For WA plant owners and operators, the backbone of efficient and seamless operation lies in
Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and advanced control systems.
Automation has revolutionised the way plants operate, enhancing precision, reducing downtime, and optimising overall productivity.
However, to ensure the longevity and reliability of these systems, regular maintenance is paramount.
For that reason maintenance on PLC and control systems is essential for manufacturing and production plant owners and maintenance coordinators, delivering numerous advantages to the overall operation and production.
Why is PLC maintenance important?
1. Preventing Downtime
The ultimate goal of any maintenance routine is to minimise downtime.
From time to time techs will be asked to attend emergency shutdowns on systems that have not been maintained. In these cases delays can be caused from lack of preparedness further impacting on the unplanned outage.
Issues such as software updates, no current system backups and delays associated with sourcing replacement of end of life equipment or long lead items can cause substantial delays.
Regular maintenance helps identify and rectify potential issues before they escalate into major problems, minimising the risk of unexpected downtime. It also allows teams to ensure access to the PLC including software licenses and updates are current.
Issues that can be identified in routine maintenance activities include:
Hardware issues and damage
Access to software and maintenance tools
Adequate labelling and documentation to make changes and updates to the system on short notice
Identify end-of-life equipment
Indication of faulty equipment from error/fault log
2. Compliance with Regulations
Industries are subject to regulations and standards to ensure safety, environmental responsibility, and product quality. Regular maintenance helps in keeping the control systems compliant with these regulations and identifies gaps.
Potential areas include:
Compliance with requirements for emergency circuits
Compliance Functional safety requirements
Compliance with requirements for SIL rated equipment
Hazardous situations created by auto start, remote control or sequencing of plant
3. Optimising Energy Efficiency
Well-maintained control systems can be more energy-efficient. Regular checks and updates can help identify areas of energy wastage and inefficiency, allowing for adjustments that reduce energy consumption and contribute to sustainability goals:
Process flow optimisation e.g. start sequences and running time of high energy equipment
Identifying potential energy saving measures through VSD control/Speed control
Identifying energy savings from review of trend data
What does a Preventative Maintenance Strategy look like?
A preventative maintenance strategy for PLCs and control systems may contain the following
Visual inspection of PLC, communications and control hardware
Clean and remove dust and debris
Periodic backups and software updates
Ensuring batteries are maintained or replaced
Confirmation of correct operation of emergency stops statutory circuits
Checking analogue inputs for accuracy and calibration
Checking updates for compliance to customer standards and notation
Ensuring correct operation of statutory emergency circuits
Reviewing error/fault data and identifying root cause
Ensure access to replacement parts and materials
Maintaining critical spares
In conclusion, the importance of maintenance on PLC and control systems cannot be overstated. For Perth plant owners and maintenance coordinators, it is not just a routine task but a strategic investment in the continued success and sustainability of their WA operations.
For the most part it does not need to be overly complex and where minimal changes are made to the system, maintenance may be limited to once or twice a year.
In a more complex operation control systems support may be required on a more frequent basis. In general the plant operator will have the best knowledge of plant requirements and should work with the Control Systems Engineers and Techs to strike the balance between a well-maintained system and a reasonable cost base.
By prioritising maintenance, industrial plants can minimise downtime, optimise efficiency, and
position themselves for long-term growth in an ever-evolving landscape of technology and industry standards.
To assist plant owner/operators LECE Electrical Engineering have in-house Control System engineers.
Get in contact with us today to discuss how we can work with your team to provide a cost-effective quality option for PLC maintenance and support.