There’s no escaping the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, but isn’t it about time we started using them to improve the way things are done in the industrial arena? SCHAD specialises in engineering mobility tools and its EXTEND7000 application is a mobile SCADA and maintenance (MSM) system, which effectively turns any mobile device into a mobile control room, bringing many performance improvement benefits to maintenance and automation engineering teams.  

Imagine having information at your fingertips to answer these common maintenance management questions:

  • How long does it take for engineers to respond to an alarm event?
  • How long does it take to allocate an alarm to an engineer?
  • How long does it take an engineer to reach problematic assets? And what is the associated fix time?
  • How many unnecessary journeys around the plant or between facilities are made?
  • What is the time delay between a fault, fix and the central system being updated?
  • How many visits are made to the same faulty asset to carry out either unplanned or planned work?
  • How accurate is the data entered onto the CMMS?

EXTEND7000 is designed to provide answers to these questions by taking care of both planned and unplanned maintenance tasks, either in the field or on the shop floor. It allows engineering teams to troubleshoot, process planned work orders, undertake condition based maintenance and complete preventative inspection routes.

The system is described by SCHAD as a smart mobile application because it has the ability to seamlessly interact with multiple systems – a traditional SCADA system, directly with PLCs or with the CMMS maintenance system, for instance IBM Maximo. It adds value by allowing engineers supporting process automation systems – conveyors or high bay unmanned cranes in a distribution centre for instance – to monitor and control multiple systems remotely, using any mobile device from any location, according to a pre-defined workflow. Features include the ability to consolidate work orders from different fixed systems into a single mobile User Interface, which allows a user to monitor and access multiple sources of information from multiple SCADA and maintenance systems, remotely and in real-time.

The tip of the adoption iceberg

“We are at the tip of the iceberg as the use of mobile applications within business starts to really take hold, thanks to the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets which already run many aspects of our lives,” said James Hannay, Managing Director of SCHAD Ltd.  “It is a natural extension to apply a new layer of enterprise mobility to help companies using automation systems gain better control and reduce the costs of system downtime – and as more companies introduce process automation – in the distribution centre, production facility or for transportation services – the issue of downtime reduction will be increasingly important.”

One of the benefits for users of this system is that the application works in the same way as the native application or mobile device, making it very intuitive and seamless for the user. For instance, those using a Blackberry can use the roller to scroll down information, whereas users on Apple devices would have the same touch screen methodology. In addition, because EXTEND7000 works by ‘pushing’ notifications to the user’s device, the smartphone or tablet’s battery life is maximised and there is no need for organisations to purchase traditional ruggedised computers

Notifications sent directly to the most appropriate engineer in seconds

Using EXTEND7000, alerts and notifications, which appear in a random way on the control room monitors, can be prioritised in accordance to severity and urgency and be allocated to the right engineers according to skills, escalation route, existing workload and physical proximity to the problem. All this happens in real time on their mobile device whilst they are on the shop floor. Information to fix a fault is instantly available, and time-consuming allocation of on-site personnel by the control room via phone or text message is eliminated. The application can be used on Blackberrys, iPhones, tablet PCs, Android and any windows mobile terminal.

Early adopters from manufacturing, retail and transport sectors

Companies already using EXTEND7000 include Allessa Chemie (speciality chemicals manufacturer), LSG Sky Chefs (in-flight services), FRoSTA (frozen food), BAUR (fashion e-tail), Brillux (paint manufacturing), Vanderlande Industries (baggage handling for Munich, Koln and Berlin airports) and Lugato (construction chemicals).

In the case of Lugato, an dahesives manufacturer, monitoring activities across its production and logistics operations have now been merged into a single user interface – a BlackBerry smartphone. Prior to implementing EXTEND7000, Lugato’s production and logistics operations were run independently as separate functions, resulting in high overheads.  Notifications and alarms in the event of plant malfunctions were only sent to the control room by telephone.  This meant two engineers would always be required to attend to a problem – one situated at the failure point and one based permanently in the control room.

Real time notifications

Since merging the two divisions, technical engineers receive real time notifications of system performance issues if a problem occurs anywhere within the facility, directly onto their mobile devices, which have been converted into automated systems controllers that are monitored around the clock.

In addition, depending on their level of authorisation, engineers can gain remote access to automated control systems, in order to investigate system performance issues, fix problems on the spot or check for parts availability.

Acting as an unmanned control room, EXTEND7000 keeps Lugato’s employees informed about technical failures and the critical states of each  automated process, on their mobile device, around the clock, 7 days a week for 365 days of the year. This compares with the previous situation whereby information relating to the smooth running of the warehouse would be displayed visually in a dedicated control room, staffed by engineers who would physically monitor the automated systems.

Downtime has now been reduced because engineers can access information relating to problems directly from anywhere without needing to report to the control room.

Creates an automatic smart workflow

First hand information required to remedy a fault – including all job processing data ­– is always instantly available to all employees, regardless of where they are located, without the need to rely on other people in the control room.  The system creates an automatic workflow keeping everyone fully informed of issues and their outcomes at all times.

EXTEND7000 is functionally rich and requires no customisation, which enabled implementation and training to be completed in just 3 days.  From day one of the system being configured, the need for time-consuming job allocation of on-site personnel by the control room, either by phone or radio, was no longer necessary.  Added to this, distances travelled by each employee within Lugato’s large industrial complexes have also been reduced.  This time saving increases efficiency because staff can become more readily available to concentrate on core maintenance tasks.

Lugato has measured high machine availability levels since implementing EXTEND7000 with a corresponding 3% increase in staff efficiency. Approximately 30 minutes less machine downtime is consistently being recorded by the company each day. Overall, Lugato has estimated this extra half an hour of machine availability means they can ship an extra truckload of finished products every day.

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