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Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Upgrade Your PLC-5s

Rockwell Automation announced that as of June 2017, the PLC-5® Control System is discontinued and no longer available for sale.

Are you one of many manufacturers still using PLC-5s? If so, you should consider upgrading from the now obsolete PLC-5 to a modern, currently supported controls platform sooner rather than later.

Relying on an outdated, unsupported control system means you are taking a substantial risk if you don’t have a backup plan. Your PLC-5 control system could continue to run for many years to come. But who will be there to fix it when it fails? And where will you get the replacement parts?

Ultimately, your production line will be down until you locate and integrate a replacement. As with any discontinued system, each day that passes means less and less available replacement parts and rising costs for any type of a quick fix solution. Every minute of lost production will impact your plant financially while you search for replacement parts or wait for a new controls solution to be implemented.

Be Proactive to Prevent Downtime

Taking proactive measures now is key. If you don’t plan to upgrade, it is recommended to have backup PLC-5 hardware in stock. Eventually, you will only be able to purchase used or second-hand hardware, and those components will not come at a low cost.

The other option is to seize the future and upgrade your systems to a modern controls platform now. Performing a planned upgrade comes with many added benefits.

Newer programmable controllers:

  • Have faster execution times
  • Have more memory
  • Usually result in a performance boost at a lower cost
  • Have better diagnostics capabilities
  • Contain multicore processors for improved performance
  • And many include the capability to store program comments in processor memory, due to the Increased on-board memory

The cost might not be as high as you think. Because of these features, you may be able to replace two or more current PLC-5s with one modern controller. Upgrading to another modern control system platform from the PLC-5 will mitigate risks of production loss and downtime, as well as unlock new benefits such as improved run times, flexible programming, and more flexible communication options.

In an emergency, the conversion to a different control platform will require translating the existing program as-is, and that may help to get things up and running again in a few days. However, if you plan ahead and upgrade your system before it is an emergency, you can take advantage of that extra time to develop a new program that takes full advantage of the newer platform’s features such as a flexible tag structure, and prioritized task execution.

Your system integrator can assist with the full upgrade to ensure you are maximizing the benefits available in the selected replacement controller. Integrators can also provide a phased installation plan for a full system upgrade, which minimizes extended periods of downtime.

However, you choose to address Rockwell discontinuing PLC-5 support, make sure you have a plan. Lost time and money are serious consequences often wrought by outdated and unsupported automation programs.

Author: Jason Baron, EPIC Systems, Inc. Power & Controls Group Manager

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