Going to the Dark Side: DCS vs PLC

When I started my career as a young graduate of Villanova University, one of my first tasks was to complete a Distributed Control Systems (DCS) application with a custom batch solution. The equipment arbitration and recipe management made the system extremely complex and difficult to deal with. In the end, after countless hours of hard work, the user was left with a solid system that served them well for over 20 years.

In the meantime, my career had taken me into the world of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). Many of my early colleagues were skeptical of my ‘change of allegiance’ from DCS to PLC and would tease that I had gone to the dark side.

Then I was offered an opportunity to prove that a PLC-based solution could handle the work of a traditional DCS. That same system I worked on 20 years earlier needed an upgrade. This time, I was able to implement a more economical Rockwell Automation solution with FactoryTalk® Batch. Allowing an out-of-the-box solution to handle the equipment selection, recipe management, and scheduling made the implementation so much easier. There are a lot of reasons for the success of this project, including great project management, well-defined functional specification, 20 years of experience, and the ability to utilize standard products.

The Rockwell Automation system has now been running for eight years and is just as reliable as the original system, but now users can maintain the system themselves and handle recipe changes on their own. This new system greatly reduces the cost of ownership and offers users a faster time to market on new products.

So, to all those who think I have gone to the dark side, I offer the invitation to step into the light and see what a PLC-based process solution really looks like.

Share your DCS PLC story in the comments.

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About the author

Marcia Pohl
Marcia Pohl

Marcia is a respected Software Engineer with extensive experience in project engineering, product management and batch process control. She joined Horizon Solutions in June of 2016 as our Process Solutions Business Manager. Marcia has over 20 years of experience in the industry–including dedicated time with chemical, food & beverage, and pharmaceutical end users.