Remote Technical Assistance: Vol. 2 - IPI’s portfolio of RTA services
Technical Assistance (TA), once intended as a general-purpose aid, has grown into a primary necessity in industrial manufacturing. This is even more true in aseptic carton packaging, where, due to the sensitive nature of the job, it has turned into a make-or-break asset. Plus, with Industry 4.0 gaining ground, the need for an extra pair of hands to mind all things technical is higher than ever. And not just for troubleshooting.
Slowly but steadily, edge computing, the Internet of Things and machine learning are changing the face of the industry. Yet, these and other opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution require a unique set of skills that may or may not be part of the core know-how of a company. Because of this, Remote Technical Assistance (RTA), as a supplement to on-site support, is the new frontier in aseptic carton packaging.
In this regard, IPI offers a wide portfolio of RTA services to their customers, i.e.:
- Installation and Production Startup
- Production Control and Production Assistance
What follows is a detailed explanation of each service mentioned above.
Installation and Production Startup
Installation and Production Startup is about pre-production. It consists of Equipment Positioning and Connection, Packaging Line Startup with liquid food products and Commissioning and Site Acceptance Test (SAT).
Let's now take a look at what can be accomplished remotely.
#1: Equipment Positioning and first ignition
This service concerns the actual positioning of the machinery. The idea behind it is that of a guided approach, so as to support the customer through every step of the way. First, dedicated IPI supervisors provide video instructions and preliminary training to the client. Afterwards, they oversee the equipment positioning taking place at the client's production plant through a video streaming application, instructing the customer on the proper positioning method.
After equipment positioning, it's time for utilities to be connected. Electrical system, compressed air, steam, drainage, water and food supply system: IPI technicians follow the client during the whole process, from machine positioning to utility connection until the very first ignition, and the client is guided throughout such a risk-prone set-up phase.
#2: Packaging Line Startup with the client’s actual product
The startup is the booting of the production line. Once utilities are connected, machines are turned on. A few tests are run, consisting in the production of sample packages, which are first filled with water and then with the actual product. In the meanwhile, IPI technicians verify that the equipment is working properly by connecting to the PLC as well as by monitoring all parameters. Moreover, thanks to video streaming and smart glasses, IPI always keeps an eye on the packaging so as to check the quality of the solution. The startup of the line is usually done on site. However, startup may be executed remotely depending on the complexity of the line in terms of packaging formats and of the liquid food product to fill.
As far as the composition of the packaging line is concerned, the more machines there are, the more regulations and fine-tuning must be taken into account. Especially for a new IPI customer who’s not yet knowledgeable about the system, there will be a need for both a greater commitment by IPI in transferring the relevant know-how as quickly as possible as well as by the client in getting used to carry out the packaging line startup autonomously with the remote support of IPI. Finally, after the Packaging Line Startup, it is time for the Commissioning and Site Acceptance Test (SAT), both of which are handled in agreement with the client at the end of the project.
This service caters to those members of the client’s staff that have to deal with the equipment on a daily basis, be they mainteners, production line operators, quality control and assurance specialists, etc. the training typically involves in-person meetings. however, Training is also performed remotely.
There are, so to speak, two Trainings: a theoretical one, taking place before Installation and Commissioning, and a so-called “training on the job”, where IPI offers a platform for continuous learning to the client. Usually, this more practical training is in person, but it can be also carried out over the internet. Indeed, remote training is ideal in case of labor turnover, refresher courses as well as to strengthen the client’s know-how on a specific topic.
Production Control and Production Assistance
Production Control is about support to the actual production. Traditionally, it is up to on-site technicians, who perform an audit through analytic applications such as IPI’s Data Collection System. That said, IPI also offers this service remotely, and, depending on the customer’s preference, can leverage a plethora of channels, including video conference applications, phone calls, instant messaging and so forth. Of course no analytic application can record manual operations, so Production Control must always be integrated with a constant feedback loop between IPI and the client.
This service is conducted in two stages: Root Cause Analysis and Problem Resolution.
#1: Root Cause Analysis
This stage consists in finding the source of the problem that is occurring at the manufacturing level. It is a complex process that involves analytic applications, remote maintenance, surveying the operators, shipping non-compliant samples back and forth, production tests run by in-person technicians, and, most importantly, a constant exchange of information between IPI and the client.
#2: Problem Resolution
This stage is where the actual corrective maintenance takes place. As usual, it is common practice to do it on site, but it can be carried out remotely as long as the following conditions apply:
- The problem can be solved remotely.
- The root cause and the consequences of the issue have already been identified.
- The client is well-aware of the consequences of the issue.
- The client has gone through a Training phase.
- Replacement parts are available
As of today, Remote Technical Assistance has proven time and time again to be instrumental to develop a successful business strategy. Not only can it supplement in-person technical assistance. When feasible, it offers the opportunity for real-time customer support through each phase of the process, from Installation and Commissioning to Troubleshooting. Whatever happens, IPI is always ready to help the client make it through.
The time for Remote Technical Assistance is now. Get in touch.