Best practices to help with multiplatform system integration

Ease a multiplatform system integration process by doing vendor research, having a common network, and upgrading legacy equipment.
By Nathaniel Kay, Laura Mann December 8, 2016

Learn these tips when integrating industrial automation devices and systems across control system platforms. When integrating different platforms for devices in at a plant, there are many steps to take to make sure different platforms are integrated correctly and efficiently. These three key tips and tricks can help determine if multiplatform system integration is the best path to take.

1. Research automation vendor devices

Ensure that automation and control devices from multiple vendors will integrate effectively. Many vendors can provide documentation, such as case studies, white papers, or a brochure with detailed information on devices. It’s also important to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies from vendors with "lunch and learns" or by attending industry conferences. Doing the research will save a lot of time and money in the long run. Having to take several steps back in projects because of not doing enough research is not an efficient approach.

2. Look for a common network to share

Ethernet is becoming more popular in the industry due to its cost effectiveness and ability to communicate plantwide to a variety of devices. Ethernet can be reliable and effective for getting different devices communicating.

If you can’t get the devices to communicate using the existing network, try researching gateways and protocol converters. With this method, you can have multiplatform devices communicating on a common network.

3. Sometimes it’s better to update

There’s a lot of outdated equipment in the manufacturing realm. ARC Advisory Group estimated that there’s $65 billion worth of installed process automation systems in the world today that are nearing their end of their useful lifecycles, which, in many cases, can exceed 25 years. Legacy equipment might not even have the capability to communicate via Ethernet. Sometimes the best method to effectively integrate devices is to upgrade the legacy equipment. Many vendors and system integrators provide migration tools and plans to help with time and budget. Overall, an equipment upgrade can save a lot of time and money for your client.

Following these tips will help ease the process of multiplatform system integration. Being educated when it comes to what kind of equipment needs to be upgraded at a facility and what is compatible with each device will set a path for success and shorten project timelines.

Nathaniel Kay is an engineer at MartinCSI, and Laura Mann is the marketing coordinator at MartinCSI. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, eguenther@cfemedia.com.

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Key Concepts

Steps to take for multiplatform system integration

How to do the proper research for multiplatform system integration

Methods to ease the system integration process.

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