COVID-19 has caused major changes to the ways companies get work done, and it’s becoming clear that some of these changes will last beyond the pandemic. Remote working is here to stay. For corporate workers, this sometimes equates to a daily struggle with video-conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. For shop-floor workers like maintenance and reliability teams, remote work introduces entirely different challenges.
The majority of companies — even those with higher digital maturity — are not prepared to manage their production facilities remotely. Companies of all sizes, industries and geographies are racing toward infrastructure investments to improve their ability to collect and present operational data for manufacturing processes.
Companies that invest even in minimal technology and process changes will see an exponential return in capability and ROI. Monitoring the most basic production information can enable remote monitoring for a large percentage of shop-floor efforts. This improves production planning through better use of data and analytics.
We recently designed and implemented a few remote-monitoring systems for our clients and would like to share three key takeaways:
Yes, this is the right time to start. Even without the increased urgency companies have felt due to COVID-19, newly emerging technologies and the quickly evolving world of manufacturing require that businesses prepare for a digital future (Industry 4.0) — implementing a remote-monitoring system is the first step in that process. Based on observations of our clients over the last few months, companies that had already invested in digital shop-floor initiatives were better prepared to adjust to new ways of working, including limiting the number of people accessing the shop floor directly.
Think big, start small. Often times, just the idea of a digital journey is overwhelming enough to prevent companies from making measurable progress. Remote monitoring sounds more complicated than it is, and it does not need to be a one-off exercise with just one purpose. For instance, once machine data is extracted, it can be used to uncover the root cause associated with stops or process failures. Predictive models can forecast and prevent micro-stops or jams, and even prevent mechanical breakdowns altogether. But before a company is ready to consume the benefits of predictive maintenance or autonomous operation, they must have a remote-equipment monitoring process in place; it creates a digital foundation for the next phases of the process.
Embed security. Design your remote monitoring solution with security in mind upfront, rather than during implementation. Although companies have historically invested in securing their physical factory floors, emerging uses of cloud technology can easily poke holes in traditional security strategies. When it comes to extracting data from PLCs or SCADA systems, you’ll want to have an appropriate structured virtual environment that intersects with your physical environment without creating unnecessary risk to your operations.
Remote monitoring of equipment is the right solution for both companies that are quite advanced in the digitization process, as well as companies that are about to start. The recent pandemic outbreak made this decision easier to make, but the process shouldn’t be rushed — it needs to be well designed and executed to address business short- and long-term needs in a scalable manner.
For more information on how Cerebre is helping companies across the world tackle remote monitoring, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org