Remote Monitoring and Control

Posted by Steve Beyer on Jun 29, 2016 4:22:01 PM


Being “remote,” and having “control” can mean different things in different circumstances. For instance: remote can refer to a geographical distance, as in working from home--remotely; or, being standoffish—aloof, and distant. How about “having control” in the sense of managing a situation versus being manipulative, or grabbing the steering wheel?

Of course when you put these terms together you may think of a model car or plane, something along those lines. In a technical work context it takes on a different meaning: Remote monitoring and control is a discipline unto itself, being able to safely, accurately and effectively oversee a process that might be dangerous, complicated, and/or critical. Being very good at remote monitoring and control is an art form, one that we practice regularly.

It means we can provide our clients with the ability to safely, from a distance and/or over a prescribed period of time, perform important tests or production functions at a lower risk, at a reduced cost, and at a predictable level. These factors are all important whether you're watching a pipeline, monitoring an assembly process of a medical device or production of food ingredients, or conducting a specialized test of a new product.

We use technology such as machine vision, data acquisition hardware and software, production control systems (such as PLCs), etc. to enable these systems this way. State-of-the-art communications, be they wireless or cabled, provide us the ability to do this from a safe distance or where geography makes it untenable to do so up close, often.

As these technologies become integral with control systems that allow us to precisely and properly meter out dosages and control process flows, we can execute more and better projects this way. We can offer innovative and ever more sophisticated techniques for clients to run their businesses.

One medical device manufacturer uses these technologies to repeatedly test a new medical device in development. Company and FDA and other requirements drive a need for repeatability, leveraging the functions inherent in the automation of life test fixtures. Recording the operations and being able to store, search, report, and analyze them offers auditability and accountability that is necessary and beneficial.  Trying to do this without automation and without the data acquisition and monitoring functions of technologies such as we employ is currently impractical. Would you want to run a million cycles, write down all the results, speak to them and report on them in detail, AND have that data appropriately accessible for 20 years without such state of the art support?

Numerous oilfield service companies use remote monitoring and control to perform both long-duration (28-day testing) of high pressure test systems for proving out new or refurbished tools and downhole instruments. These get subjected to simulated extreme conditions. You would not want to be under 40,000 psi of pressure, or 300-degrees Celsius temperatures for a month, would you?  So wire it up and do it remotely, use machine vision systems to record every second and play back as needed (watch the failures as well as the non-events). 

Topics: Manufacturing, Controls, Test Systems

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The goal of this blog is to be helpful to readers by providing useful information about applications in industrial engineering, design and skilled trades, as well as industry knowledge. We're passionate about manufacturing in the United States. We have a little fun with it too.  

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