Reducing Downtime with Remote Alarm Systems

Converting an automated plant to a smart factory is definitely a leap forward. However, it requires enabling a flexible and fully connected system to learn and adapt to new requirements, using a steady stream of data coming from production systems and connected equipment.

Nowadays, there is a convergence of extreme challenges facing manufacturing plants. Most consist of an aging workforce with issues of knowledge transfer, there is increasing demand for high-quality products, the need to use fewer resources, coupled with pandemic situations like that from COVID-19. Not only must these issues be navigated, but manufacturing plants must also maintain ongoing operations while controlling costs. Additional situations like unplanned downtimes can often cause financial disasters and logistical nightmares.

However, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. IIoT, coupled with machine connectivity and monitoring solutions, is providing solutions for mitigating the above-unexpected problems including challenges of staffing.

A report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute had forecasted an expected shortage of 2 million workers for US manufacturing during 2015-2025. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. In their latest report, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute claim that by 2030, roughly 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will remain unfulfilled. According to the report, this will cost the US economy about $1 trillion by 2030.

Manufacturing plants spend millions of dollars each year as capital for improving equipment and facilities to protect employees, increase product safety, and reduce costs. This is very important, as equipment may run from 16-20 hours a day, every day, 24/7, especially in food processing plants. Downtime primarily is from equipment failure, causing an astounding $30,000 per hour in these food processing facilities.

This is where the iFIX SCADA system along with the WIN-911 Advanced remote alarm modification software from GE can help ensure the plant continues to operate non-stop.

One of the main ideas is having a sensor monitoring if the machine is working properly, rather than having someone crawl under it to check it out. The other is to use a remote alarm monitoring notification software, allowing fewer people to monitor far more assets with devices they already have—smartphones and tablets. For continuous monitoring of systems, uninterrupted remote availability is essential. The advantage of the system is staff need not remain onsite, and the facility needs fewer people.

Earlier, remote monitoring involved emails, texts, and phone calls. However, monitoring critical plant systems now extend beyond these. They include apps featuring time-saving tools like team chats, real-time alarm acknowledgments for troubleshooting, and resolving plant problems. They also provide detailed reporting so that future incidents do not occur. While this leads to fewer emergency shutdowns, it also requires fewer resources and lower spending on maintenance and overtime.

The mobile alarm notification app is software integrating seamlessly with the HMI or SCADA software of an industrial operation. This allows employees to monitor, receive and acknowledge alarms from machines and plants on smartphones and tablets. This way they can remain free to work from any remote location such as their homes.