How to operate manufacturing remotely
Address five areas to improve remote operations, of growing importance to keep manufacturing sites running efficiently, reliably and safely from a distance, to address COVID-19 pandemic concerns and demographic workforce pressures. Secure software and devices can improve remote access, cybersecurity and digitization.
Industrial organizations across the globe are striving to keep their workers and communities safe and healthy and also contending with the full range of effects — to the economy, to their supply chains and their operations — of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, plant owners/operators are looking for ways to change how they work. This includes refineries, chemical plants and manufacturing facilities. These changes must happen as quickly as possible.
In addition to ensuring safe, reliable, efficient, sustainable and profitable facilities, plant operating companies must contemplate new ways to run their sites. With the loss of human assets due to the pandemic crisis — not to mention the experienced workforce retiring — it has become clear the operating model of having everyone on-site needs to change.
1. Benefit from digitization
Digital effectiveness is key to staying ahead in today’s manufacturing environment. An emphasis on digital asset and process management will enable plant operating companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, productivity and safety.
Currently, many plant operators have to extract insights from separate siloed software applications, and then use additional analytics tools and experience to draw insights and develop actions. This analysis is often very process- or asset-specific and often does not include the economic trade-offs resulting in sub-optimal actions.
Combining the latest technologies can help assure business continuity and improve performance. These include sensors, connectivity, data capture, visualization and advanced analytics. It also covers activities such as remote monitoring and operations, condition-based and predictive maintenance and real-time operator intelligence.
The transition to remote plant operations is being made easier through the implementation of proven and secure digital tools. Remote monitoring and operations software can now be deployed and utilized in a way that is cybersecure with no increased risk to plant operations.
2. Evaluate remote operations strategy
To help industrial organizations meet their business objectives, leading automation suppliers have developed innovative remote operations solutions, which provide the expertise, skills and technology capabilities customers need to operate in a difficult business climate.
A remote operations strategy plays a crucial role in running complex manufacturing plants and relies on a modern automation infrastructure. Using data gathered in the from process or assets, plant personnel can manage daily production, maintenance and safety and make improvements across multiple sites. They can operate the plant, track production targets, monitor asset health, and even create scenarios to determine the effect of operational changes prior to implementation.
The establishment of a remote capability also helps in supporting installed automation systems, networks and devices, and can assist with development, deployment and testing, training and technology migration.
3. Use tools for safety, digital systems, monitoring
There are many important reasons to adopt a remote operations and support strategy during these challenging times. To keep workers safe and comply with social distancing guidelines, for example, the number of onsite employees needs to be reduced. This will help protect workers who are onsite and keep operations running. It’s important to support them with advanced safety equipment and use tools such as digital video systems for the facility’s security as well as monitoring access control systems, so it’s clear who is on site at all times.
The latest digitized workforce management solutions leverage real-time data and digitization to improve the productivity, safety and compliance of employees, contractors and visitors. These provide real-time enforcement and monitoring capabilities and integrate with access control and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to streamline a host of workforce management activities.
Due to the development of advanced remote operations solutions, physical equipment and devices can be remotely monitored with a secure app. This technology gives plant operators visibility of critical processes on a mobile device.
For instance, the new generation of connected software tools can provide visibility of an entire gas metering operation. This includes real-time, at-a-glance insight into the health of metering assets to optimize maintenance activities and keep costs down and accuracy high. Providing enhanced visibility of high-pressure equipment, the tools can be used to implement effective preventive maintenance strategies, minimize re-calibration requirements and reduce operating expenses.
Remote operations strategies that employ portable and extensible software solutions take advantage of actionable recommendations, highlighted with potential economic impact, for intelligent business and operations. The tools use process and asset digital twins, and role-based and comprehensive analytics, to enable top to bottom, enterprise-wide visibility — improving decision making and sustaining overall performance of the process, assets, people, and safety.
4. Use services for remote operations
At the same time, technical service and support can be performed remotely. This includes remote consultation and maintenance and video collaboration and troubleshooting. With a wearable device, workers can help the remote team identify issues and troubleshoot them in real time. If there’s a production problem, team members can access systems and work together to solve the matter remotely. This helps plant personnel perform essential tasks with the knowledge and insights required to do the job correctly and maintain operational uptime.
5. Modernization of controls, cybersecurity, training
Modernization can also be achieved through plant automation and cybersecure software updates. Experience has shown remotely-operated migration methods for upgrading control systems offers lower risk, flawless execution and lower costs.
Industrial organizations undertaking a remote controls modernization can minimize risk, time and effort in field and improve their overall migration experience. This approach can reduce cycle time by up to 80%, lower operational cost by as much as 20% and improves migration productivity by at least 60% — all while enabling end-users to take advantage of the latest cybersecurity and process control improvements.
As plant operating teams are learning new ways to work, virtual training, using augmented reality (AR) technology, can make it possible to enhance skillsets and help everyone get up to speed as quickly as possible. Virtual training can be provided by an “on-call” operator where it’s needed.
Secure digital tools, remote operations productivity
A growing number of industrial organizations are implementing proven and secure digital tools that collect operational data from various assets and put the information into a remote operations ecosystem. Manufacturers can create a safer and more productive work environment by connecting and analyzing asset data from across the enterprise and using it to enhance operations and predictive maintenance and drive higher ROI and performance.
Jason Urso is chief technology officer for Honeywell Process Solutions. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEYWORDS: COVID-19 safety, remote monitoring, manufacturing modernization
Five areas can help remote manufacturing.
Develop a strategy; look at services, cybersecurity.
Digitization, updated controls are among tools.
Updated systems help remote manufacturing connections, processes as part of the COVID-19 response.