Many technologists are surprised that systems only planned to be in service for 5-7 years are still in operation 15-20 years on. This is a testament that discrete manufacturing has improved and technology vendors of industrial hardware and industrial software solutions have been highly responsible in terms of protecting their customer’s investments in their products and the support systems around these products. Vendors recognise that to change equipment is a much larger issue than swapping out a component. Particularly so for critical infrastructure; design, design certifications including type approvals, testing harnesses, support personnel and training, all form part of the equation of what it means on the other side of; “let’s try one of these for size”. So unlike the consumer consumption and churn of smart device applications and desktop environments, critical infrastructure asset managers must prepare proactively to consider every detail of transition for components, equipment and especially systems.
Although a 15-20 year life cycle is impressive, there are some drawbacks. The longer equipment is left in service the more challenging it is for the organisation to maintain technical support capability including in-house technical and external vendor support. With knowledge workers changing jobs more often than technology is cycled, it is easy to understand why “non-industrial” technology providers simply remove their liability by removing a product’s support as soon as it becomes socially acceptable.
In November 2014, Parasyn was selected from the QR panel of providers to provide technical services under the Consultancy Services Agreement Contract. The Power Supervisory System (PSS) Upgrade – RTU (Remote Terminal Units) Replacement consultancy engagement is an initiative to prepare tender documents to be used to support the upgrade of the Power Supervisory System and any associated unsupported equipment. The responses to the final Request for Proposal (RFP) will provide Queensland Rail with sufficient information to evaluate the suitability of the respondents proposed solutions and the respondent’s ability to meet the business, technical and functional requirements described in this RFP.
The Power Supervisory System controls and monitors the 25kV overhead traction system for Queensland Rail. The extent of the system is the South-East Queensland Suburban Network to Rosewood in the West and the North Coast line to Parana (near Gladstone) in the North. There are interfaces with Aurizon for alternate feeding across the Parana boundary and with Powerlink for monitoring of the load.
Having provided engineering support to QR in the past, being familiar with their current technology and having implemented and supported a number of alternative RTU solutions meant that Parasyn was confident to work closely with Vendors proposing their wares in responding to a general EOI.
The primary deliverable was to produce the Technical Requirements Specification (TRS). The TRS details Queensland Rail’s requirements for RTUs for the next five to ten years. This was not possible without collaborating with each RTU vendor interested in providing their solution to QR. An essential component of the process was to connect with each vendor and understand their offering.
Parasyn’s role was to provide high level guidelines to vendors, evaluate their technology, provide further questions where information provided was not clear or did not cover the high level requirements and then assemble the key technical information to be used in the TRS.
The TRS areas of focus included;
- General Requirements in terms of staging and testing
- Detailed Technical Specifications
- External Interfaces
- Functional Requirements
Unlike PLC Systems, comparing RTU Solutions is like comparing apples and oranges. They are rarely similar because most of the vendors provide unique feature rich functionality including sophisticated calculations and support for multiple protocols (data acquisition). With different models of redundancy and less rigid standards in terms of “special” features, it is important to consider the options and what is left in the shopping cart after specific fundamental product selections are made. It’s complicated and it’s progressive. Essential in the selection of appropriate RTU systems is the product roadmap. The absence of a substantial and convincing roadmap spells risk. When looking beyond the glossy brochure and evaluating what next with the back drop of what has just occurred, it becomes immediately clear if an RTU vendor is caught in yesterday’s generation of products and is milking the cash cow versus thought leaders integrating new technologies at the very core of their product suite. Careful consideration of “what next” is perhaps more important than any thoughts about; “what can I have right now”.
Why use a consultant?
Depending on the requirements, consultants can be a help or a hindrance. We are the first to admit some things are simply done better by the organisation or someone who has a vested long term interest in owning an area of responsibility from start to finish. That said, there are still situations where the internal investment is simply too high or those with the specific skills cannot be employed into the organisation long term and be expected to maintain their industry skills. So when does it help to use a consultant? The following short list is our insight into why Parasyn customers engage consultants.
- Consultants have specific skills, generally honed for technology or process, rather than specific operational configuration
- Independence in terms of opinion, approach and historical dependence
- Focus and specific project accountability and deliverables
- Easy to replace, providing organisational productivity improvements
- Bring broad industry skills which are hard to support internally
- Working side by side, consultants support knowledge transfer using a different method to traditional training.
The Power Supervisory System (PSS) Upgrade – RTU Replacement initiative is sponsored by the Operational System Engineering Manager. This short term consultancy engagement was completed in March 2015.
The current Power Supervisory System (PSS) was installed in 2008/9 by Citect (now Schneider Electric). The system currently utilises Kingfisher Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) to control Feeder Stations, (Track Sectioning Cabin) TSC/TCU and (Motorised Isolator) MI sites.
To see more about SCADA and RTU Solutions see: https://www.parasyn.com.au/solutions/