When it comes to optimizing your equipment, the logical choice is to partner with your original equipment manufacturer (OEM). After all, who knows your equipment better than the OEM? Working with them ensures you’ll maximize reliability, reduce downtime, and increase productivity.
Imagine for a moment that your original equipment manufacturer (OEM) could connect to your equipment and troubleshoot from a distance. The machine’s engineer could immediately analyze and resolve issues remotely, limiting costly downtime and travel expenses. The OEM’s help desk staff could monitor both digital and analog signals, from proximity sensors to photocells, and install retrofit software remotely. Your OEM could access alarm logs and status information, then walk your on-site maintenance team through the proper steps for resolution. Too good to be true? Absolutely not: All of this is possible. With remote connectivity, many problems can be solved in less than 4 hours; without remote connectivity, it takes an average of 24 hours.
REMOTE CONNECTIVITY OPTIONS
Here are the various remote connectivity options available, from best- to worst-performing:
1. INDUSTRIAL ROUTER USING STAND-ALONE VPN
This approach to remote connectivity enables the OEM to set up a reliable and fully secure connection to your machines while safeguarding your corporate network integrity. No need for IT experts, no firewall issues. And speaking of firewall concerns, using an industrial router with stand-alone VPN protects your privacy. You’re freed from continuous connection to the server because your machine is connected to the Internet only when necessary. In addition, this method saves you the money and time you would otherwise need to invest in technician visits. These savings accrue because this method of connecting allows remote staff and the OEM technical support team to perform diagnostics and make program changes. And, because this method of connecting means that you don’t need to wait for technicians to arrive, downtime is reduced. This method is versatile, too. It can be used in any situation: single- or multi-line plant, multiple plants, and in remote locations that lack wired Internet service, as long as a cellular or wireless network is available (extra cost). An industrial router using stand-alone VPN is low-cost, maintenance-free, and easy to set up, start and expand
2. THIRD-PARTY STANDARD VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN) ACCESS
Better than dial-up, third-party standard VPN is nonetheless not the ideal way to connect remotely. It’s time-consuming because it requires major IT assistance on both sides of the connection. It’s even more time-consuming when you consider that it needs to be completely revised every time your operating system is upgraded. Moreover, it’s additionally problematic because the OEM is responsible for integration in cooperation with your IT staff, which is accountable for problems—and those include connectivity problems, which can be difficult to solve.
3. DIAL-UP/ETHERNET MODEM ACCESS
An outdated solution, this method of connecting works slowly because it relies on a public analog telephone network. Nowadays, phone systems are digital.
VIDEO CHAT AND CAMERAS
Video chat applications such as FaceTime, Viber, Skype or WhatsApp (in Europe) can enable your OEM to have a look at your machine and guide you through the troubleshooting steps. However, such applications do not replace remote connectivity—they are complementary.
Alternatively, you could install a fixed camera with a recorder. For example, up to eight cameras can be mounted on the equipment and connected to a recorder which is linked to the machine’s network. This enables your OEM to access video upon request for troubleshooting purposes.
CURRENT ATTITUDES TOWARDS REMOTE MONITORING
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, recently surveyed its members about their plans and preferences for remote machine monitoring. Respondents’ plans fall along a continuum of options, from exploring potential benefits to incorporating remote monitoring of most products. A slight majority of respondents are currently conducting remote monitoring pilot projects. Communication with the end user or OEM is the most sought-after feature, followed by alarm notifications and reporting.
Remote connectivity is a powerful new tool that enables faster and cheaper troubleshooting. Want to try it out? Your OEM can provide more details and get you started.