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The Netbiter communicates via the cellular network and sends data from the PLC to the cloud-based Netbiter Argos service

Image: HMS Industrial Networks

Drives & Controls IIoT: Driving commissioning from anywhere

Sep 1, 2017

An application story on the usage of Industrial IoT gateway by Newton Tesla for efficient remote commissioning of an automation system

When Newton Tesla sets up new variable speed drives for their customers, they can do configuration, re-programming and monitoring from any location. By connecting a Netbiter gateway to their drives systems, they can offer their customers immediate assistance and do remote commissioning during the critical start-up period.

Newton Tesla drives Netbiter

Newton Tesla is one of Britain’s leading experts in variable speed drives and a supplier of advanced automation systems to factories and plants across the world. Specialising in Mitsubishi products, they have been working with drives and inverters since 1987.

When commissioning an automation system, it is often hard to solve everything in one go. Usually, there are certain processes you have to wait for or other systems that need to be installed before everything is 100% finished. This means that you often have to go back to the site several times resulting in expensive and time-consuming service trips.

Another issue is physical access. George Newton, Managing Director at Newton Tesla and drive system expert, explains, “At some sites, we need special permits or have limited access to our drives. For example, we recently built a system for a silver and platinum processing plant in America. Security was so tight that our mechanical commissioning engineer could not take any tools, mobile phone or even his laptop into the area. This makes on-site commissioning a challenge.”

To get access to their drives systems remotely, Newton Tesla had been looking for a remote management system for some time, but no system had quite lived up to their demands. George Newton continues, “I always had the fear that a remote management system would be complex, that it would be hard to establish a connection and, above all, that the connection would be unstable, which could really be a problem if you are programming a PLC. But when we found Netbiter, it was surprisingly easy.”

How it works

When Newton Tesla delivers a new drives system, they connect a Netbiter EC350 gateway to their Mitsubishi PLC which controls the drives. The Netbiter communicates via the cellular network and sends data from the PLC to the cloud-based Netbiter Argos service. By logging into, Newton Tesla can see data such as operating frequency, running hours, energy consumption and much more. By using the function called “Remote Access”, they can also use the gateway to establish a secure data tunnel to the PLC, through which they can debug, program and commission the drives system. They simply open the tunnel and can then access their Mitsubishi PLC, just as if they were connected on site.

Connection stability important

When programming a PLC, you do not want the connection to go down as it can corrupt your programming and cause the system to malfunction. So naturally, connection stability was the main concern for Newton Tesla. “The Netbiter connection is really robust which is very important for us,” says George Newton. “In fact, I have so much confidence in the connection that I even operate our drives remotely. On a recent project, I moved a crane to a specific position from the office, being confident that the connection wouldn’t be interrupted.”

Quick return-on-investment

The first time Newton Tesla used Netbiter in a customer project was when they shipped a system to a customer in Phoenix, Arizona. After the initial set-up on site, they could handle the rest of the commissioning remotely from the office in Warrington, UK. “Naturally, the Netbiter quickly paid for itself on the Arizona project, but the return-on investment is quick even if the customer only is a few kilometers away,” says George Newton. “If you calculate the costs for a service engineer to get all the gear ready, take the car to a customer and connect everything on site, you quickly realise that even a short service trip is costly.”

Nowadays, Newton Tesla always equips their systems with a Netbiter EC350 gateway. Since the Netbiter itself is quite easy to connect, this process can be done by someone who is not a PLC programmer, giving the PLC programmer more time to focus on the system itself. “Netbiter has given us the convenience of not having to travel to the site every time we need to adjust a system. It has given our offering an edge since we can spare our customers expensive service trips and offer faster support and commissioning,” concludes George Newton.

The article is reproduced with courtesy to HMS Industrial Networks

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