In the event of a plant shutdown, it should be possible to immediately analyze the causes in an operations center in order to immediately implement appropriate countermeasures. Here, ZfT’s advanced telematics methods enable the defective system to be operated in real time through interactive feedback - similar to an expert on site - while still maintaining safety limits. The time-consuming arrival of specialists for complex repairs can thus be avoided. Remote maintenance thus helps to minimize downtimes and save travel expenses.
ZfT has developed an efficient solution for this - which also includes the safety aspects. ZfT remote maintenance supports the experts in the operations centre in order to interact with the remote systems and the technicians on site.
How access to the industrial robot and communication with the service technician on site can be implemented is shown in the following, based on a motor replacement on the robot in an injection moulding plant. The teleservice centre with the expert was located at the robot manufacturer’s site, the system with the service technician at the customer’s site.
The entire communication ran via the Internet node of the internationally active customer in Belgium.
During remote maintenance, the service technician was supported by mobile remote maintenance equipment and a special application for tablet PCs, which provides new functions for cooperation with the expert at a remote location.
For the expert in a teleservice center, the challenge is to work on a complex technical task together with a previously unknown person at a distance. It is often necessary to work in different time zones and there are language barriers. The context, i.e. the personal impression on site such as ambient noise, odours, temperature and size ratios as well as plant dynamics cannot be easily transmitted digitally.
In order to ensure situation awareness nevertheless, ZfT relies on several simultaneous camera perspectives in addition to the voice connection (VoIP) via headset. For example, an overview camera characterizes the relationship between the service technician and the system and enables an assessment of which actions can be safely instructed.
A bodycam provides the perspective of the technician on site and allows the observation of his manual activities. The tablet with camera is the central component for interaction. Here, current images of the situation can also be captured and stored. In addition, there is a drawing tool with which the service technician and experts can mark interesting parts of the image, for example, the expert draws the screw to be loosened directly for the service technician.
On this basis, reliable tests or repair procedures can be carried out - step by step a chain of commands is reliably implemented. Finally, the dialogue function supports the transmission of information that is not transmitted so reliably by voice, such as serial numbers. Furthermore, transmitted circuit diagrams and repair documents can be displayed on the tablet in usable resolution.
The expert at the robot manufacturer sees the system-specific programming tools on the one hand and the multimedia remote maintenance user interface on the other. Expert and technician always see the same picture so that they speak in the same context. All switching operations can be performed by the expert to relieve the technician. Small traffic lights indicate the video quality, so that feedback on the current connection situation is already returned to the user. If, for example, the connection deteriorates, the Adaptive Management and Security System developed by ZFT will first downgrade the quality of the videos. The system takes care of a stable connection of the actors with minimal delay.
A motor replacement on the robot with subsequent recommissioning was carried out here with the described software for the first time worldwide with remote support. This is a rather complex repair, which is usually carried out by a specialized service technician who has to travel especially for this purpose. Instead, a service technician from the customer was used here who had never carried out robot maintenance work before.
When exchanging critical and sensitive data via the Internet, security against eavesdropping must be guaranteed. The Adaptive Management and Security System, developed by ZfT, offers the corresponding functions.