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30 May 2017, 7:06

Stepwise approach to upgrading your automation control system

Ageing automation systems are not able to keep up with the fresh challenges in today’s fast moving [Industry 4.0] manufacturing marketplace.
New generation automation systems can address these challenges, but planning a low-risk migration program can be daunting. Where can you start? 

The Challenge

Today, Industrial manufacturers are facing quite a challenge! They are under ongoing pressure to remain competitive in their marketplaces – they need to create smarter ways to manufacture – to improve their efficiency, raise productivity, minimise downtime and waste. They need to produce more, using less energy. Add to this conundrum the skills shortage - as engineering expertise is gradually retiring out of the business.

Out with the Old

Key to this challenge is that existing automation control systems, many of which have been installed in manufacturing sites for 10-20 years or more are no longer up to meeting these challenges. They may lack the processing capacity and flexible communications requirements to connect to both the growing array of intelligent plant devices, and to upstream SCADA and business software suites. They may lack on-the-fly change management now required for both flexible production runs and maintenance operations. Certainly they are not natively secure to today’s new risks of cyber-attack, and very likely they are using configuration software packages which require obsolete windows operating systems to run on. They may also lack the real-time intuitive visibility of process data for productivity and maintenance operations. Ageing control systems also face ongoing obsolescence and lack of spares availability.

In with the New

On the other hand, new generation control systems have taken huge steps forward to address these challenges - to list just a few examples - with integrated Ethernet/IP backplanes they have the necessary bandwidth and are ready to handle the vast volumes of data being generated by the growing number of connected intelligent devices, they deploy flexible open industry standards for connectivity and configuration, built-in cybersecurity, change-config-on-the-fly (CCOTF), bring-your-own-device (BYOD) support for mobile device rapid and remote access to process and diagnostics data, 24/7 Hot-Standby, hardware hot-swapping, fast-device-replacement (FDR) and IT-OT and cloud connectivity....

Migration planning

So, the need to upgrade existing installed base systems is therefore very apparent, but a step-by-step migration plan is recommended - whilst being interlaced with your future manufacturing vision, your migration plan should start with a site audit and review of life cycle plans for installed base equipment to identify critical elements. Plant will have naturally evolved over the years so a mixture of equipment of varying generations will co-exist. A step-by-step migration plan will allow for lowest risk approach and consideration of partial upgrades for processors, IO racks and modules, communications / networks and device field wiring.


Case example: Modicon 

 The world's first PLC in 1968 - Modicon 084Modicon invented the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) – the Modicon 084 was first introduced back in 1968. Modicon is now a Schneider Electric range family name.

Since then the PLC has evolved significantly, in the 1990’s the PLC started to become known as the PAC (Programmable Automation Controller) - this to differentiate its more powerful featureset (such as inbuilt PID, extended language sets, communications, on-board web-based diagnostics, data storage etc) compared to its primitive predecessor the PLC.

More recently in 2014, Schneider Electric launched the world’s first ePAC – a cybersecure PAC with full Ethernet/IP backplane – allowing for unprecedented data bandwidth and transparent IT-OT connectivity.


The Modicon range has introduced many variants over the years, always bringing in new innovation, whilst also being focussed on backward compatibility. Today’s software configuration environment (Unity Pro) whilst supporting all 5 of the IEC 61131-3 programming languages, also supports a sixth editor - LL984 language. This means that a Modicon PLC application created back in the 1980’s with DOS based software can be directly ported to run on the latest Modicon M580 platform. Hardware can also easily be migrated, optionally leaving exisitng racks, IO modules and field-wiring in place for a stepwise low-risk migration.

The latest generation Modicon M580 ePAC range provides a suite of different upgrade paths from legacy ranges which include :

1. Change CPU and software only - leave IO racks and modules and fieldwiring in place
2. Change CPU and software, IO racks and modules - leave only fieldwiring in place
3. Complete system replacement

Watch our 3 videos below that present different system upgrade options for legacy PLC platforms:

1 - Migration from Modicon Quantum / 800 IO Series to Modicon M580


2 - Migration from Modicon Premium to Modicon M580


3 - Migration from Rockwell PLC5 and SLC500 to Modicon M580


More information about the new generation Modicon M580 ePAC and migration options from other legacy PLC platforms available on attached PDF flyers and on this link below:


I enjoy all things gadgety and technology, so consider myself IIoT-enabled! Also enjoy movies - all time favourite has to be Terminator1

30 May 2017, 7:06