Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Selecting Programmable Logic Controllers or Distributed Control Systems

The convergence technologies of PLC and DCS has created a situation where it is more challenging than ever for process manufacturers to select the best technology for their application, especially in manufacturing industry. An evaluation should start by developing a clear picture of the requirements of your application and the needs of your engineering, maintenance, and operations personnel.

For selecting the best automation technology procedure is not as easy as it once was, for manufacturers in the process industries. In the past it was fairly easy to determine whether a PLC or a DCS was right for your application, because they have own strengths and weaknesses were well understood. In current years this has become more difficult, thanks primarily to the advancement of the microprocessor, which has allowed the technologies to merge. Many of the applications in the manufacturing process industries now share the requirements traditionally thought to be exclusive to either DCS or PLC with the trend toward flexible manufacturing in the industry. Typically these hybrid applications are requiring process control system that can deliver both the PLC and DCS capabilities. Thus understanding of the merging of PLC and DCS functionality is important for selecting the best system for your company.

We will shift away from some of the classic stereotypes of DCS and PLC in order to explore seven key criteria, which will help your company select the system that best meets your goals. It will also demonstrate why having a clear picture of the requirements of your application and the needs of your engineering, maintenance, and operations personnel is paramount to finding the right automation technology for your company.

One can see that PLC and DCS are not that different, which has paved the way for them to merge from a technology point of view. Therefore, we must look beyond technology to the domain knowledge and application expertise that is built in to these systems by the supplier, so that we can better understand the sweetspots where each is best applied.

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