Remote Technical Assistance: Vol. 1 - Value creation in aseptic carton packaging
Over the decades, Technical Assistance (TA) has grown into importance in industrial systems and in particular in the packaging business. So much so that TA is now as crucial as engineering as far as value creation is concerned. When it comes to packaging, in fact, challenges abound, and there's no shortage of issues that can make or break the customer’s schedule. This is especially true for aseptic carton packaging, where, due to the sensitive nature of the materials and processes being treated, a minor negligence makes the difference between a premium-quality, right-on-time delivery and a product that is poised to fail.
Aseptic carton packaging is hard. Milk, fruit juices and liquid foods deserve special care to ensure the highest degree of safety. In this context, technical assistance has become an empowering tool for the customer to streamline the complexity and run their business as easily as possible. For all purposes, the role of technical assistance within the industry, and most notably at IPI, has changed over the years. For decades, it was meant to simply provide reactive, general-purpose aid for technical issues. Today, technical assistance at IPI consists of a well-established and articulate portfolio of proactive services that guarantee the reliability of the equipment and minimise downtime over the entire machine lifespan.
The portfolio includes:
- Maintenance services
- Spare parts and consumables
- Upgrade kits
- Spare parts’ kits
- Audit performance and production assistance
- Training services
- Installation services
- Expert service engineering
- Augmented reality through smart glasses for remote assistance
- and more.
At the heart of this shift towards a more dynamic and supportive technical assistance is the commitment to always be there for the client. With this in mind, IPI can offer a range of solid custom solutions suitable for evolving business objectives and market conditions, simplifying the customer’s value chain. That is, in a nutshell, IPI’s vision for Remote Technical Assistance: to provide tailored solutions to any customer problem so as to help them achieve their goals.
Technical Assistance at the time of Industry 4.0
In the field of aseptic carton packaging, time really is money. If a production line goes down, every minute of inactivity is money down the drain. To fix the equipment as quickly as possible is mission-critical. And the clock is always ticking. Yesterday, the solution came in the form of a technician physically inspecting the machinery. But with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and all the possibilities it’s made available, physical inspections are gradually being supplemented by a new kind of service which is the fruit of Industry 4.0: Remote Technical Assistance.
By tapping into artificial intelligence, IoT, augmented reality, and live streaming, the company can offset the need for on-premises technical support, doing more with less. At the time of Industry 4.0, technical assistance sheds its skin, turning from an add-on service to a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform built on top of the customer’s edge computing infrastructure, where big data from connected machines becomes knowledge, enabling proactive maintenance and tailor-made, over-the-air updates.
What is Remote Technical Assistance (RTA)?
In industrial manufacturing, being on time is a prerequisite for success. In aseptic carton packaging, where a slight hiccup in the production cycle might endanger the product safety and quality, providing on-time technical assistance is not a plus: it's a necessity. In such a competitive world, Remote Technical Assistance, when feasible, is priceless, as it offers the possibility to tackle issues that once would require much more money and time. Real-time support is the real deal.
RTA is a service aimed at maximising uptime through real-time equipment diagnosis. In short, it’s like Zoom with an expert in aseptic carton packaging. Hardware-wise, it runs on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even takes advantage of wearables to ensure pinpoint accuracy. Plus, it is compatible with smart glasses, a useful add-on for situations where the user needs both hands free to work, allowing the guide to see everything the user does. Speaking of software, it features live video feeds, instant messaging, augmented reality, and more - much more than a video chat. Indeed, remote PLC interfaces, file sharing, and interactive documentation make Remote Technical Assistance more like a human assistant than a machine. As an actual fact, it embodies the best of both worlds. In the upcoming future, with the pace of progress that deep learning is going through, Remote Technical Assistance will truly become the equivalent of an all-knowing, near-perfect technician at the customer’s fingertips.
Advantages of Remote Technical Assistance
When compared to non-remote technical assistance, RTA offers many advantages, such as:
- Increased Uptime
- Skill Acquisition
- Cost Savings
The first and clearest advantage of RTA over the standard technical assistance is the increased uptime. Thanks to RTA, in fact, IPI can monitor the equipment 24/7, tracking its performance over time, so as to immediately identify any drop in productivity that might happen during the monitoring. This way, IPI can promptly intervene, proposing solutions for improvement to fix the malfunctions and prevent new ones.
There's more to RTA than providing support when the client is in need. In fact, once the client is accustomed with technical assistance, IPI can exploit the platform as a medium to educate the customer around the equipment itself. In other words, RTA turns into a training resource, enabling the client to acquire new skills and strengthen their know-how over time. Plus, RTA allows for recording and sharing the repairs throughout the workforce.
Thanks to self-improving computing technology, RTA never gets old. On the contrary: it increases in value over time. The core value RTA is built upon is software’s ability to get better over time via machine learning algorithms. In a word, it’s data. Because of this, it is reasonable to assume that in the future, with an increasing amount of data at its disposal from devices on the edge and cloud servers, RTA will match the capabilities of present-day technical assistance services and, for certain issues, will be the staple solution.
And it's not simply a matter of machine learning. New tools for data analytics and user interfaces, such as AR, are being developed by IPI at the time of writing. All that said, it does not strike as a surprise that RTA has become the cornerstone for providing IoT services to the client.
The financial value of RTA does not simply lie in increased uptime. In fact, RTA also saves money by freeing up the client from paying for flights and overnights in hotels, as it happens for in-person technical assistance. No longer do the customers need to accommodate all these inconveniences. Plus, thanks to the real-time support made available by this innovation, technical issues tend to be solved more quickly. As a result, the customer can finally focus on their core business, letting IPI do the hard work.
COVID-19 and RTA: a turning point
With the number of cases of coronavirus well over 68 million, non-remote technical assistance is no longer an option. In this context, RTA has experienced a meteoric rise, both within the aseptic carton packaging industry and at IPI in particular. As far as IPI is concerned, the corona crisis has provided the perfect opportunity for a stress test of IPI's Remote Technical Assistance. Despite the complexity, the solution has met the customers' expectations.
Yet, though, it is naive to think that RTA is a fleeting experience and that, once the pandemic is over, RTA will give its way to good ol’ in-person technical assistance. If anything, the pandemic has validated RTA as an essential part of every company’s toolkit, showing how huge are the benefits in terms of productivity and uptime. When we also consider the progressive improvement of real-time diagnostics and the potential of Industry 4.0 in the field of aseptic carton packaging, it is evident that, even in a post-COVID world, Remote Technical Assistance is here to stay.
All in all, IPI's Remote Technical Assistance is much more than the traditional technical assistance done remotely. In fact, IPI's RTA takes advantage of a vast array of services and tools to provide real-time equipment diagnosis and troubleshooting to the customer, unlocking productivity and preventing any future downtime - something that never existed before.
If you want to tap into the power of IPI's Remote Technical Assistance, just let us know. We will be of help, however far away you might be!