Manufacturing and designing hardware is a tough business, and selling equipment in the 21st century is getting even harder. That’s why original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been offering more remote servicing options to converters, film extruders and flexible packaging companies over the last 10 years.
One recent example of this trend is Enercon Industries Corp., Menomonee Falls, Wis., meeting customers’ needs by offering a remote support option for its range of power supplies for converters and film extruders, including the Compak Pro power supply. The company offers a range of power supply products for multiple applications. One type is electricity requirements for corona treating, and the new Compak Pro comes in 1 to 8 kW or 1 to 16 kW sizes.
The new power supply product features artificial intelligence technology to support remote troubleshooting, custom maintenance reminders and explicit real-time fault monitoring. The essential component of the remote support from Enercon is the ability for customers to download data via a USB port and then share this information with Enercon service engineers. Service engineers can access this data by connecting to the power supply product directly via a connected network for live support or by downloading data from the unit for review.
“In addition to collecting event and operating data, the system’s artificial intelligence captures critical information when a fault occurs,” says Brian Cooke, research and development manager at Enercon Industries. “It’s the equivalent to having an Enercon engineer connected to the system with an oscilloscope at the time of the fault.”
As more converters and toll packaging companies buy servo-based equipment, the amount of production data being produced on a production line increases exponentially. Understanding this wave of data on quality, quality control and uptime is essential for profitable operations. The Comexi Group, a global supplier of flexible packaging printing and converting solutions, sells large flexo presses but also offers remote cloud support solutions, including smart glasses.
Comexi’s Remote Support with smart glasses is a real-time communication system that allows information sharing between plant field technicians and the company’s support department. The smart glasses have remote connectivity and machine operators can show a field-of-vision to Comexi remote support teams. With hands-free video conferencing, operators can apply fixes in coordination with remote support and capture video or images of machinery. Other features of the remote support services include editing video to identify specific issues, real-time access to subject matter experts and show on-screen notes to the machine technicians while fixing equipment.
Along with the remote maintenance assistance support, the company also offers the Comexi Cloud solution to store maintenance data, including predictive, preventive and past downtime events. The cloud solution also offers companies the ability to store troubleshooting data, images, electrical diagrams, PDF machine documentation and support documents from other departments. Plus, an online purchasing service feature allows for printers and converters to quickly identify machine components for flexographic presses, laminators or slitter equipment.
“The Comexi Cloud tools enables us to make more efficient decisions,” says Simone Hahn, plant manager at Maxiplast Embalagens, a Brazilian company specializing in the production of flexible packaging and raffia bags. Maxiplast began using this digital platform two years ago, after purchasing a Comexi FW 1508 flexographic press.
More efficient decisions are made by Maxiplast due to the analytics and job-costing components that provide data on energy consumption, ink usage and consumables. According to the company, “this module provides print information regarding the total cost per meter for a specific period of time.” The quick access via the platform allows for quicker changeovers by recalling previous machine settings with older jobs.
GLOBAL PANDEMIC CHANGES
So many companies have been adjusting their support options due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Vetaphone, a supplier of plasma and corona surface treatment technology, is now offering a remote service option for its machines in 2020. The Vetaphone remote service diagnostic tool allows technicians to login and analyze and change the state of the input and output signals, read error logs and modify all parameters, according to Vetaphone. The company can also upload and change all the settings in the generator, so it effectively acts as a remote troubleshooting service for any Vetaphone customer.
The remote service proof-of-concept started in 2020 with Advanced Labels, a South African company that was having issues with a Nilpeter narrow web press.
“Advanced Labels has a Vetaphone 2 kW corona treater fitted to a Nilpeter and it was failing to start up, although the press was not showing an error,” says PJ Prinsloo, a service engineer at IPEX Services KZN, Vetaphone’s representative for southern Africa. “By having the Vetaphone service tool on my laptop I could login and see what the issue was with the generator.”
After quickly identifying the issue, the generator was replaced and a new one was shipped from Denmark to South Africa. After commissioning, the new remote services tool confirmed the new generator.
“We were delighted with the speed of response from IPEX and the way in which the problem was diagnosed and resolved. It was a fine example of customer support from the brand leader,” says Advanced Labels Managing Director Richard Jones.
As witnessed by these examples, remote services are becoming the new normal for converters, toll packaging companies and brand owners. Connected technology is mature after 10 years of starts-and-fits and a new horizon for support is here.