Even though the economy seems to be turning around, people are still very concerned with price. When a project is going through the planning stages, it should be strongly considered to include remote access from your integrator. There are several significant reasons for this consideration – the most important being quality and timeliness.
I was at a customer site doing an installation and throughout my stay the plant manager kept asking me if I could look at some of their existing systems that were giving them trouble. During some down time I was more than happy to look into their issues and managed to resolve some systems and got them running. The systems that they had me take a look at outside of the project I was there to install were ones that they had bought from an Italian company.
When they began having issues with these systems they realized that they did not have the means to resolve them quickly. They were having to call the company in Italy and pay for one of their engineers to fly over and work on the system. This was all based on the availability of the engineer as well, they had to wait over two weeks before the engineer could arrive and he was only there for a short period of time.
Had this customer had remote access installed for these systems they could have had almost immediate service and would have saved money on the plane ticket, food, hotel, and the time the engineer spent travelling.
Remote Access Just Makes Sense
You’ve already made the costly decision to implement a new system, or upgrade an existing system, but penny pinching at this stage can submarine the whole project! Benefits of adding remote access include, but are not limited to:
- Lower cost of service over time
- Speed of service
- A large number of changes can be made to similar processes with less effort
Let’s start with the most important one. Implementing remote access to your DCS system will give your integrator the ability to improve your process with a much lower long term cost. The initial cost of installing the parts required to gain remote access are relatively low. The only real cost would be a new panel and cell modem with a corresponding data plan.
This should not discourage those with an existing system from implementing remote access, because the cost is still relatively low compared to the benefit.
As some of you may have learned, a system without remote access can be very costly to maintain or make changes to. Typically, when a system without remote access needs support, the responsible party will contact an integrator to come onsite to perform the job as soon as possible. If the work to be performed is major and requires a shutdown, then it may be best to have the integrator come on site, which can be costly and time consuming.
If the work to be performed is small and can be done while the system is running, it is much more cost effective and efficient to use remote access. Looking at the “small work” scenario, the cost of an integrator to come on site will greatly exceed the initial cost of installing this feature. Drive or flight time, food, hotel, and onsite time will add up quickly and can be avoided with remote access.
If the cost of having an integrator come onsite is not an issue, then the next most important reason to implement remote access is scheduling. If an issue arises that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, it far faster for the integrator to assess and address the situation from their office.
When an emergency comes up, I drop what I am doing and immediately log on the system to determine a solution. If remote access is not available, and if the site is far enough away, then it could be impossible to adequately address the emergency in a timely manner.
In the case where a customer has a large number of sites that have similar processes, maintaining those site and implementing becomes much easier. If there are changes that need to be made, it is much quicker to log in remotely and make changes to multiple locations, opposed to traveling to each site and making the changes on site. Not to mention the entire collection of systems can be on the same page at relatively the same time!
I would encourage anyone to implement remote access to their systems, even if they are never used. As they say, “pray for the best, plan for the worst.” It is the best, quickest, and most cost effective way of obtaining timely service for any DCS system. The use of remote access will quickly pay for itself considering the costs of not having remote access if and when an issue arises.