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Dcs or Plc?

Dcs or Plc?

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Published by apextec898

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Published by: apextec898 on Oct 26, 2009
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Seven Questions to Help YouSelect the Best Solution
Distributed Control Systems(DCS) or Programmable LogicControllers (PLC)
For manufacturers in theprocess industries, theprocedure for selecting thebest automation technology isnot as easy as it once was. Inthe past it was fairly easy todetermine whether a PLC or aDCS was right for yourapplication, because theirstrengths and weaknesses werewell understood. In recentyears this has become moredifficult, thanks primarily to theadvancement of themicroprocessor, which hasallowed the technologies tomerge. With the trend towardflexible manufacturing inindustry, many of theapplications in the processindustries now share the
traditionallythought to be exclusive toeither DCS or PLC. These hybridapplications typically require aprocess control system that candeliver
PLC and DCScapabilities. Thus understand-ing the merging of PLC andDCS functionality is importantfor selecting the best systemfor your company.In this white paper, we willshift away from some of theclassic stereotypes of DCS andPLC , such as those shown inTable 1 on page 9, in order toexplore seven key criteria,which will help your companyselect the system that bestmeets your goals. We will alsodemonstrate why having aclear picture of the
   W   h   i   t   e   P   a   p   e   r
The convergence of PLC and DCS technologies has created a situation where itis more challenging than ever for process manufacturers to select the besttechnology for their application. A successful evaluation should start bydeveloping a clear picture of the
of your application and the
of your engineering, maintenance, and operations personnel. To helpclearly define these requirements and needs for your company, this paperoutlines the seven key questions that will lead you to making the right choice.
of your application and the
of yourengineering, maintenance, and operations personnel isparamount to finding the right automation technology foryour company. Finally, we will provide you with a simplecheck list (Table 4) to help you determine what type ofsystem works best for your application.
Benefits of Selecting the "Right" AutomationTechnology
In this era of global competition, manufacturers in theprocess industries are being driven to achieve operationalexcellence to secure their place ahead of theircompetition now and in the future. Selection of newautomation technologies impacts this goal. Consequently,the selection process is more important to a company'sstaying power than ever before. In fact, the importance ofthe selection of technology far outweighs the cost of theautomation investment itself.
Selecting the right technology and the right supplier canhelp your company:
respond quickly to changing market conditions in away that creates a sustainable competitive advantage
minimize Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over the lifeof your plant
create a system which is easily maintainable/upgradeable for the long-term
achieve its future goals and vision
Let's Get Technical Stereotypes Out of the Way!
Selecting an automation system based on a review ofavailable products is the typical course of action forsomeone in the market for a new automation system. Theproblem with this approach is that your perception ofwhich systems "make the cut" is often based on oldstereotypes or influenced by the claims of the firstsalesperson in the door. Let's look at the components of aDCS or PLC based system to see how different (or similar)they really are.At first glance, the pictured system architectures look verysimilar. Both systems share the following components:
Field devices
Input/output modules
Human machine interface (HMI)
Supervisory control
Business integrationAs you look at the following system architectures, youshould note that the technologies used in each system arein fact, very similar; the difference becomes moreapparent when you consider the nature and requirementsof the application.2
Figure 1 Typical DCSSystem Architecture
For example, in the DCS architecture diagram, redundancyis often employed for I/O, controllers, networks, and HMIservers. Since redundancy adds cost and sometimescomplexity, DCS users must carefully evaluate their needfor redundancy in order to achieve their required systemavailability and to prevent unplanned downtime.The PLC architecture illustrates one of its most commonapplications, the control of discrete field devices such asmotors and drives. To effectively control motors anddrives requires that the controller be able to execute athigh speeds (typically a 10–20 msec scan rate), and thatthe electrical technician responsible for maintaining it beable to read and troubleshoot the configuration in alanguage that he is familiar with (relay ladder logic).From a technology point of view, one can see that PLCand DCS are not that different, which has paved the wayfor them to merge. Therefore, we must look beyondtechnology to the application expertise and domainknowledge that is built in to these systems by thesupplier, so that we can better understand the"sweetspots" where each is best applied.
The Seven Questions to Ask Yourself BeforeChoosing a System
Now we will get to the core of this paper – the sevenquestions you should ask yourself before choosing asystem.Please realize that we will be using broad generalizationsin the following analysis, and that every individualapplication will have exceptions to these "rules;" however,the logic is still sound. Since the authors work "ondifferent sides of the PLC/DCS fence" for a supplier thathas delivered both DCS and PLC solutions to the marketfor over 25 years, we feel that we are in a unique positionto deliver both sides of the story.The seven questions are designed to make you thinkabout your company's operating philosophy andapplication
, taking into account the point ofview of all the major stakeholders in your plant(engineering, operations, maintenance, etc.).1. What are you manufacturing, and how?2. What is the value of the product being manufacturedand the cost of downtime?3. What do you view as the "heart" of the system?4. What does the operator need to be successful?5. What system performance is required?6. What degree of customization is required?7. What are your engineering expectations?Note that a consolidated list of questions and possibleresponses are presented at the back of this paper inTable 4 (tearoff page). One simple method for gaugingwhether you should be using a PLC or DCS is to gothrough this survey form, checking all of the responsesthat apply. If all of your responses are in one column, thenyour application clearly calls for this one type of system. Ifyou have multiple selections from both the PLC and DCScolumns, then maybe you have a “hybrid” applicationwhich requires a process control system capable ofdelivering both PLC and DCS functionality.3
Figure 2 Typical PLC-based System Architecture

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