How Remote Assistance Improves Manufacturing Productivity
When a production line goes down, time is of the essence. To protect the company, it’s critical for operators to get malfunctioning equipment back up and running as soon as possible. In days past, a technician would have to fly out to the site and physically inspect the equipment to analyze and resolve the issue. Now, the manufacturing industry is turning to a new service delivery model called “remote assistance” that’s eliminating the need for site visits. By leveraging the latest technology, service technicians can get production lines started in hours, not days, increasing productivity and profitability for manufacturers. Here’s what you need to know about remote assistance and how it can help your manufacturing operation be more productive.
What is remote assistance?
Remote assistance is a new service model generally aimed at maximizing equipment uptime and productivity by providing faster equipment diagnosis. You can think of it as FaceTime with an expert technician to assess and resolve equipment issues. However, the enhanced capabilities make it more analogous to a military pilot operating a drone from miles away.
Remote assistance uses live video feeds streamed through smartphones, tablets, or wearable tech to let technicians see equipment issues for themselves without having to be on-site. High-quality audio allows the operator and technician to collaborate and troubleshoot the problem. In essence, the technician is able to guide the operator’s hands with expert precision.
Remote assistance is more than just video chat. File-sharing capabilities, remote PLC interfaces, and augmented reality technology provide an enhanced experience that empowers both operator and technician to resolve issues quickly. With powerful collaboration tools and a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, your incident response team can identify issues, devise, and execute solutions in a matter of hours.
How does remote assistance work?
- Accessing remote assistance is usually simple and straightforward, and the process for manufacturing operators generally follows these steps:
- An operator experiences a problem with a piece of equipment.
- The operator sends a remote assistance request to their maintenance or service provider.
- An expert technician determines if remote assistance is applicable.
- If applicable, the operator receives a link to activate a live connection with a remote technician.
- The operator then uses a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or wearable tech like Google Glass to troubleshoot the problem.
What happens next will ultimately be determined by the nature of the problem. The simplicity and speed at which you can go from discovering an issue to resolving it with the help of a professional technician, make remote assistance a tremendous resource for all types of manufacturing operations.
Why should I use remote assistance?
Manufacturers lose money every second a production line is down, jeopardizing contracts and threatening the viability of the entire operation. So, the ability to respond to issues faster and increase uptime is reason enough alone to use remote assistance.
You can also leverage remote assistance as a training resource, recording repairs and disseminating that footage to operators throughout your manufacturing operation. The remote assistance process will also allow your operators to gain insights about equipment, enhance maintenance skills, and prevent issues in the future. In this way, you can use a single remote assistance experience to drive efficiency for your entire operation well after the repair has been completed.
As connected process equipment becomes more common, and IoT and Industry 4.0 become even greater forces in the manufacturing industry, remote assistance capabilities will only grow. Augmented reality that allows technicians to “see” behind panels and identify issues using advanced sensors built into equipment will speed repair times even more. In short, the increase in available data afforded by more advanced systems will allow technicians and operators to do their jobs faster and more effectively than ever before.
Not only can remote assistance limit downtime, it can save manufacturers money in other ways as well. With in-person site visits, companies are typically responsible for paying for a technician’s travel, their accommodations, and the hours they spend working to resolve the issue. With remote assistance, these costs disappear. Instead, you can leverage your workforce already on the factory floor, and once a problem has been diagnosed, your internal team can execute a solution without impacting your budget.
What if remote assistance doesn’t work?
Sometimes equipment problems are complex and can’t be resolved solely through remote assistance. In those cases, a technician will still need to visit your site to fix the issue. Remote assistance can still provide value, and vital information for the technician's visit. By going through the remote assistance process and seeing things with their own eyes, technicians can gather an extraordinary amount of information about the nature of the problem. This enables them to be better prepared to resolve the issue once they get on-site. This again cuts down on the time it takes to actually implement a solution and get your production line back to normal.
Technology has dramatically changed the way we live and work in a very short period of time. The limitations of manufacturing environments and the need to be physically present to make repairs has proved a holdout against the digital revolution. Now, remote assistance is changing all of that. The ability for technicians to remotely diagnose manufacturing equipment problems and implement solutions with the aid of operators on the ground is a huge advancement for manufacturing operations. By limiting downtime, increasing the speed of repairs, and cutting costs, remote assistance may soon become the standard in equipment maintenance and service.
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