The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connects people, machines, plants, logistics, products, processes, and systems. Mobile devices and smart HMI systems form the cornerstone of this new industrial age. But the real advantage of digital and mobile solutions emerges from the integration of mobile applications into industrial processes. With its intrinsically safe mobile devices, ecom instruments – a part of the Pepperl+Fuchs Group since 2016 — helps companies in hazardous-areas take advantage of mobile apps to get the most out of the IIoT.
Many process companies with extensive terrain or hazardous areas still use outdated technologies to plan, execute, manage, and control their business processes. Employees are not well integrated into the flow of information, and tasks are still performed with clipboard and paper-due to a lack of alternatives, certifications, or purely out of habit (“we’ve always done it this way”). Error-prone and inefficient, these archaic methods weigh down companies with increased risk and inflexibility. They also create potential safety issues by forcing employees to carry more than they should when moving around sites.
With industry-leading, intrinsically safe 4G/LTE Android smartphones and tablets-certified up to Division 1 and Zone 1/21-employees can now use professional industry applications in hazardous areas. Mobile apps streamline work while letting companies profit from a sea change in flexibility and future-proofing. Collaborative work on mobile devices goes beyond employees simply calling each other for help. It enables “Mobile Workers” to do their jobs efficiently and safely-anywhere, anytime, and with all mission-critical information at their fingertips.
Video conferencing applications are one example of how mobile wireless solutions open up new methods of communication for documentation, remote diagnostics, and maintenance in hazardous areas. During maintenance, a Mobile Worker simply streams video directly from the hazardous area to experts at the control center or anywhere else. This allows remote diagnosis in and immediate repair without spending valuable time waiting for a site visit. Further, with Push-to-Talk applications, smartphones or tablets can be interconnected with existing radio infrastructure such as LMR, Tetra, or DMR. This makes it possible to share and receive real-time information on assets, reducing expensive standstill and repair times.
Making Better Decisions and Increasing Productivity
Getting the most out of the IIoT requires a high level of information density along the entire decision-making chain. A key example of this is mobile dashboards, which give executives real-time access to comprehensive and manageable data from the employees operating a plant. Access to this data allows executives to act proactively rather than reactively, to identify trends, and to make data-driven predictions. In short, mobile dashboards help executives make better decisions.
In turn, employees can concentrate fully on their respective tasks on site by using digital workflows and orders. Planning apps integrated into ERP systems visualize the assignments, personnel, resources, live monitoring, execution, and more. The specific procedures can be individually assigned to the appropriate technicians and mechanics. Mobile Workers are shown the assignment on their password-protected smartphone or tablet. Once the job is done, they can record on the mobile device which process steps and tasks were completed, how much time was needed, and what materials were used. An application automatically transmits this information to the ERP system. If there is no Internet connection, the data can also be read offline and is immediately updated in the documentation when a company network connection is available. This improves workflows and increases wrench time, enabling Mobile Workers to cut down on time-consuming administrative tasks.
Data Capture Redefined
Professional data capture applications used on the right intrinsically safe mobile devices provide a number of advantages for businesses operating in hazardous areas. The most obvious advantage is cost effectiveness, since no additional hardware is needed to scan assets. With ecom’s CamScan Keyboard application, it is possible to scan and upload data directly within third party applications, eliminating the need for Mobile Workers to manually read in results in the field or back at the office. Using specialized software packages also helps prevent outages. Since the app is designed to be compatible with other applications and back-end systems, it has a direct impact on work-process effectiveness and visibility by reacting more quickly to anomalies, streamlining decision-making, and ultimately reducing costs.
As engineering managers know all too well, descriptions of equipment and assets can vary widely depending on the engineer reporting the problem. These variations often cause confusion and waste time since identical assets and equipment cannot be differentiated when being transferred to back-end systems. By scanning and entering data directly into input fields of various applications and minimizing the use of free-hand text, data recorded by Mobile Workers is more consistent. This enables easier analysis and reduces the risk of human error.
Mobile Communication of the Future
Mobile apps have not only changed our daily lives but also our way of working. From simple applications, such as barcode scanners, to major integrated software solutions-apps provide greater efficiency and productivity in hazardous-area industries. Ex-certified smartphones, tablets, and peripherals form the technological basis for networked applications that will be the decisive factor for corporate success in the future. The ecom App Library provides more than 200 useful apps tested by application engineers for use in hazardous areas. They let companies take advantage of proven technology in new scenarios in order to streamline workflows and improve the way assets are operated and managed.