Access and Control Series: Remote Access for the Manufacturing Process Industry
August 20, 2012
Plant Automation Remote Access to Improve Plant Operations
How can remote access to process plant industrial automation systems be used to improve plant operations?
With many organizations experiencing workforce shortages, many manufacturers today do not always have key skilled and experienced personnel available at all hours of the day. Remote access offers the means to help address this skill and resource gap.
Secure remote access to production assets, manufacturing data and applications, along with the latest collaboration tools, provides manufacturers the ability to apply the right skills and resources at the right time, independent of their physical location. As a result, manufacturers are free to deploy the resources of partners and service providers, such as OEMs or SIs, without needing to call someone on site.
Remote Access Adoption for Manufacturers
Five years ago, we had very few customers that utilized remote access. That has since changed dramatically. As more and more plant managers have adopted integrated automation/ERP systems and virtual computing infrastructure, they have realized the cost-savings benefits of having partner management and support. The majority of our clients have chosen to implement remote access systems.
Implementation of System Database for Engineer Support
One challenge we have found with remote support is the need to address system issues off-site when the engineer hasn’t seen the actual system (or even a picture of it). We have had occasions in the past where a customer has called for support and the engineer(s) that implemented the system are unavailable.
As a manufacturing systems integrator with many customers, it isn’t realistic for us to have all our engineers trained on all of our customer’s systems. In response to this, Grantek has created Wikipedia-style pages to describe many of our customer’s systems.
These pages give any of our engineers who are familiar with similar types of systems the springboard they need to be able to work with the customer on the issue. As well, our engineers will also document common issues within the pages so that should we be faced with the issue again it is in an easy to find. The pages are intended to be living documents that our engineers contribute to whenever there is interaction with the associated system.
Successful Remote Access and Control
By creating clear and detailed automation system documentation, Grantek’s team of off-site engineers have the ability to quickly and efficiently access the systems remotely for manufacturing maintenance and support issues which results in decreased machine down time and increase production capacity.