In today’s competitive and highly demanding industrial environment, every machine builder recognises the need to remotely access (remote programming of field devices) its machines and equipment in the field, so as to reduce machine downtime, raise machine uptime, decrease operational cost, reduce planned and unplanned site visits and provide good service to the end customer. Indeed, remote access allows them to stay competitive, whether by drastically reducing maintenance costs, optimising customers’ machine uptime or by offering better after-sales service.
This trend can be seen through the figures. Certainly, HMS Industrial Networks, sees impressive statistics coming from their IIoT cloud platform ‘Talk2M’.
Remote access – Ticket to the future
As of today, 150,000+ eWON VPN routers are registered in Talk2M, having established a total of over 10 million VPN connections. The total number of connections has been multiplied by 10 in a span of four years.
According to eWON experts, more than a must-have, remote access is also a ticket for the future and IIoT, especially, if customers opt for eWON remote data solution, which combines remote access with data services. Indeed, using the eWON Flexy IIoT router and data gateway, machine builders have the possibility to immediately benefit from the Remote Access advantages while having the data services required for their future or for on-going IIoT projects.
eWON Flexy does not depend on other devices
eWON Flexy is an IIoT router and data gateway designed for remote maintenance engineers, who will use the device for their operational needs. Tailored for this purpose, the device operates independently from any other connected device.
Primary design of the product is to remotely access industrial machines over the internet. This means that it is possible to troubleshoot/check variables and re-program the automation devices on the machine (PLC/DCS/Drive/SCADA/controllers, etc), view and control machine’s HMI from remote, or even access to an IP camera with real-time live images for on-site assistance.
Secondly, the product allows collecting data from the PLC/DCS/drives/controller. The purpose is to create dashboards out of these data, being either localised in the Flexy or for data provided by multiple devices on a web portal platform. The data can also feed edge computing applications, such as, performance monitoring and predictive maintenance, provided by third-party applications.
A flexible device
Alongside the remote access feature, the Flexy can also be used to collect and aggregate field data. The machine builder can connect his machines to cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Predix, ThingWorx, Amazon web services, IBM Bluemix, MindSphere, SAP and many more.
Remote sensing of machine data
The Flexy data gateway can connect to a wide range of industrial devices, mostly Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), but also drives, Distributed Control System (DCS), remote I/Os, meters and sensors.
Even though the Ethernet port is mostly used to connect to PLCs/DCS/drives, a serial port is also available for legacy devices/PLCs. The Flexy supports all major PLC brands’ communication protocols, allowing polling the PLC register, such as, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP, Ethernet/IP, PROFINET, PROFIBUS, MELSEC, etc. The only thing that is required is to select the right PLC protocol, define how to gather data inside the device (a register, a data block, etc) and connect.
Saving the data into tags
A tag is a variable or a register that contains a numeric value coming from the PLC. Examples of tag names are ‘Tank level’, ‘eWON Memory1’, ‘Siemens_MW100’ and more. It is used to identify the origin of the data.
Once field data is stored into tags in the Flexy, these can be used to manage alarms that trigger and notify, based on the machine condition. They also help create a customised remote web dashboard to monitor machine status on smart phones/laptops remotely. Furthermore, they record data (Historical logging > 10,00,000 date and time-stamped records) and push live or historical data to a central/user’s server via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or HTTP(S) or comma-separated values (CSV files) or the Talk2M DataMailBox or using MQTT.
Besides, they publish the tags into Modbus TCP or OPC UA for the local SCADA access. In other words, tags are the root of the Flexy application.
The pros of alarms
Alarm management is a major asset for machine builders and end-users as it offers the opportunity to effectively decrease machines downtime by optimising reactivity. Alarms also help in avoiding any serious damages to the machines by helping in addressing the problems proactively.
Moreover, by instantly receiving the right information, alarm notifications avoid spending unnecessary time watching the machines status. The operation is very simple. For each tag created in the Flexy, it is possible to trigger alarms by defining thresholds, activation delays, etc. If the tag value exceeds any threshold level, the Flexy raises the Alarm.
For every alarm defined, the eWON can send out notifications in the form of an e-mail, an SMS or a file sent on an FTP server or even data sent though HTTP(S). Notifications can be sent upon different alarm status such as when the alarm is raised, when someone acknowledges the alarm, when the situation is returned to normal or when the alarm ends.
To ensure that the delivered message is meaningful to each user, these are fully customisable. This includes dynamic content such as tag name, alarm status and level, tag description, time stamp and value at this time, alarm action, information about the eWON, etc. Flexy can send alarms to multiple users over mobile phone or via e-mail.
Editing for web dashboards
The Flexy can store web pages. This means that every user, whether on the customer or the machine builder side, can remotely access its own personalised web dashboard stored in the Flexy, displaying specific information about the machine.
This requires, of course, the design of web dashboards. For this purpose, eWON also developed free software called viewON, a web HMI editor that allows designing animated web dashboards, such as, production dashboards, performance indicators, manufacturing counters, data trending graphs, alarm viewers and so on. The free software then uploads the dashboards as HTML5.0 pages, into the eWON Flexy, making those accessible from any web browser.Finally, eWON also offers the possibility to personalise the M2Web portal, giving marketers the opportunity to apply their brand identity and optimise customers’ experience.
Simple turnkey solutions, such as, remote access with alarm management and web HMIs allows saving big amounts of money and reducing machine downtime while offering value-added services to end users.
However, the IIoT wouldn’t make such a buzz if it would have stopped there. The good news is, real IIoT applications, such as data trends or performance monitoring dashboards, are easier to set up features in Flexy.
The Flexy is also capable of collecting data from different machines, aggregate them into a central server and analyse them using third-party monitoring software, conveniently and easily. The user can be assured of not missing any machine data collected by Flexy. Materialising field data into nice data trends and performance monitoring dashboards is all it takes to know the right third-party software.
The article is provided by Santosh Tatte, Country Manager, HMS Industrial Networks India