Safeguarding plant automation

Control Logic Pty Ltd

Saturday, 01 June, 2019


Change Management System (CMS) is an automatic process that can rewind time, so that whatever has been is never lost forever. It protects production lost time by a centralised system that manages the changes of configurations, logic and corresponding documentation for devices such as PLCs, CNCs, HMIs, PC control systems, robots, drives and general automation programs.

Have you ever made a program change that you wish you had not? Lose the only copy of the device program? Not sure if the application running in the device is the right one? If you have been in this predicament, then MDT Autosave could have saved you a lot of time. The CMS sits on top of the original hardware manufacturer software, so the programming environment stays precisely the same but MDT Autosave works in the background to maintain rigour to the automation environment.

As automation devices continue to add complexity and integrate into plant operation, there is an increased need to adjust variables and logic to continue smooth operation. These adjustments may be minor individually but links to machine throughput and uptime. Resorting to an old, unknown configuration version to restore production because of lost laptops or files will most likely cause a disastrous outcome of decreased machine performance, decreased quality or downtime. While this situation is costly enough, consider the ramifications to plant operation if there are no older versions of a lost program available and the program must be completely rewritten. This can and does happen, significantly affecting plant throughput for months. This impact adds costs of re-rewriting, testing and commissioning a single program and is often more significant than the cost to implement a plant-wide CMS.

A typical small plant has a few hundred programs, while large plants have several thousand. Insurance underwriters are becoming aware of Change Management System when assessing the risk profile of facilities due to the fact that over the life of a facility, the investment in program logic alone represents a significant expenditure that should be preserved and optimised. In order for this functionality, a CMS should have the following features:

  • An archive of prior revisions of programs
  • The ability to detect changes in the background
  • Tools for documenting changes and making them visible to users
  • A historical record of who made the change, when and from where it originated
  • Secured user and workstation access
  • Features for controlling editor operations mapped to user permissions
  • Procedures for recovering from hardware failures
  • Change notification

Change Detection is tested by automatically interrogating the hardware device configurations and comparing this running program versus the reference copy in the CMS and ensures a complete history of changes archived. While Change Documentation bridges the gap where so many program editors and software packages don’t have the capabilities to identify. The CMS yields tremendous benefit by providing a consistent, intuitive tool to compare changes between any two file versions, either between a master copy, prior version or the current version in the processor.

Discrepancies or changes to the automation layer can be identified in graphical detail and trigger an immediate notification to the responsible individuals. In situations that result in a loss of the program, MDT Autosave provides the last known working configuration without wasting time locating the program on dead and buried laptops, or walking around the countryside on an external contractor’s old laptop. Moreover, the invested software and configurations are stored safe and secure centrally using SQL database.

MDT Autosave adds user and workstation authentication to access the automation layer where most programmable configuration software does not. Facilities with controllers that can directly affect the occupational health and safety of employees can be locked to certain users or assigned to groups with permission profiles, while plant expansion works can be open to external contractors. This protects existing investments that are working from accidental interactions or incompetence.

For a larger image, click here.

CMS disaster recovery detects faults before the operator becomes aware. When replacing network-connected devices, MDT Autosave takes over to ensure it operates precisely as before the disaster. While non-networked device management is also supported using a checkout and check-in procedure and non-networked tools can be used to download copies of programs from the central repository to provide the controls engineer access to the programs for most industrial and generic automation devices.

Safeguarding against unforeseen events saves the organisation thousands in time and revenue as it’s expensive and unnecessary to redo PLC logic. A lapse of judgment or an intentional act leading to unnecessary downtime requires adequate planning, strategy and a robust CMS that works automatically in the background. It ensures recent and reliable backup of the automation control program logic and corresponding documentation is at hand at any time. Whether it be human error, equipment failure, sabotage, power quality or fire, MDT Autosave offers a protective mechanism from any disruptive event and makes a wise investment.

For more information on how you can safeguard your automation asset please contact Control Logic on 1800 557 705 or email

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