Implementing remote access to provide machines with zero downtime
Kyoto Seisakusho, a leading manufacturer of packaging equipment known for packing a product and its manual in the same box efficiently, had been facing a challenge in optimizing its operation and maintenance support for its clients. In order to assess on-site product problems that could involve repair or replacement and to decide whether it should dispatch engineers, the company has implemented SiteManager, Secomea’s industrial IoT gateway.
Challenge in its commitment to serve as its clients’ handyman
Most of our consumer products are packaged, and Kyoto Seisakusho is a leading developer and manufacturer of packaging machines for a range of products including confectionery, foods and pharmaceuticals. Packaging machine specifications vary with the product, and Kyoto Seisakusho’s products are entirely custom-made. We asked Mr. Tanaka, a member of the company’s Technology Development Division, what special challenges the company was facing as the clients’ ”handyman”.
“When a problem occurs with a packaging machine at a client’s production site, we must go there in order to examine it. As the machines today are quite complicated, it is difficult or impossible for the operators to assess a problem until one of our engineers examines it on site, so we are required to send a highly-qualified expert who can handle any problem.”
It is easy to deal with equipment damage or malfunction in factories near Kyoto, where the company’s headquarters is located. But problems can appear in remote areas such as Hokkaido or overseas. Sending high-level experts every time can interfere with their main design work, or the company may not have enough engineers available to be dispatched to multiple sites. That is a serious difficulty for Kyoto Seisakusho, which is constantly seeking to improve its customer service quality.
Path to implementing SiteManager
IoT prompted implementation of remote access
Kyoto Seisakusho produces approximately 600 packaging machines annually, and most of them are custom-built. The solution, the company has employed to more efficiently service this wide variety of low-volume products in use around the world, is remote access, which networks its clients’ packaging machines with Kyoto Seisakusho’s headquarters and establishes a system for engineers to make real-time problem assessments without travelling to the site.
Ten years ago, the company attempted to implement predictive trouble detection using a US remote access product. However, at that time, the value of connecting production equipment to the internet was still unrecognized among its clients or even among Kyoto Seisakusho’s sales staff, so it failed to catch on and remained unused.
The company seemed to have lost interest in remote access thereafter, but Mr. Tanaka did not give up. As IoT grew and remote access gained greater recognition, Mr. Tanaka launched another effort to persuade his colleagues.
In its second attempt to implement remote access, Kyoto Seisakusho gave high priority to security and usability, Mr. Tanaka asserted.
“It goes without saying that security is our foremost priority in a system which handles our customer’s secrets. Also, I think one of the obstacles in our failure ten years ago was poor usability, which is one of our focuses this time.”
Reason for implementation and operation status
SiteManager makes it easy to realize a secure environment for clients
The solution for Kyoto Seisakusho was SiteManager, Secomea’s industrial IoT gateway. It is offered as simple, dedicated hardware for remote connection between industrial machinery and the corporate network.
SiteManager, an industrial IoT gateway
Only pre-registered machines are accessible. As SiteManager is not dependent on routing technology, the machines cannot access sites outside the corporate network. Limitation of terminals ensures a specified level of communication speed and achieves a secure environment. “The fact that the security performance of this product is certified by an independent organization gave us a higher level of assurance and was a deciding factor in choosing SiteManager,” Mr. Tanaka said.
In terms of usability, SiteManager is easily set up. The control monitor is also readily configurable with a browser. Its ease of implementation and unique control method make it expandable to a larger number of machines, so it looks promising for the future.
A similar US product the company also considered implementing showed slower communication speed, required complicated corporate networking and operation, and took more maintenance time and cost. On the other hand, SiteManager achieves high-speed connection, is user-friendly, and costs less—all of which made an impact on our decision-making, Mr. Tanaka emphasized.
Effects of implementation and future prospects
A good beginning for remote maintenance and an effort in progress for standardization
Kyoto Seisakusho initially implemented SiteManager only for more reliable equipment and made problems visible in real time. Now its engineers can assess machine problems at a client’s factory while remaining at their office and examining the incident log maintained in a system PC server. Mr. Tanaka explained the current status of his efforts.
“Before equipping all of our machines with a standard remote access function, we need to restructure our service system. Our current trouble-shooting system requires our engineers to personally go to clients’ factories, and some customers feel uncomfortable shifting to remote service. Our sales team has been demonstrating the system with the terminals on site. We are in the process of promoting better understanding among users inside and outside our company.”
Kyoto Seisakusho has always been committed to prompt personal service as its clients’ “handyman”. By delivering Secomea’s SiteManager with its products, the company is now capable of understanding a problem from its headquarters and can now determine whether the problem can be solved on the spot or what staff should be sent, so the equipment at the customers’ factories have shorter downtime. Promotion of remote access is an important part of Kyoto Seisakusho’s relentless effort to improve its service quality.
In the future, the company plans to provide remote maintenance service with every machine as a standard feature. Further on, it aims to monitor equipment operation status in conjunction with IoT and conduct preventive maintenance by predicting problems in order to achieve machines with zero downtime.