Remote commissioning: why you need it and how to use it
3 min. readShelly Boom
Before your customer is ready to put your machine into operation, it first has to be commissioned. All systems and components of a machine have to be designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained according to the operational requirements of the customer. This process is called (equipment) commissioning. Nowadays it’s possible to provide remote commissioning. This saves you valuable time and costs and you can be both productive and flexible.
Remote commissioning enables you to install, configure and test your industrial equipment by assisting the customer or integration partner remotely. During the pre-commissioning process you’ll check all systems, settings and values on your PLC controller. Are all processes working properly? Is the equipment giving fault codes? With remote commissioning you can easily check this without being on-site.
Everything can be remotely monitored in the PLC program or controlled with the HMI panel. Via a secure connection over the internet you have remote access to your machines from anywhere in the world. We will show you the possibilities and advantages of remote commissioning by means of two case studies as an example.
The essence of remote commissioning is to access your industrial equipment remotely. The first step to take is applying connectivity into your machines. This gives you the ability to remotely access your machines, which means that you no longer need to be at the customer's location to control and monitor the machines. You only have to connect a VPN router to the PLC controller, robot and HMI panels of your machine. After that, you can set up a secure connection via a cloud platform.
One great example of a company that started using remote commissioning is DC Airco. They decided to implement remote access to their PLC when they faced problems with commissioning their machines abroad due to the Covid-19 lockdown. DC Airco is a Dutch manufacturer of HVAC solutions and critical cooling systems for (mobile) applications and they normally go on-site to commission their machines. DC Airco started looking for an alternative way of commissioning and they discovered IXON Cloud. They now install an IXrouter into their equipment to remotely assist their customer during the installation and acceptance test.
DC Airco now has access to their HVAC systems via the IXON Cloud platform from anywhere in the world. 'The installation is easy for the customer and we can do the commissioning together online. I have an immediate connection to their network. This is much quicker than by phone, because you have to see what exactly is happening at the same time, which is sometimes difficult to see. Now I can just watch it live,' says Marc Schimmel, service engineer at DC Airco.
Read the full story of DC Airco here.
There are undoubtedly companies or customers for which the commissioning process is more complex e.g. companies where their machines are dependent on other systems or need advanced installation. For those companies, it’s possible to combine remote access with video or Augmented Reality using a Microsoft HoloLens. For example, your company ships the machine parts to the customer, together with an instruction video where the customer can see how your technicians assemble or dismantle the machine. This way the customer is able to put the machine together themselves with digital help from the machine builder.
Instead of sending a video, one could also use HoloLens in combination with remote access. The HoloLens is a virtual reality headset with transparent lenses through which the customer can see 3D holographic images, like manuals, and experience augmented reality. The machine builder on the other side sees a live camera stream of what’s happening on the customer's site via a web-based portal.
With the HoloLens, machine builders or service engineers can watch everything together with the customer asif they are on-site. One of our customers started using remote access via IXON Cloud in combination with the HoloLens. Instead of visiting the customer twice for preparation and commissioning, like they normally did, they sent a machine to their customer in Dubai together with an IXrouter and HoloLens. The HoloLens only needed a stable internet connection which can be set up via the Wi-Fi hotspot of the IXrouter.
Remote commissioning setup with HoloLens and IXON Cloud
Our customer’s engineer in the Netherlands had access to the PLC and HMI via IXON Cloud. He used the HoloLens to actually see what his colleague in Dubai was doing and supported him directly with the instructions for commissioning the project. Via the IXON Cloud platform he monitored the PLC and controlled the HMI. With TIA portal running on his own PC, this allowed him to designate and indicate parts in the machine over a secure VPN connection. It was actually the same as if he was on location.
As you may have noticed, remote commissioning has a number of advantages. Since you don’t have to travel as much as before, you can save lots of time by staying at your own location and cut back on commissioning costs. For example, money saved on flight tickets, hotel stay and taxi costs makes the commissioning cheaper for the customer while the machine builder doesn’t miss out on revenue. This means the investment in remote access solutions can be earned back after the first equipment commissioning.
Engineers can be more productive because they can better focus on solving problems without being distracted by on-site circumstances. Also, the same engineer can be engaged on multiple projects at the same time. On top of that, the right people are all in the same place, what makes you more flexible. The fact that you, your colleagues, customers and service engineers can all easily and securely access the same data at the same time from a different place ensures optimal collaboration.
Would you also like to experience the advantages of remote commissioning using IXON Cloud?