Steve Sterling, Contributor

Remote Diagnostics is the Coolest Thing Since Sliced Bread

By Steve Sterling, Contributor | Permanent Link

I believe that responsiveness is the real key to world class service, particularly in today’s technologically dependent environment. What could be more responsive then than a service organization that can log onto my equipment and, in real time, fix the problem and let me get on producing and earning money?

In my opinion, there are a lot of benefits to remote diagnostics: Like not having to wait for a tech to show up and the lower service cost because travel is eliminated. That minimizes downtime and reduces expenses. And there are new remote diagnostic technologies being brought to market all the time. For example, a growing number of remote diagnostic systems have cameras that can be aimed at various parts of the machine to show actual operating conditions. Some of these systems can even take short video clips of the machine for future reference and comparison. Some companies offer secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections that can function as a lifeline to the control system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What can some of these remote diagnostic systems do? Well:

  • PLC ladder logic troubleshooting and modifications
  • Process monitoring to resolve deviations
  • Remote HMI control
  • Host computer troubleshooting
  • Online operator task training
  • Online HMI configuration
  • Online device configuration

If there is a problem an online tech can’t fix, but can diagnose, such as a failed sensor or improperly working drive, he or she may be able to have a replacement part sent via overnight delivery.

In fact, when a service problem crops up at my business, I’m thrilled when someone can log onto my system and immediately determine what’s up as well as implement or suggest corrective action.

All that being said, I may be out in left field on this because I’ve heard that remote diagnostics are not all that valued due to the issue of security, proprietary information, and other matters.

Here’s my question: Should more suppliers build remote diagnostics into their equipment? Vote yes or no. I welcome your comments.

Should more suppliers build remote diagnostics into their equipment?

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  1. Brad Wegner July 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    That security issue is the 900-lb gorilla. Typically, access to a facility’s IT network is controlled by the IT department, and the mfg department can’t overcome the perception that remote diagnostics creates a backdoor security threat for their system. Until the IT people are convinced, co-opted or forced, remote diagnostics will remain a good idea.

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