Avantis Enables Real-Time Maintenance

Wireless Networks and Mobile Touchscreens Arm the Roving Worker


By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

The mainstream proliferation of iPhones, iPads, Androids and other smart phones and tablet PCs is spurring millions of new uses. But the really big news is that all these touchscreen-based mobile devices are moving into process control facilities and applications—allowing developers at Invensys Operations Management to deliver its Avantis asset monitoring and maintenance software via an operator interface terminal (OIT) module and web browser to all these new and ubiquitous platforms.

In short, touchscreens everywhere means "Real-Time Maintenance" (RTM) everywhere, too, according to Eric Stern, president of MaxEAM, an Invensys software partner that develops functions for Avantis. In his presentation to users at the OpsManage'11 event this week in Nashville, Tenn., Stern reported that providing Avantis on touchscreens grew out of an earlier project in which the Wonderware division of Invensys developed an OIT component that allowed Frito-Lay's operators to use handheld touchscreens to monitor and manage recipes, machine speeds, fryer temperatures and other devices on their potato chip production line.

"All kinds of cellular phone and data plans are available for about $40, and many smart phones and tablets are in the $200 range, and this means users can use these touchscreens to do real-time plant maintenance that's far less costly than traditional methods," explained Stern.

In general, RTM with Avantis provides several basic functions in a web browser for wireless or cellular connected devices. These include hierarchy navigation, work requests and work order creation, parts and time documentation, and project status updates. Users start to interact with RTM by selecting an asset from an overall map, and can quickly drill down to specific facilities, assets and pieces of equipment. They can then check values, take a variety of actions, order equipment and document those actions for archiving and later analysis. Users can also add, edit or customize functions based on the needs of their applications.

"For instance, an operator may be working on a food and beverage line when he notices a roof leak, so he can go to the building asset section on his touchscreen and immediately create a work request," said Stern. "For his own projects, he can document actions online and in real time, generate pick lists for parts, check project status and root causes, and then document when repairs are done to help track downtimes. In addition, while paper requests are static and can get lost, these online requests are immediately available to everyone, so the next shift can easily check on the status of requests generated by the previous shift or even find material from six months ago. This gives everyone more accessibility, availability, empowerment and efficiency. For example, Frito-Lay reports that its operators have gained massive productivity improvements and costs savings with these tools, and now others users can do it too." 

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