Remote service reduces maintenance costs

The value of remote service stood on its own merits prior to the market downturn, but now it addresses a whole new set of needs in process industries. Plants of all sizes are looking for creative ways to reduce their maintenance costs (which in most cases means reducing personnel), while facing constant demand for delivering higher reliability and performance.
By John W. DuBay, ABB Inc. July 1, 2009

The value of remote service stood on its own merits prior to the market downturn, but now it addresses a whole new set of needs in process industries. Plants of all sizes are looking for creative ways to reduce their maintenance costs (which in most cases means reducing personnel), while facing constant demand for delivering higher reliability and performance.

Scaling back? The focus on system availability is even more important in plants that have reduced production, as it is critical that any system production yields as close to 100% sellable output as possible. This creates even more pressure on the plant manager and his team. Fortunately, the remote service options available today can help manufacturers operate more efficiently and cost effectively.

Expanded services

Remote service has been expanded to deliver not only all levels of technical support, but also project engineering for commissioning systems, on-demand and scheduled training, application engineering and optimization services. This gives customers the option to supplement their reduced workforce with outside support for much more than just maintenance personnel functions.

Remote connectivity has empowered intelligent devices, enabling Web-based dashboards and other Web 2.0 technologies. This kind of immediate access to asset performance data in an easy to use and easy to navigate environment addresses the age old problem of “too much data, not enough information.”

What about security?

Security issues are always a concern, but they are mitigated with today’s secure technology, and should always be balanced with the need to maintain system reliability. In many cases, enterprise remote access solutions are a lot more secure than the solutions that are currently being provided to customers to troubleshoot their own system.

Additionally, many companies go to great lengths (unnecessarily) to isolate their systems from the very experts that have to ability to significantly increase the reliability of a system through their on-demand access support and monitoring.

The notion that suppliers are introducing technologies that somehow breech or weaken security of a customer’s network is more perception than reality, given that leading remote access solutions use the exact same secure technology that plant owners currently use to protect their own networks.

Remote and retiring expertise

Everyone knows that the eldest generation of experts is nearing retirement age and that we need to somehow be able to capture and access their knowledge. Remote service provides a real advantage here, as our retiring experts will certainly be near computers and mobile computing devices that will essentially keep them connected.

While it is doubtful that they will want to return to a desk job or travel from site to site, there’s a real good chance that they’ll still want to share their knowledge. These experts are very likely to want to continue to contribute after they retire %%MDASSML%% optimally in a way that minimizes the impact on their retirement environment and lifestyle. Working from their home as a remote expert supplements their otherwise fixed income while allowing them to share their knowledge. It’s a great part-time job that provides a win-win-win scenario for customers, service providers and retired experts.

Remote and the bottom line

Remote service dramatically reduces the costs associated with on-demand field service. The customer pays for all hours associated with travel, as well as travel and living expenses. How much would your business be able to save if you could avoid the total estimated incident cost? Remote Diagnostic Service is a fixed, predictable cost that you can budget for annually.

Author Information
John DuBay is a business development manager in ABB services with specialization in remote technologies and asset management services. He has more than 15 years experience in communications, instrumentation and control. DuBay is a degreed electrical engineer.