Have you ever ventured into a server room or opened a control panel which contained mission critical equipment, and just looked right past legacy equipment that hasn’t been used in years?

Like old parts propped up in a corner, and cabinets full of cables that aren't connected to anything?

Maybe you inherited these “opportunities,” or maybe you created them? Either way, the fact of the matter is that to get to where you want to be in your facility, you cannot accept this as the normal any longer.

In my experience I've come to firmly believe that the first step in regaining control of your control systems takes root in housekeeping.

Photo by Brandon Cooper

Take a look at the picture above and ask yourself this question: Do I accept this level of disorganization in my facility's panels and cabinets?

From personal experience I can assure you that some of you do.

But in a world that's growing more competitive, most companies are seeing decreasing profit margins, which makes downtime and time to troubleshoot even more costly.

How competitive can “Facility A” really be when they have disorganized panels and cabinets like the above, with no drawings or documentation, and workers who are always in “firefighter” mode?

How well will “Facility A” compete against “Facility B” which has organized and documented its control and network panels with up to date documentation and drawings, as well as labeled all the critical components, connections, and ports?

In this scenario, “Facility B” measures their troubleshooting in seconds instead of hours or even minutes, running like a world-class facility and operating as good as the control systems behind them.

Now some may be asking themselves, does it really hurt to leave legacy equipment lying around and cluttering up panels, cabinets, and storerooms?

Well, while unused equipment and cabling may not be actively taking your systems down, it may well dictate the level of acceptance for clutter and poorly documented systems in the rest of your facility, resulting in more of the same from your staff and outside contractors who work on your systems.

With that in mind, it becomes obvious that rooms, closets, cabinets, panels, and enclosures should be clean, clear of clutter, with critical systems well documented. Your servers, network, and control equipment depend on it.

Ideally, they should be organized so that any engineer who needs to troubleshoot your systems can make decisions in seconds, instead of having to spend hours tracing through an uncharted sea of cables and wiring without up to date labels and documentation.

Changing from “Opportunities” to “Ownership”

If I were to inherit this equipment, the first thing I would do is clean up what can be done quickly, since taking ownership is the first step in moving towards being a world class facility.

So start by removing the legacy equipment and anything else that doesn’t belong.

Next, create a plan for the next outage or opportunity to organize and document everything down to the last detail.

Everything should be labeled and documented while unused cables and equipment should be removed (when possible,) and all other cables and wiring should be neatly organized.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

While this is just a part of the puzzle, it can be a substantial part depending on the level of effort you put into it before a problem arises.

When you create an atmosphere in your server rooms and control panels that demand respect, you'll also promote an atmosphere for others in your facility to follow.

If we want to be world-class, we must carry ourselves exactly that way. If we accept less, complacency may soon lead to loss of opportunities and profits.

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer
Edited for content and clarity by Shawn Tierney

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Brandon Cooper

Brandon is a freelance writer for The Automation Blog, as well as a husband, father, writer and angler. He spends his days working as a Sr. Controls Engineer in the Pulp & Paper Industry
Brandon Cooper

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2 Blog Comments

  1. I totally agree Brandon! Whether it’s auxiliary equipment bought from an outside source or equipment being maintained on the floor, it takes anyone involved in the process to do their part to make this happen. It only takes a few minutes to tuck a few wires back in and put the wire tray cover back on or make the wire just a little longer so it doesn’t have to stretch across the panel. As for legacy components, a little time investment now is for sure better than hours (or days) of downtime with investigation and engineering when the system is down. Good points. Thanks!

    Paul
    Automation Engineer

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