vendor or SI partner.

As an SI with cross-platform expertise in the field of Industrial Automations, GIL serves as your one-stop consultant for whatever automation needs you may have. We are available to provide expert advice all the way – whether it is planning and evaluation, design, execution or commissioning.

Give us a call today, visit our website www.gilautomation.com, or e-mail customercare@gilautomation.com

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