I interviewed Maryanne Steidinger who discussed Mobility in Manufacturing.
It's nice to speak with you again Maryanne. Today…
It's nice to talk with you too. It's been about at least a year or so.
Yes. And I enjoyed our last interview and I'm looking forward to this topic today, mobility in manufacturing.
Well, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to sharing it with the readers or listeners.
Can you provide a brief background of yourself again?
Of course. So my name is Maryanne Steidinger. I work in product marketing for Schneider Electric Software. My background is in manufacturing automation. I've been in this industry now for close to 30 years working on both from a product marketing side as well as from a business development and sales side. So my career has been really focused on working with solutions, both software and hardware, and bringing those to manufacturers to help them improve their operations.
Thank you. Can you talk about what is mobility in manufacturing?
Yes, I'd be happy to. So over the past couple of years there's really been a drive for mobility and we've seen it all with the proliferation of smartphones being used on a personal basis, tablets and smartphones having more and more applications that have applicability in both their personal life as well as professional life. So for example in industrial automation, industrial automation is all about providing visibility and control to manufacturing or industrial operations. So it could be things like reporting and analysis or providing a snapshot of an event or of an alarm. So as the proliferation of mobile devices has become part of an everyday use in a person's personal life, it's now started to spill over into industrial automation.
So the first applications that we saw for using mobility were in a couple of different ways. The first one was in operator training, so simulation and operator training and I'll give you an example. We have a product that’s called SimSci and what they do is they create industrial software for mostly oil and gas or chemical companies. And they provide a simulation product that allows a company to go and do a couple of things. One is safe shutdown, so they can simulate a shutdown of a plant prior to actually implementing it with a hardware. So this allows a company to look at what some of the interlocks would have to, be what some of the safety procedures that have to be enabled. And so it's a training program. So what we've done is we've mobile enabled it.
We provided a 2D way of showing the plant, showing how an operator would interact with the plant and having them simulate for example closing or opening a valve, shutting a particular area of the plant down, and we're using mobile technology in order to have them stand in the plant and have the simulated experience around them where an instructor could tell them, "Okay, now shut this valve." Instead of doing a physical shutdown of the valve, they would use their tablet or their mobile phone instead. So that’s been around for about three or four years, and that’s really taking gaming technology and bringing that mobile factor to that simulation. The second way that mobility has started to become really useful more manufacturing has been with task management and this has been primarily in the oil and gas industry. So for example a worker has to go out and look at the condition of a motor or of a state of a line or, for example, a chiller or an air conditioner and those devices may not be connected via Wi-Fi or via some hard wiring to the plant network.
So the worker basically used to take a clipboard with a checklist and go out there and validate that they did it. The problem with checklist is that they're prone to errors. They are prone to not perhaps capturing the true state of the piece of equipment. You can't add context to it. So for example, adding a picture or adding commentary to the state of this device. So what's happened is there are products--and again Wonderware has a product is called IntelaTrac and it allows a worker to take a mobile device and on that mobile device is basically loaded their tasks, what routines and what activities they are expected to do when they're making their rounds within the plant. So this mobility application then allows them to not only confirm that they’ve done the activity but it allows them to add richer information to the task. So for example capturing a picture, adding captions, adding notes, adding other activities that had to occur as a result of doing that one action. So the mobility has really enabled these workers in a refinery to number one, not be tethered to their desk anymore but number two, provide a more complete and accurate view of what's occurring in the plant operations.
There's a third point and that would is that there now mobility that’s being used for reporting and analysis. So for example a company has a data historian and a data historian is basically--think of it as a sequel server database or a database that’s optimized for real-time data acquisition and storage. So it can capture information such as a temperature reading or a state, it's on, it’s off. And it's time stamped data so plants use the historians. They can capture millions of points of data and plant will use it in order to analyze their current operations and also be able to look backward and see if there's any trend either up or down that could have set a current or future performance.
So traditionally in the past, the reporting packages for historians were on a PC and the PC was in a control room and basically the worker was bound to that control room. Over the past couple of years, there has been mobile reporting. So for example Wonderware has a product that’s called SmartGlance and it allows you to take historian data, bring it up to a cloud-based server and then they can report and view basically the activities and actions and events on either a smartphone or a tablet. So what this allows workers to do is first of all, they can access it anywhere so they don’t have to be physically in the plant in order to see if there's a potential shutdown or if there's a potential out of norm operation occurring. So mobility in manufacturing or really in industry allows companies to enable their workers to be much more productive because they can be at the site, they can have the information there to be work instructions, it could be reports or analysis so you get a much quicker turnover of action and then reaction.
Do you have any recommendations for anyone that wants to get started with mobility in manufacturing?
Sure. What I would say is look at the reports and the analysis that you do now and see what might make sense for you to try perhaps starting with something easy and less expensive like mobile reporting on a phone. A lot of the vendors besides Schneider Electric have mobile reporting on phones and they're fairly inexpensive, like a couple of hundred dollars per person per month. So you can very quickly upload your data and start to get real-time analysis on your smartphone. If that works, then you can consider perhaps putting it into a certain area of your plant or certain site. The other thing would be is to look at how you're doing training right now, would it make sense to have that richer user environment. So there's a number of ways of being able to iteratively start with mobility and then you can expand from there.
And thank you Maryanne for sharing today.
Thank you very much Dustin. Always pleased to provide some more information.
About Maryanne Steidinger
Director Commercialization, Operations and Information Portfolio at Schneider Electric (Invensys)
San Francisco Bay Area | Computer Software