Maintenance is particularly challenging for industrial companies with extensive premises or hazardous areas. Employees are often not involved in the flow of information and data or have to work offline because there is no comprehensive online access. As a result, they frequently have to resort to the classic paper and clipboard for documentation – not only a cumbersome procedure but also time-consuming and error-prone. Consistent and preventive maintenance therefore requires digital, mobile, networked solutions – even in hazardous areas.
Mobile devices with modern applications can provide a solution to this problem. Using intrinsically safe tablets and smartphones, technicians, experts, teams and project groups can communicate in real time – anytime and anywhere – and collect and retrieve data, parameters and information remotely. This creates the advantage and added value of digital, mobile solutions when interlinking with a wide variety of professional applications.
The latest, Ex-certified Android industrial tablet Tab-Ex 02 or the Windows tablet PC Pad-Ex 01 from Ecom, the Pepperl+Fuchs brand, for example, combine maximum performance and durability with the latest Industry 4.0 applications. With their magnetic gyroscope, these tablets enable augmented reality applications to identify objects in an installation and deliver all underlying data directly to the display of the mobile device in real time. The mobile use of augmented reality in hazardous areas paves the way for rapid plant commissioning, transparent processes, precise and preventive maintenance as well as efficient asset management.
Industrial companies are commonly faced with the problem of unnecessarily long response times between the recording of damage and its repair – a considerable risk for people and materials. Modern Industry 4.0 applications help to anticipate, rectify and thus avoid damage. The system reports maintenance and repair requirements proactively, so that technicians can react and initiate repair measures immediately. Thanks to mobile devices and special applications, mobile workers can carry out machine or system maintenance faster and in a targeted manner. They see the relevant assignment and crucial tasks directly on their tablet or smartphone and then document the progress directly on site as well as the amount of material needed.
All information from the mobile device is automatically transferred to the interlinked backend system. If there is no Internet connection, this can also be done offline, in which case the data is automatically updated as soon as access is restored – without any information loss. In addition, the mobile worker receives live maintenance logs, circuit diagrams, manufacturer’s notifications on the mobile device plus information on which errors occurred how often and how they were fixed.
The use of augmented reality applications further adds to the benefits: this new form of visualisation makes it possible to identify objects in a system without complicated inputs or navigation, and to deliver all parameters and data directly to the mobile device display in real time. In this way, plant operators and mobile workers have access to information quickly, completely and in good quality at a glance. This permits smooth process planning and predictive maintenance, saves time and prevents prolonged, unscheduled downtime. Important information can also be transferred to the system directly on site via the mobile device. This results in significantly shorter response times and faster processing of data and orders.
In addition, augmented reality makes it easy to identify essential connections or technical defects rapidly in components and systems. From construction drawings through maintenance information to operating states – augmented reality adds valuable, virtual data which facilitates the completion of tasks, if necessary with millimetre precision. And if a specialist has to be called in to provide professional support, they can simply be connected to the mobile device without having to visit the installation in person – a great advantage for remote diagnosis and maintenance in real time in hazardous areas.
Maintenance 4.0 demands interconnectedness and secure communication – often over long distances. Mobile, explosion-proof devices help employees work together with more agility and more flexibility in real time, both on site and in the control centre. Using push-to-talk applications, tablets and smartphones become digital radios that can be integrated into existing radio traffic, for instance, and thus ensure efficient communication. Colleagues at different locations can exchange information quickly and easily, either individually or in groups. By communicating live on site, these mobile devices also allow actions to be taken in real time. With regard to maintenance, this means faster damage repairs, shorter repair and downtimes as well as time and cost savings.
Video conferencing applications for mobile devices likewise play a decisive role in remote diagnosis, maintenance and repair in hazardous areas. Mobile workers can stream video information on a plant’s condition and repair requirements directly to an off-site expert in real time. For example, if that expert is sitting in the control centre, they can carry out a remote diagnosis, issue the mobile worker with live repair instructions and accompany the process if necessary.
Transparent and safe processes
Especially in industries with explosion-proof areas and extensive factory premises, maintaining and managing business-critical assets and plants is both complex and costly. The use of mobile devices in combination with Industry 4.0 applications such as augmented reality and the permanent availability of all data means a wide range of industrial challenges and tasks can be solved. Augmented reality creates transparency and ensures faster and safer processes. Tablets and smartphones form the technological basis for this kind of networked application. The Tab-Ex 02 and Pad-Ex 01 with AR, for instance, are suitable for a variety of tasks such as plant inventory, upkeep, commissioning and Maintenance 4.0.
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