Success story: extending machine lifespan

How to extend the lifespan of 20-year-old machines and systems.

As ThinManager® – A Rockwell Automation Technology system integrator, we often face client systems like SCADA or HMI’s which, although still functional and running, are non-economical to maintain and have a high risk of breakdown due to their age. This was also a successful case with our client Vinilos del Este S.L. in Valencia, Spain. 

The project description

Vinilos del Este S.L. is a Spanish company leading in the manufacturing of PVC by the calendering method. The company began its commercial career in 1986 supplying rigid PVC to the furniture industry. In 1999 Vinilos del Este installed the most modern calendering lines in Europe, starting to produce at the beginning of 2001. 

The lines were standalone, running on Siemens SIMATIC S7-300 and S7-400 series PLCs and WinCC SCADA on SIMATIC HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) with Microsoft Windows NT4 as the operating system. This is quite a common scenario we have with many of our clients. Due to the age of the systems, the first signs of fatigue appeared causing production loss. The IPC’s started to fail and Vinilos del Este was faced with the decision to either upgrade or replace their SCADA system. 

With our experience in the ThinManager product, virtualisation and the main automation vendors we offered a partial network upgrade and virtual machine (VM) conversion of the main SCADA components. This allowed the SCADA system to be run in a protected datacentre. Using ThinManger and ThinClients as a replacement for the outdated IPC’s we were able to reduce the risk of downtime, increase security and reduce the recovery time to just minutes instead of days. 

The challenge

From day one of the project we were facing the potential risk of an immediate breakdown, so time was of the essence. 

The SCADA system was running on an outdated SIMATIC WinCC version and Windows NT4, giving compatibility issues with the latest VMware ESXi servers. The system also used MODBUS serial and PROFIBUS connections directly on the IPC. These needed to be converted into ethernet. 

The system was also standalone and needed to be connected to a dedicated automation network to reach the automation datacentre. The operator workstations have a redundant monitor, keyboard and mouse setup, allowing two operators to work in parallel. 

The solution

At the beginning of the project, we took backups and images from all components, reducing the overall risk until the project was finalised. We then investigated the upgrade possibilities of the existing SIMATIC licences and components and were able to migrate the SCADA project into a newer version of WinCC compatible with Windows 2000 without any additional license cost. Windows 2000 as an operating system allowed us to use all relevant drivers and components needed for a successful conversion into a virtual machine. We installed PROFIBUS/MPI to Ethernet and MODBUS/RTU to Ethernet converters and made the necessary configuration changes in the SCADA system. 

Having the SCADA system converted into VM’s and with MODBUS and PROFIBUS on the IP network, we were able to leverage the power of Rockwell’s ThinManager solution.   

Replacing IPC’s & work in parallel

ThinManager in combination with Allen Bradley Thin Clients allowed us to fully replace all existing IPC’s. We were even able to spare an additional ThinClient due to the ThinManager MultiStation feature. With MultiStation we had the option to connect two monitors, keyboards and mice using a single ThinClient allowing two operators to work in parallel. 

Extending the lifespan

As a result of the VM conversion and the use of ThinManager / ThinClients, we protected the client from future wear-down issues. We reduced the SCADA repair time to just minutes and extended the lifetime of the client’s legacy systems. This makes the project very cost-effective as Vinilos del Este can now operate the SCADA for many more years to come. 

The future of the project

As Vinilos del Este was able to upgrade their SCADA on a much lower budget, the money saved can now be used to extend the existing SCADA system. As a next step, we are investigating the option to use OPC to retrieve data tags and provide extensive reporting and analytics (descriptive and prescriptive) of the now connected systems. 

About the software and the hardware used

About ProjectBinder

ProjectBinder has offices in Copenhagen Denmark and Valencia Spain. We specialize in IT / OT Automation, Network Design, Data Analytics and MES implementation.

We have successfully led many ThinManager implementation and conversion projects over recent years. We have been ThinManager system integrators for the last 4 years and are well equipped to lead ThinManager and VM conversion projects of any size due to our multi-disciplinary team of IT, Automation, OT Security Engineers, IT & Network Architects, Compliance and Project Managers.   

Want to talk

ProjectBinder provides full-service assessments to keep your facility running 24/7. To find out more contact us online or by calling:

+45 53 76 50 07

+34 656 447 074

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