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Making factory remote management possible with digital transformation

Making factory remote management possible with digital transformation
Remote management and predictive maintenance are just a few ways the digitization of factories can help boost productivity in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and digitization of factories can help manufacturers work smarter and more efficiently. As the manufacturing sector tries to recover from COVID-19 downtime, how IIoT can help increase productivity while also protect workers will be of utmost importance. Features such as remote management and predictive maintenance are enabling manufacturers to increase productivity without putting workers in harm's way.

Remote management

John Boville Schneider Electric
John Boville,
EcoStruxure Plant Enablement Manager,
Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric
Although many factory processes require human workers to be on site, remote technologies for monitoring and management have stepped up during the pandemic.

John Boville, EcoStruxure Plant Enablement Manager for Industrial Automation at Schneider Electric, believes that the pace of digital transformation will accelerate now, since the secure data transparency offered by Industry 4.0 is foundational to remote monitoring and management. 

“This trend may allow more workers to work remotely and help plants to operate in compliance with social distancing requirements,” Boville said.

Remote management allows operators to adjust systems, conduct maintenance and make operational decisions when it’s not possible or advisable to access the physical plant. It will also enable the effectiveness of working with fewer resources, in addition to keeping people from being in close proximity to each other.

For example, solutions that allow experts to connect to plant assets remotely and provide insights to on-site staff to assist with optimization and troubleshooting can also help improve worker safety. This can help limit contact with equipment surfaces, allowing for contactless troubleshooting and triage of plant faults with access to remote assistance on the plant floor.

Another form of remote management includes predictive maintenance for equipment and robots. With the operational data collected, factory managers can plan maintenance, prevent production issues and monitor productivity.

During a pandemic, predictive maintenance provides opportunities for companies to monitor their systems remotely, and help reduce the number of people in and around a workcell. This can be done from a separate area within their company, from home or wherever they are located, said Joe Gazzarato, Director of Zero Down Time at FANUC America.

Empowering workers with digitization

Nearly 70 percent of manufacturers were pursuing smart factory initiatives in 2019, according to a survey by Capgemini. Improved productivity was the main reason for adoption; however, there are many other factors to consider with digitization.

“With any digital transformation it is very important to be clear what business problem you are trying to solve and to measure success both as the transformation progresses and at its conclusion,” Boville said. This is especially true in times of crisis. Boville believes that setting goals that are focused on business outcome rather than technology will set the proper tone for a factory’s digital transformation.

It is also important to understand that a viable digitization strategy must consider how it impacts not just the organization, but employees as well.

"Digital transformation is just as much a cultural issue as a technology issue. Workers see benefit when proposed changes help them do their jobs. Empowering workers to improve the way the business runs improves employee engagement and morale,” Boville added.

Other objectives to consider for successful digitization include: enabling workforces to be safer and more efficient; optimizing the efficiency of assets and processes; and ensuring operations are reliable and secure.

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