Distributed Control Systems

A distributed control system (DCS) acts as the central brain of an industrial facility. It is a central computer that autonomously coordinates the many subsystems (such as sensors and controllers) located around a plant in real-time. DCS are particularly important for controlling complex processes or for large continuous manufacturing plants where top-down control and coordination is vital for efficiency.  

How Does a Distributed Control System Work?

Throughout any plant, subsystems such as sensors or data collection devices communicate with the distributed control system through the plant’s high-speed communication network. The DCS reads and interprets production trends to make an automated decision and send instructions to individual controllers—programmable logic controllers (PLCs)—throughout the plant.

Advantages of Distributed Control Systems

Distributed control systems are particularly necessary in very large manufacturing operations where thousands of control loops need to be monitored in real-time. Human engineers cannot manually monitor these many individual systems, which is why an automated central system is required. The DCS enables applications such as production scheduling, preventative maintenance scheduling, and information exchange.

A DCS facilitates the geographical distribution of subsystems throughout your plant. Used correctly, a DCS can greatly monitor or improve operational features such as:

  •       Efficiency
  •       Risk of subsystem failure (and isolate a failed subsystem for maintenance)
  •       Reporting
  •       Safety
  •       Security

While the main benefit of a DCS is automation, human operators can make changes, input manual overrides, or manually react to alarms or other signals as they see fit. Most DCS include dashboard displays that show trends, production values, alarms, and other information in a way that is easily readable by human operators.   

What is the Difference Between a DCS and a PLC?

The main difference between a PLC and a DCS is scale. A PLC is designed to control one or a small handful of production processes. Once programmed, a PLC will perform actions in response to various inputs to regulate industrial production. PLCs are ruggedized to facilitate operation in harsh industrial conditions, such as extreme temperatures or vibrations.

While PLCs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they cannot run an entire plant. Instead, a distributed control system is used as the central brain that monitors, supervises and sends instructions to potentially thousands of PLCs at once. The term “orchestration” is frequently used in relation to a DCS—in the spirit of this description, the DCS acts as the conductor, while PLCs are the musicians.

Schneider Electric Distributed Control System Repair Services

Although one of the benefits of a distributed control system is the prevention of subsystem failure through monitoring and predictive maintenance, DCS systems require regular maintenance and repair to operate at optimal levels. Repairing a DCS is much more cost-effective than replacing components or the entire system.

Most DCS-related failures occur in 

  •       Input/output (I/O) modules
  •       Power supplies

Schneider Electric Industrial Repair Services leverages more than 40 years of experience in this area to quickly repair your DCS and restore your plant to operate as efficiently as possible.  

Our comprehensive service covers DCS from common legacy brands such as Westinghouse Distributed Processing Family (WDPF) and Bailey Net90. Our repairs will extend the operating life of your DCS equipment by 

  •       Replacing components identified as defective by visual inspections and static tests.
  •       Replacing components identified as unreliable because of age or condition.

Schneider Electric Industrial Repair Services performs preliminary testing followed by a dynamic test to confirm all existing problems are identified and addressed. We’re so confident in our ability to identify and fix all DCS issues that our repair work features a one-year warranty for the entire system, not just the components we repaired or replaced.

Setting the Standard in Electronics Repair

Schneider Electric Industrial Repair Services leads the industry in the repair of complex electronic systems. We strive to be nothing less than exceptional in everything we do, from our repairs and solutions to our customer service. 

Contact us to discuss the maintenance and repair needs for your distributed control system.

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