The International Space Station gently orbits the Earth 408km above its surface. On board is some of the most technologically advanced equipment with one goal: keeping the crew alive for the duration of their missions. While the crew might be responsible for a wide variety of scientific experiments, a considerable amount of their time is spent on simply maintaining the station, for which they rely on routine resupply launches for every single tool, nut and bolt. Miss a single item, and it’s a long way to the nearest hardware store.
This might seem like an extreme example, but when it comes to managing remote work sites where downtime can equal increased business risk and big losses in revenue, leveraging the capability of modern technology to manage issues from a distance becomes a crucial part of operations.
Consider the example of the space station, where downtime can potentially lead to catastrophic results if physical infrastructure isn’t adequately monitored and maintained. We can see that not only will the productivity of the site be adversely affected by a lack of remote management services, the safety implications and risks for workers will also increase in this scenario.
So, what can companies do to ensure continuous connectivity and avoid dangerous situations on remote work sites while keeping costs in check?
It seems simple, but the easiest way to keep risks at bay is to avoid them. So, when we’re talking remote sites, we want to avoid putting people at risk by not sending them to the site in the first place. This approach not only saves on costs, it also mitigates safety risks for workers.
Consider a rectifier—the electrical device that converts alternating current to direct current. In the event of a fault an alarm may be triggered at a remote site, but without remote data being available a worker will physically have to attend the site, assess the situation and attempt to repair it. But that rectifier is typically capable of collecting over 200 pieces of data that can be used as part of a remote management process. Had the data been available at the time of the alarm, the worker may have been able to simply log in and fix the issue remotely, saving time and money.
These days almost all technology is smart, meaning it can be connected to other services as part of a network. By configuring an industrially sound network, we can realise the full benefits that come along with it. This means a reduction in spending on resources, transportation costs, and equipment, which in turn lowers the overheads for any particular site and results in wider savings across the business.
So, by connecting systems with remote equipment we’re able to actively monitor services and plan predictively, rather than reacting once an issue arises and the damage is already done.
accesstel works with customers who have sites located all over the country, and in our experience the best and most cost-effective way to manage remote sites is to tap into the functionality of existing technology, which many companies don’t do. Too often organisations rely on the opinions of corporate vendors selling expensive solutions involving the implementation of new technology, rather than exploring the options already available to them, despite the major benefits that typically result from such exploration.
Without being able to see what’s happening at a remote worksite, it’s difficult to know who to send out to fix a problem, and what tools may be required to fix it. Some sites are so remote that it can take hours or even days to travel there. If the person sent to the site isn’t able to resolve an issue a second worker may need to attend. This results in lost time in travelling, and higher costs for what could turn out to be basic maintenance.
In our experience, smart sensors at sites benefits businesses in two ways. Firstly, customers are able to conduct in-depth data analysis from home base and make informed decisions before deploying workers to remote sites. Additionally, they’re more able to clearly communicate requirements to workers once they get there.
Smart sensors cover everything from vibration sensors detecting structural faults, to monitoring and scheduling preventative maintenance activities. After all, there’s no point in sending someone to conduct maintenance on one asset on a site only to have another asset on that site break a month later. With predictive monitoring in place it’s possible to monitor the status of the asset and repair or replace it at a more convenient time.
We’ve seen workers deployed to remote locations in areas that are known to be dangerous—where situations such as hijacking, robbery, and ambushes are highly likely—so leveraging technology to increase visibility over the site is a huge step towards creating a safer working environment. It also means employers can communicate better with workers while they’re on site to ensure their continued safety.
It’s for these reasons that video links are a hot topic at the moment. Video provides a visual of what’s happening with equipment and a clear connection to on-site workers.
By being able to assess the site from a distance, and understand predictively what causes equipment to fail, our customers have been able to successfully maintain not only the health of their site but also that of their workers, while enjoying the added benefits of across-the-board cost savings.