As you and I travel the roadways each day, we cross paths with many other people traveling to their destinations in automobiles of all kinds.

We notice some vehicles are well taken care, while others are not so well taken care of.

While some owners choose to take care of their vehicles with extra effort, and drive them with few issues for many years, others whom neglect their vehicles often end up with significant failures before their investment is paid for.

Image by Brandon Cooper

The same is true for control systems: We all have choice of whether to monitor the “service engine” light or ignore it.

Whether we choose to be proactive or reactive can be the difference in how well we sleep at night (so I believe being proactive is the better way to go.)

There are both hardware and software tasks that can be done to monitor what is going on with our control systems, both to prevent issues as well as give us the ability to rapidly troubleshoot issues do arise.

Monitoring Temperature

We all know that electronics and high temperatures do not mix well.

If an A/C unit fails, then the faster that it can be repaired may be the difference in your control system processor lasting ten years or twenty years.

Even if the temperature does not get high enough to shut a processor down, it could still be causing lasting damage. Repeated overheating may reduce the life of components even more.

Monitoring of Rack Room or Controller temperatures is highly important for Control Systems. Having automated emails sent to operations and/or control engineers based on high temperature will go a long way to resolving these issues as soon as possible.

Clean Air
 
When was the last time you cleaned the incoming or outgoing air filters on the cooling fans of your Control System cabinets?

Chances are they’re replace is overdue, but they need to be replaced at proper intervals in order to do their job of allowing fresh filtered air into the cabinet.

Air purification and pressurization systems are important to have in rack rooms as well.

Monitoring and alarming when your rack room loses pressure can also be an important step in preventive maintenance of your control system.

In many industries, if an air purification or pressurization system fails, the corrosion rate for control system equipment increases tenfold.

Not knowing the system is down for several days could cost your facility significant repairs.

Software Monitoring

There are many attributes to monitor from a software point of view, and any of the more critical ones should also include an email alert be sent directly to the control systems team for resolution.

This can be the difference in troubleshooting time measured in seconds instead of minutes or hours.

Here are a few points I’d recommend starting with:

  • Processor Redundancy Failure Alarm
  • I/O Rack or Module Faulted
  • Device Level Ring Fault
  • Operator Station /HMI Failure
  • Temperature or Pressure Failure in Rack Rooms
  • Network Component Failures

While these might sound like simple tasks, your facility might have dozens of important rack rooms to monitor, with possibly hundreds of intelligent control system components to monitor.

Implementation of each of these parameters on every device will take time, however the end-result is more sleep at night.

And at the end of the day the result will be more uptime at your facility, with lower production costs.

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer

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