Mobile access makes industrial automation easier

  • Articles
  • Mar 29,22
Making technology work with mobile devices is an excellent way to help users access the statistics they need to make better decisions without being on-site, says Emily Newton.
Mobile access makes industrial automation easier

Many company leaders are increasingly interested in how industrial automation could help them. It’s now easier than in the past to find affordable, user-friendly solutions. Those products become even more appealing if they offer mobile industrial controls. Here’s a look at what’s possible when people can control industrial equipment with smartphones. 

They can remotely disable equipment to stop unauthorized use
One of the perks of industrial automation is that it becomes easier to track metrics associated with equipment use. Information is collected automatically in the background rather than making educated guesses or scrambling to collect data for a report at the end of the month. 

Some mobile-friendly industrial control platforms also allow users to remotely disable the starter mechanism on the equipment, preventing unauthorized use. This is a helpful feature if someone gets a real-time alert that a machine was taken outside of a specified area, indicating possible theft. 

Alternatively, perhaps a company has already had issues with theft or people otherwise using the equipment without permission. In such cases, decision-makers might choose to disable the starter during nonbusiness hours. 

They could support hyper-automation efforts
Some analysts believe more industrial entities will begin pursuing hyper-automation. In such situations, the goal is to automate every phase of a process, not just one aspect. A 2021 study showed that 28% of manufacturers were using hyper-automation strategies. 

However, that figure could rise significantly if it becomes easier for people to use their smartphones to verify automated processes are running as expected. As automation increases, it could become more difficult for some individuals to monitor everything simultaneously. App providers could account for that challenge and let people toggle between different machines or processes to monitor or control them. In that case, hyper-automation would become a more feasible goal. 

Even if a company is not ready to pursue hyper-automation yet, representatives could find that mobile equipment monitoring solutions substantially increase visibility. Some products allow sending people specific information about machines to their mobile devices based on their roles in a company. People can also set security-based parameters that dictate whether a team member can access content through a cellphone from their current location. 

They improve maintenance with mobile apps for the industrial market
Decision-makers should think carefully about how they’ll handle maintenance before a company pursues an industrial automation strategy. One study found that 80% of maintenance teams prefer using preventive approaches. Companies with adequate resources may also take things further and use technology to predict equipment failures. 

One product provides 24/7 remote monitoring of hydraulic excavators and dump trucks. It also sends two types of reports to a customer’s email or smartphone app that could help with maintenance decisions. The first provides operational statistics per month. Users that notice any major changes in those readings might decide to get the equipment serviced sooner than planned. 

An alarm report captures data about all the times people received real-time notifications of conditions that required immediate attention. The company plans to expand these smartphone monitoring features. It will show fuel-efficiency metrics customized to how an operator uses the machine or the specific environmental characteristics at a site. 

They allow operation from a distance
Progress has also occurred in the realm of mobile industrial controls that allows people to operate equipment from off-site. Significant work in this area is ongoing in the health care sector. Advocates believe this kind of industrial automation could improve access to medical treatment in rural areas. 

One recent example involved a surgeon who remotely operated a robot to perform a procedure nine miles away from the patient. This approach is sometimes called teleoperation of machinery. 

In another case, a collaboration between T-Mobile and Sarcos Robotics seeks to incorporate 5G technology into an application to control an industrial robot remotely. The machine can lift and move objects weighing up to 200 pounds. It can also operate power tools, including those intended for grinding or welding. Later phases of the project will investigate how a person could remotely use the robot or view its movements from elsewhere. 

The companies involved did not give specifics of that functionality. However, making it work with a smartphone or tablet would arguably make the option available to a large segment of the potential market. 

Mobile industrial controls promote greater accessibility
Making technology work with mobile devices is an excellent way to help users access the statistics they need to make better decisions without being on-site. Some products even let people control machines remotely. That could keep productivity levels high, even if someone cannot visit their workplace as usual on a given day. 

Circumstances such as sudden illnesses or family emergencies may prevent people from going to work as planned. However, those unexpected events do not mean the affected individuals cannot keep an eye on things from wherever they are. 

The examples here show why viewing or operating a machine or its statistics remotely is so appealing. Many people keep mobile devices in reach at all times, so it makes sense that current industrial automation technologies should offer visibility or control options via those gadgets.

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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