Remote monitoring: 5 ways to modernize your operation

The information needed to diagnose, treat—and even predict—plant-floor issues is now little more than an Internet connection away. Industrial organizations are starting to take advantage of better remote access capabilities.
By Jon Furniss, Rockwell Automation May 6, 2014

In today’s hyper-connected world, data and information moves quickly and constantly. The industrial environment is no different. Best-in-class production companies are constantly assessing their machines—monitoring them to ensure they’re at peak performance and making adjustments when they’re not.

In the past, maintenance personnel often were forced to make those adjustments based on a less-than-complete picture due to gaps in plant-floor data. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case any longer. The information needed to diagnose, treat—and even predict—plant-floor issues is now little more than an Internet connection away.

Industrial organizations are starting to take advantage of better remote access capabilities. Here are some ways industrial companies can use this technology to optimize production and solve maintenance challenges:

  1. Gather real-time insights. Remote monitoring systems offer real-time machine production data so systems can be continuously monitored and optimized. Everything from key measurements like switch temperatures, CPU usage, and flow rates, to faults and alarms and higher-level production trends can be collected, monitored, and analyzed around the clock and around the globe.  
  2. Diagnose the root cause of problems. Oftentimes manufacturers are cognizant of the symptoms of a major equipment issue, but diagnosing the issue and determining the best course of action is complex. The comprehensive view offered by remote access to plant-floor data makes it possible for operators to diagnose the root of the issue and apply the most appropriate solution to fix it—all without leaving the comforts of home.
  3. Rely on an experienced automation specialist. As today’s manufacturing staff becomes leaner, plant operators and IT staff often don’t have the training, time, or skill set to understand and address complex production issues. Third-party automation experts specialize in the area—possessing a deep knowledge of plant-floor technologies. Advancements in remote technology make it easier than ever to take advantage of this expertise. Secure Internet connections make it easy for automation professionals to help troubleshoot plant-floor issues, discover trends, and identify process improvements.
  4. Perform preventive maintenance activities. Don’t wait to perform routine maintenance tasks until something is already wrong. Remote monitoring can help change the status quo when it comes to maintenance. Allowing remote access to machine data enables automation professionals to access plant-floor data and perform a variety of support and maintenance activities—from suggesting overall infrastructure health improvements to monitoring individual process tags. By proactively monitoring conditions and data, specialists can remotely identify root causes and correct them before they become catastrophic issues.
  5. Increase visibility to remote locations. Companies with plants overseas, oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and locations in a variety of other remote places often have limited, if any, access to their machines. Frequently this creates a time-consuming, not to mention costly, maintenance and repair scenario. Taking advantage of remote monitoring technologies allows global producers to access their facilities and equipment regardless of location. Working with specialists trained to monitor these facilities can save additional time and money. 

Jon Furniss is global product manager for Rockwell Automation.