The Path to Control
BY LEELON SCOTT
Welcome to the future. Are you facing its prof- itability and productivity challenges with a control system of the past? Statistically speaking, your answer is probably yes. There are about $20 billion
worth of obsolete automation and control systems in operation in this country.
These are systems that are difficult and expensive to maintain — and can’t be upgraded. In addition, they are unable to
use modern defense techniques against cybersecurity threats.
But what does a path to modernization look like?
There is more than one possible path, depending on your
needs and budget.
• Exact Replacement: This has the lowest cost but also the
lowest return on investment (ROI) and may not provide desired features such as security and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) interface.
• Functionally Equivalent (with some enhancements): This
takes advantage of some newer technologies to expand
functionality and features. It offers a middle point for both
risk and ROI.
• Full Modernization: This path takes every possible advantage of new technology. It has the highest initial cost, though
possibly a better long-term cost when unplanned outages
and other production impacts of obsolete control systems are
considered. It also offers the highest potential ROI.
When analyzing your situation, understand that there are
four phases to a modernization project.
1. Define project objectives (i.e., know what the project needs
2.Investigate the current situation, developing a scope of
work (SOW), sometimes using a front-end engineering and
design (FEED) study.
3. Conduct a business analysis and put project funding in place.
4. Execute the project implementing the funded SOW.
This is where the justification and planning reach fruition.
But having a detailed SOW is not enough; there are still key
elements to achieving successful implementation.
• Assemble the right team. It needs to engage all levels of
stakeholders. It’s also critical that the team understands and
buys into the SOW for the project
• Set the schedule. It needs to be accurate and realistic. It
must address all critical path elements, and it needs to clear-
ly show responsibility for each milestone.
• Develop the management plan. There should be an action
item list with description, start and due dates, team member responsibility, and a record of completion. A good FEED
study can form the foundation of the management plan.
• Ensure formal communications. Considered critical to a successful project, regular communication needs to take place
at all levels and with all stakeholders. Regular team meetings will review schedule progress and provide a two-week
look ahead for upcoming activities.
OTHER KEY CONSIDERATIONS
In addition to the above points, other considerations need to
• Ensure that necessary resources are available at the appropriate points in the schedule.
• Ensure that the right operations, engineering, and management personnel receive system-specific training on the new
systems, especially those that may involve a new or unfamiliar
• Conduct hardware and software factory acceptance testing (FAT). This is critical to the start-up and commissioning
process, and may also present opportunities for the required
• Verify the communication functionality of all smart field devices (a potential risk element).
• Verify the network’s performance with all devices connected.
Project results should be compared against the FEED study
and SOW. The project needs to be completed on schedule
and on budget, meaning no scope creep has occurred. When
these targets are met, all team members experience a win
with a successful modernization project. WW
About the Author: Leelon Scott II, is director of OEM Business Development for
Revere Control Systems. He is also a board member of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA). For more information about
WWEMA, visit www.wwema.org.