High-availability packaging machines from Multivac work in multi-shift operation up to seven days a week. Diagnostic data requested via remote service provides insight into the machine status at all times. This helps to avoid any unplanned downtime, or at least to reduce it to a minimum. Currently, the manufacturer is planning to provide further amenities via remote service.
Multivac, a globally leading provider of packaging solutions, has used the remote service solution since 2005. The machines in the upper performance range are delivered with a remote maintenance option. "Most of our machines run in multi-shift operation, so continual system availability is increasingly important. More and more, remote maintenance is being integrated into our machines, especially for complex equipment, production lines, and high-availability systems," says Christopher Kleinert, Group Leader for PLC control technology and software development at Multivac.
Remote service improves system availability
Multivac system availability has improved through the use of remote maintenance. The plant operator benefits from faster troubleshooting response times. "Via online access, many disruptions can either be eliminated directly or narrowed down such that the correct spare part can be sent out earlier, for example. In this way, the company has avoided a good deal of specialist travel expense, including travel to foreign countries," says Christopher Kleinert, explaining the benefits.
Remote service primarily assists the on-site operator. The service capabilities improved greatly after the manufacturer's analog/ISDN modem connections were replaced by secure broadband data connections. This allows Multivac's consultants and service technicians to remotely view the entire screen content that users have in front of them. If necessary, the divisional expert from headquarters can also join the session.
Functional analyses and other services
With the conversion to broadband IP/VPN connections and Innominate's mGuard technology, Multivac can transmit a variety of diagnostic data. Log files provide information on the processes, configuration values, and the status of the systems. Service consultants and specialists use this data for functional analyses of the packaging machines and their components. For instance, the switching states of sensors and actuating elements can be evaluated over a longer period of time. A software oscilloscope provides graphical analysis of the data. Based on the rotation speed and the electric current over time, issues such as whether a pivot has too much mechanical friction can be traced.
Once a broadband data connection to the system is in place, further services and business fields are feasible. For instance, Multivac is planning a video service to support operators even better on site.
Secure technology, conveniently administered
"Prior to the conversion of our remote maintenance solution to faster data connections, we first analyzed a variety of technologies. Classic dial-in devices such as UMTS modems or portal solutions (NetViewer, TeamViewer, remote desktop) did not meet our requirements, particularly with regard to access flexibility. Only site-to-site VPN solutions met our needs," explains Christopher Kleinert. When testing devices available on the market, critical factors included the security of the in-house and customer network and the manufacturer's experience in the field of IT security. "The Innominate mGuard appliances convinced us due to their security features, good configurability, convenient rollout using the mGuard Device Manager, and compact design," says Christopher Kleinert.
A VPN-enabled Ethernet router and a configurable firewall are integrated into the mGuard. The data connection between service technicians and machine is carried out using a virtual private network (VPN). Hardware-accelerated encryption by 3DES (168 bits) or AES (128, 192, 256 bits) and the IP security protocol (IPsec) are used. Additionally, the machine network is securely isolated from the customer's production network through an integrated firewall.
Convenient rollout with the Device Manager
"As a serial machine manufacturer, we equip a wide range of machines with the IP/VPN remote service technology. We use the mGuard Device Manager to prevent application errors and manual input mistakes during rollout and to transmit the configuration in the most automated way possible," says Christopher Kleinert.
The Device Manager takes over the configuration, rollout, and operational management of the mGuard devices. All the settings, such as firewall rules, VPN configurations, NAT and routing settings, certificate management, and optional functions are thus carried out and managed. Christopher Kleinert praises the collaboration with Innominate: "We were never left to configure the technology alone. We developed the settings together with Innominate and the finished version was tested by Innominate experts several times and certified as our ideal rollout basis."
Remote service solution meets high customer acceptance
Multivac has attained a high level of customer acceptance for its remote service solution. Christopher Kleinert explains the reasons: secure mGuard technology and customer information that makes the technical solution and its functionality highly transparent. It is also important for customers to maintain full control over their systems. To this end, the mGuard only allows an online connection to be established between the machine and a service technician when a local operator expressly uses a software switch to approve the process.