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Companies once approved new plant automation systems simply to maintain up-to-date computer and instrumentation systems. But with today’s tight budgets, you now need to define a clear return on investment to win approval for your automation or information solutions upgrade.
Since operations personnel typically own the daily use of these new systems, it’s easy to identify ROI examples from their perspective. When you’re looking for improved cash flows and formulating cost justifications for your next project, use these four variables in evaluating the expected reduced operating costs of new automation systems.
1. Better Situational Awareness Boosts Revenues
Newer graphical control systems typically increase situational awareness. This allows the operator to correct adverse conditions more quickly and improve plant safety. But safety may be hard to quantify. You can calculate more direct positive impacts of improved situational awareness in terms of increased plant throughput. When corrective actions to process conditions are executed faster due to increased situational awareness, plant throughout, and thus plant revenues, are positively affected.
2. New Systems Support Knowledge Retention
As aging workers retire, they take their operations and maintenance expertise with them. Because companies are reluctant to train new employees on legacy systems, that knowledge is simply lost. By updating their systems, operations teams can improve their ability to make changes and systems enhancements. Newer systems also attract younger technical employees who want to work on state-of-the-art equipment. Companies benefit from greater knowledge retention and a more efficient hiring process.
3. Improved Batch Consistency Increases Overall Throughput
Legacy systems often impede batch consistency. For instance, a long and complex manufacturing process that involves manual steps may be susceptible to errors. Or perhaps aging operators have streamlined their individual process runs based on intuition and experience, but younger employees can’t duplicate their success. By implementing a fully automated system with a data historian, companies can improve batch consistency and reduce errors, thereby increasing throughput per annum.
4. Centralized Control Requires Fewer Operators
Older systems may rely on several separate control systems that require numerous operators throughout the plant. Implementing a centralized control system reduces the number of control room operators needed. This frees up manpower for other maintenance and troubleshooting tasks, which in turn streamlines operations and helps combat attrition.