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Maintaining Aging Industrial Automation Infrastructures and Factories

If you’re an engineer or technician in charge of maintaining industrial automation infrastructures and keeping factories running smoothly, you know the challenges involved. From legacy machines that need continual upgrades to handle new standards, protocols, and technologies, to locations with unique geographical needs such as remote areas – it’s no surprise that staying on top of these tasks can feel like a full-time job with overtime! Whether you want resources for learning about current trends in maintenance technology or are searching for tips on how to best care for aging infrastructure components, this blog post has something useful just for you.

Develop a Long-Term Plan

For industrial and manufacturing facilities looking to stay ahead of the competition, creating a long-term plan is a great way to ensure their infrastructure remains modern and efficient. Taking a step back to evaluate existing production processes and industry trends can open up opportunities for financial savings, increased output, improved safety standards, and more. For example, investing in energy-efficient systems or automation technology can reduce operational costs while streamlining processes and improving product quality. Additionally, utilizing data analysis to measure performance metrics such as cycle times or production line defects can help identify areas of improvement that can be addressed through targeted long-term development plans. Looking at old hardware such as shelving, HVAC systems, insulation, and flooring could all help with renewing your workspace. Even plans for full renovations or expansions could be extremely beneficial to all parties involved. Such a plan, however, isn’t typically written out overnight. It requires the aid of industrial and structural engineers, depending on the task, and a comprehensive budget for everything in between. Sure, creating such a plan could take months, but it would be worth it in the end to avoid headaches and downtime. All in all, methodical planning not only keeps a factory’s operations efficient but also sets it up for future success.

Monitoring Equipment Performance

Hack Factory Clean Up” by sobczak.paul is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Another step in maintaining an aging industrial automation infrastructure is to regularly monitor equipment performance. This means taking stock of how well each piece of equipment is performing by measuring factors like energy consumption, temperature readings, system uptime, alert settings, and more. By monitoring performance regularly, engineers and facility managers can identify potential issues before they spiral out of control—saving time, money, and resources in the long run. Sensors are typically found on the equipment itself, or by using a portable monitoring unit. Key areas in which to survey are:


Vibrations, where they shouldn’t be, are often a telltale sign that something is misaligned, there are loose parts in the system, bearings are wearing, or there is an imbalance in a rotating assembly. Eddy probes generate a magnetic field around its sensor head to measure shaft vibrations, axial position, rotational speed, and phase in rotating equipment, perfect for figuring out what is causing vibrations in a machine.


Heat is the enemy of a mechanical system. It causes warping, discoloration, weakness, and more depending on the intensity. Heat is typically caused by friction, which as a result is caused by a lack of lubrication. Heat can also be caused by a lack of sufficient cooling, such as an engine running on no oil or an empty radiator. Parts will seize in extreme cases and may be irreparable.


A typical accelerometer reads around 20 – 90kHz, but what if the issue starts by emitting a frequency at ultrasonic frequencies around 150 – 500 kHz?  Something small such as a ball bearing breaking through its lubricant to rub against the cage? Well, luckily there are high-frequency acoustic sensors that could help shine a light on issues that might otherwise be hidden.


Lubrication is extremely important for any mechanical device. Ever walked into a house that had a horrendously squeaky door? That is the result of friction from a lack of lubrication on its hinges. This also happens within machinery to a much more violent extent, often causing premature wear and tear that could be preventable. Checking for proper lubrication is key as well as using the right lubrication for the specific application. Having already existing lubrication samples collected and sent for a proper screening can also show premature wear within the system.

Investing in Quality Components

Investing in quality industrial automation components for your factory’s infrastructure is the key to keeping operations modern, efficient and safe. First, consider the different types of components that are available. From robotics to control systems and servomotors, all are evolving technologies that must be selected according to the needs of the factory. Once all of the necessary automation components have been identified, make sure you purchase them from a reliable supplier that specializes in industrial products, such as DO Supply. This is an important step as it will ensure your components are durable and up-to-date with current technological standards which will ensure they provide long-term solutions that maintain a safe work environment. Achieving these criteria should be at the top of everyone’s minds when looking to upgrade their factory’s infrastructure with quality industrial automation components!

Another helpful tip for finding the right automation parts for your needs is by reading comparison and product guides to direct you to the right path.

Investing in the Latest Safety Equipment

Investing in the latest safety equipment can be a worthwhile investment that not only helps modernize a factory but also keeps its workers healthy and secure. By investing in products such as updated personal protective equipment, state-of-the-art fire suppression systems, and automated solutions to physically demanding tasks, a factory can ensure the safety of its employees while meeting the demand for modern efficiency. It’s an investment that’s beneficial on all levels – better worker health ensures higher productivity levels and lower absenteeism, while up-to-date features make a facility more attractive to potential customers. Allen-Bradley, like other automation companies, has safety variants of their popular controllers, PLCS, and HMIs to help incorporate a safer work environment through the means of automation. Even brighter safety and hazard markers, brighter and more visible lights, proper weight limits on shelving, and well-known fire extinguisher locations can go a long way. Once again, DO Supply is a fantastic source of both standard and safety automation equipment for those looking to upgrade. It’s like having a built-in line of defense for both staff and materials; helping to ensure that everyone goes home safely each day.

In modern automation systems, having a kill switch is always essential. Whether it’s a physical button or a sensing curtain, they can help prevent injury and damage from occurring, though, they can only go so far. Investing in employees is as important as investing in the equipment they’re using. Proper training should be mandatory for all personnel using the equipment, proper lock-out tag-out procedures should be established, and all guards should be kept on the machinery at all times. Of course, we are only scratching the surface with these recommendations as much more in-depth research and training should go into setting your employees up for success.

Preventative Maintenance Programs

Finally, setting up preventative maintenance programs for key pieces of equipment is also important for keeping an aging industrial automation infrastructure running smoothly. By scheduling regular maintenance checks on all equipment—including HVAC systems, electrical systems, safety systems, etc.—engineers and facility managers can ensure that these systems are not only working properly but also keeping up to date with the latest technologies available. This helps reduce downtime, minimize costly repairs down the line, and keep employees safe while they work. Plus it saves time since any problems that arise can usually be detected quickly so they don’t have time to cause major damage before getting fixed. Most pieces of machinery also come with their own manuals that highlight specific preventative maintenance and time-sensitive maintenance actions. A prime example is how many miles your vehicle can go on a single oil change. Will driving an extra 1000 miles when an oil change is due be catastrophic for your engine? No, but it will increase wear that could have been prevented by a fresh oil change. In the airliner industry, many checks need to be completed every x number of flying hours. Brakes, tires, lights, and oil levels are checked pre and post-flight as well.

The Consequences of Negligence

On March 23rd, 2005, a British Petroleum (BP) refinery that was located in Texas City exploded. The cause of which was a malfunction within a refined oil tank causing the raffinate to flow where it shouldn’t have. While alarms that were set in place should have sounded, they didn’t, preventing workers from knowing that the raffinate was flowing into the blowdown drum which is designed for overflow in these situations. Due to several safety systems failing, the flow was never stopped and the blowdown drum overflowed, causing the raffinate to blast out, just to be ignited by a diesel truck that was parked too close to the blowdown drum. This caused more than 15 deaths and many others suffering injuries.

While not all malfunctions can cause your workspace to erupt into flames, the possibility is always there, especially when flammable fluids are involved in the industrial process. Toxic gasses can leak, pipes could burst, machines can bind and overheat, or even improperly maintained forklifts can burst their hydraulic lines and injure workers. Scheduled maintenance, preventative maintenance, and proper workers’ safety guidelines are all solutions that can help mitigate this problem. Also upgrading the complex structure and equipment, and modernizing safety systems also work in tandem to keep workers safe.

Another less severe consequence of improperly maintained equipment is downtime. In a factory producing thousands and thousands of products in a day, having a vital part within that process break down can cost hours of running time, and in turn, prevent products from being produced. Not only is money spent on paying technicians to remove and replace the failed part, but it also costs much more to buy a new part rather than maintain the old part. Mix this with the cost of factory downtime and the result is expensive. Setting aside the time to allow the technicians to go over their equipment during regular downtime will help avoid that very tragedy.


There is no one-stop guide for everyone’s specific needs when it comes to modernizing their workspace and it’s something we understand. Having the foundational knowledge to master the basics of maintaining your workspace opens up the path to getting more intimate with your equipment. Knowing when scheduled maintenance should occur to knowing how to operational check your safety equipment is a solid starting point. Getting more technical by replacing older machines with newer, more efficient and future-rich machines vastly increases the worker and facility quality of life. While not every shop has the luxury to buy the latest and greatest, modifying older machines (safely) to compete with newer technology is also a solid option for facility managers that are on a budget and have the proper knowledge. Having decades-old drill presses converted to a CNC press isn’t unheard of, and in proper instances, can work extremely well while saving money by recycling old equipment. But if one thing is for certain, your equipment will be much happier with proper maintenance and your workers will be much happier on safer and more reliable equipment, all while having an up-to-date environment that can ensure everyone goes home and all of the quotas are filled in a timely manner.

This entry was posted on January 30th, 2023 and is filed under Uncategorized. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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