7 Common Mistakes Made When Replacing the Hardware for a System Update
Mistake #1: Trying to match hardware spec for spec
The most common way to replace hardware is to follow the intuitive first step--check the specifications of the hardware that needs to be replaced and look for hardware that most closely matches. The problem with this method is that systems most often need an update due to the hardware being out of date or nearing obsolescence. If you try to match specifications, your closest match will be another old piece of hardware that is going to be out of date within a few years. You likely picked the best available hardware at the time. Newer hardware could have features or specifications that better meet the need. Instead of matching specifications, you need to know what the key specifications are and get the hardware that meets those specific needs.
Mistake #2: Failing to reevaluate the system’s requirements
The best way to determine the key specifications that need to be considered is to review and reevaluate the system’s requirements. Compare the old requirements to the latest technology that is available today. Ask questions about why each requirement existed. Some of the existing hardware specifications will be key factors in meeting the requirements for the system, but many specifications could be irrelevant. This knowledge will set you up to select the proper hardware that will increase the longevity and sustainability of your system.
Mistake #3: Selecting instruments before defining what modifications will be made on the system update
While reviewing the system’s requirements, consider what additional capabilities you may want to add to the system. An update is a great time to add features. You may have some challenges that were not anticipated early on that could be overcome during the update. There may also be some features that were not possibilities during the original development. Before you get too far down the road, make sure that you know all changes that you want to make before ordering hardware that corners you with limited capabilities.
Mistake #4: Making assumptions about the wiring of the current system
You may be very confident with this system that you have been working with for years, but the wiring can turn out to be very unexpected once the system opens up. Signal conditioning within the wiring, disconnected pins, or mismatched connectors will cause serious problems. Take the time to study the wiring and connections of your system rather than making costly assumptions.
Mistake #5: Underestimating the software impact of the hardware change
The software can be impacted much more than is typically expected. It is nearly always more than a plug and play situation. New hardware likely has a different driver than the old equipment that you have. It may even have a different API that could require a full rehaul of the hardware to software interface and this gets even more complicated if there are multiple drivers that need to be replaced. A hardware abstraction layer will minimize this risk.
Mistake #6: Not considering the protocols and interfaces of the hardware
This may seem obvious, but it is not rare to see this mistake. It most commonly occurs by not looking into the details of the protocols and interfaces. If you hook up hardware with RS232 serial and the rest of the system is expecting RS485, then the system will not be able to communicate. You may have a digital IO device that uses a sourcing setup. Your new device may use the correct voltage and everything else may seem correct, but if you have a synching IO device your system will not work.
Mistake #7: Underestimating the cost - Waiting until it is too late
A system update is likely going to cost much more than you expect. Learning about these mistakes is a great way to anticipate some of the hiccups you may encounter, but there will still be more that you just don’t expect. The best way to avoid this major cost is to perform regular maintenance on the system. Updating one piece of hardware at a time before anything becomes obsolete. Regular system maintenance is something that many companies don’t want to invest in. The regret doesn’t come around until the entire system needs a rehaul and the cost goes through the roof.