Demanding market conditions have forced manufacturers globally to actively pursue improved productivity and protect their major capital investments, which include automation components, software and systems, says industrial automation specialist Rockwell Automation.
In addition, companies aim to be more environment friendly, which translates into the safe disposal of old equipment and salvaging where possible.
Rockwell Automation offers its customers a long-term strategy, the StepForward programme, to help improve equipment for a competitive advantage, while extending the cost-related benefits.
This programme applies to most capital-value items, such as programmable logic controllers, alternating current and direct current variable-speed drives, servo controllers (both controllers and amplifiers), electronic soft starters and motor protection devices and software.
“One day of downtime, as a result of equipment failure, can cost a company substantially and also create unsafe working conditions, especially for companies that operate continually,” says Rockwell Automation control systems business manager Sean Homan.
Companies are usually unable to make up this lost revenue, therefore, an important aspect of the StepForward programme is its focus on the value of customers’ current architecture and the assistance provided in managing it, he notes.
“As products mature, Rockwell Automation works with its customers to ensure that they get the most value from their existing equipment to help determine subsequent steps and draw up a seamless transition plan to newer technology,” adds Homan.
This is done through life- cycle services offered by Rockwell Automation. The services include risk identification, which entails assessing the installed base with life-cycle analysis; risk mitigation, which entails the signing of a life- cycle service contract designed to increase the life of discontinued plant-floor automation; and risk elimination, which comprises migration planning support services.
The company also provides a remanufacturing service for products that are nearing end-of-life but do not require a complete upgrade.
“Upgrading equipment and replacing retiring products with current ones is also a key focus of this programme and may offer a more affordable solution,” says Homan.
For purposes of life-cycle communication, products are classified into four categories, namely active, which means it is still current and in stock with full support; silver, for products that are on low inventory; discontinued, where products are no longer manufactured, but repair ser- vices are still available; and obsolete, where products and repair services are unavailable.
This categorisation extends product longevity through development planning, phased obsolescence and transition support, says Homan.