What manufacturers need to know about remote management tools
Remote management tools allow plant and factory operators to adjust processes, conduct maintenance and make operational decisions with actionable insights. This drives efficiency even when access to the physical plant is not possible or not desired.
The Old Paradigm
Before secure digital remote management tools were available, machine and operational maintenance was a costly and inefficient process. Waiting for in-person labour meant lengthy production downtime that affected company profitability. When a factory machine failed, the process involved many steps.
Firstly, the operator escalated the issue to management, who then dispatched a maintenance team. If needed, they consulted external specialists by email and telephone to fix the issue. If the OEM or systems integrator could not connect directly to the machine, they described the problem by telephone. Then, depending on the outcome they requested a visit to the site to try to rectify the problem, assuming a specialist was available.
Remote management tools access specialist support
Resolving these issues led to the development of new tools for faster change management and better machine availability. As part of a global internal Smart Factory initiative to modernise and digitise production sites across the globe, Schneider Electric has field-tested remote management tools for maintenance over many years. The tools combine cyber secure remote access and augmented reality to enable remote management of factory floor machine assets. The outcome is faster and less costly actions to address maintenance and operation-related events. Here is how it works.
Using a secure connection tool, an OEM or integrator can connect to the end-user machine experiencing a problem. The expert then remotely diagnoses the problem by checking the machine data, parameters and logging information. Depending on the issue identified, the OEM proposes the best way to apply a fix. Furthermore, the OEM may even know about the problem before the end-user realises that the machine is underperforming.
For firmware upgrades or software changes, the OEM or system integrator can make changes over the secure cloud connection. For onsite actions like swapping out a clogged filter, an augmented reality tool allows the operator to execute tasks using a simple tablet or mobile phone, either with or without the guidance of the remote expert. The tablet contains augmented reality images of the equipment, updated online documentation and operational procedures. Simple “how-to” videos for accomplishing the task at hand may also be available
Accelerating process changes
The technology used in high-performance production machines is becoming more complex. Bühler, a global developer and manufacturer of food processing equipment reduces human error using a standard approach. Its employees use an augmented reality tablet to prompt a consistent, standard approach to executing their tasks, across their global factories. When making updates to operational procedures it pushes changes out to the entire workforce, ensuring everyone has the latest procedures. The use of augmented reality tools also revolutionises the training of machine operators
Virtual Maintenance and Operations
Across global factories, the move to remote management tools is accelerating. As machine performance improves while maintenance costs drop, experts are more productive because less time is spent travelling. Time spent remotely supporting customers benefits all parties.
Read the full Schneider Electric article to learn more about the use and benefits of remote management tools.
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