Maintenance Matters
The ABC of TLC for your PLC?

Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) based control systems are entrenched in almost every manufacturing or processing business. PLCs control and regulate critical production systems and processes. They’re also critical for many other organisations controlling such things as environmental conditions, security and safety.

A failed control system can cause significant plant/operational downtime and is likely to be extremely costly; it can also create a hazardous situation when the system is controlling a critical process.

Horizon Technology’s Director, Robin Hill, has lost count of the number of times NZ business have contacted him in desperation, seeking urgent solutions to control system disasters. 

“My experience has been that often production managers understand little about the risk their control system presents to their business.  Maintenance engineers, tasked with maintaining systems at a high state of readiness, often get caught with their ‘pants down’ when things go wrong”.

“Too many NZ operations adopt a head-in-the-sand attitude to disaster recovery in the automation context, often choosing instead to offer up weak excuses like: “We’re going to update/mothball/replace that equipment/machine/plant soon so we won’t worry about spending anything on it in the meantime.

“Yeah, Right!  Try telling that to the CEO when the plant falls over and you don’t have a plan”.

Robin has spent over 35 years in the New Zealand automation and control industry spanning food and beverage, energy, general manufacturing and public utilities and knows only too well that most automation systems only announce their presence when they stop working. He is a specialist in migrating passed-their-use-by-date control systems to currently-supported technologies and thereby retaining and leveraging clients’ existing investment and know-how.

Robin is one of the expert technical presenters on day 1 of the annual National Maintenance Engineering Conference (NMEC) to be staged in November at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton.

At NMEC 2017, Robin will present the session “Knowing the ABC of TLC for your PLC’s”.  In other words planning for control system failure: risk analysis, running repairs, disaster recovery.

The presentation will pose some testing questions:

  • How well do you understand automation systems in your business?
  • How is knowledge of your control systems distributed within and outside your organisation?
  • Do you have Service Level Agreements in place with key suppliers?
  • Do you have a disaster recovery plan and if so, how much of that plan relies on people and organisations you have little or no control over?

If you have a plan, have you shared it with others in your organisation, and how confident are you that it works?

NMEC 2017 – registrations now open at

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