The Mobile Field Operations Platform is the result of collaboration between Techedge and major Italian manufacturing companies that wanted to take the opportunity to rethink and digitalize their manufacturing processes as part of the “National Industry 4.0 Plan” and “Transition 4.0”, with the aim of achieving greater field operation efficiency, simplifying procedures, modernizing ways of working, and improving sustainability as much in environmental terms as in human resources.
The Mobile Field Operations Platform, a software platform available for both mobile devices and desktop computers, hosts a series of management apps for some of the most common processes in the field of inspection and operations, and can be further extended to other apps and company functions as well.
The platform is not exclusive to any specific mobile devices and can be installed on any Android or iOS device. For situations that require intrinsic security, it can also be used on ATEX tablets.
Which apps are available so far?
Operator Round helps operators with daily field inspection rounds by using an activity checklist, where relevant measurements that are not available on the DCS can be directly inserted into mobile devices and an initial check can be run on the data.
Proposed maintenance alerts can also be set up as the operator sees fit, e.g. an alert when vapor or condensation is lost.
The shift supervisor can supervise the checklist compilation, review, approve and convert proposed alerts into maintenance alerts on the ERP. As a result, an administration console allows a vast number of users, creations, changes to checklists and scheduling to be monitored completely autonomously.
The benefits of this solution are immediately apparent: Eliminating the need for paper, higher speeds and fewer mistakes made in the manual data collection process, earlier data availability.
Ensuring a correct electrical disconnection with fast response times is fundamental for avoiding accidents and carrying out maintenance work on electrical assets quickly.
Electrical Disconnection allows you to coordinate and support the activity of personnel tasked with disconnecting the power supply to machinery before maintenance work can be carried out. The app can assign tasks to a single person, facilitate and certify them, and communicate successful operations without needing to return to the office after every operation.
The advantages of this solution can be appreciated not only in terms of time, but also safety: The QR Code or RFID link between each switch and the corresponding machinery avoids the risk of making mistakes that could have serious consequences.
Saras, one of the largest and most complex refineries in the Mediterranean, has successfully implemented both the Operator Round and Electrical Disconnection apps, raising worker safety standards and improving productivity: read the case study!
Being able to monitor odorous emissions would be beneficial to many industrial sectors: petrochemical plants, metallurgical plants, water purification and composting sites, food and agricultural companies. The references correspond to UNI EN 13725:2004 and UNI EN 16841:2017 air quality standards.
Additionally, this is a form of pollution potentially subject to IEA (Integrated Environmental Authorization) requirements on monitoring and concentration, odorous emissions are an important part of public relations, and monitoring them therefore falls increasingly within the remit of company environmental, social and governance strategies.
The app allows users to monitor odors released into the atmosphere by inserting geo-referenced warnings by GPS, complete with information about the nature and intensity of the odor recorded. The HSE manager and shift supervisor will therefore be able to examine warnings received directly on a map, and integrate them with other information such as weather conditions, wind speed and direction, and potentially even activities in progress in that moment. All this information is archived for later analyses.
Detected odors can be reported either as they occur, or per specific request by managers, who can indicate a time and place of for a check request, and can even set up an odour field inspection campaign.
During a turnaround or maintenance operation, the installation and removal of blind discs to block or readmit process fluid is a fundamental step that has a significant impact on an operation’s time consumption and safety.
The app offers an opportunity to plan a list of blinding operations to be carried out, and to assign them to maintenance teams, track current status and match QR codes or RFID chips to every flanged coupling in order to accurately track every blinding inserted before maintenance activities begin, and removed before production starts up again.
Consignments are various kinds of instructions that workers and shift leaders pass on to the next shift with the aim of ensuring continued operations after shift changes, and tracking any criticalities found during the shift. Consignments may contain information relevant to processes, maintenance, or operative instructions received by coordinators to be passed onto the following shift.
Logbook is an app that allows this information to be organized in a hierarchical way that reflects the operative organization, divided by area, logbook, and the deliveries themselves.
The area and logbook are logical, hierarchical groupings, which allow individual deliveries to be structured, and regulate access to content and allowed operations.
The consignment itself will have a reference template that determines which fields appear, and which specific checks are to be performed.
Health Surveillance Service
This app manages regular staff health appointments, allowing every employee to arrange their own annual check-up autonomously, as corresponds to their own work schedule.
The medical office can manage scheduled appointments and better prepare for visits, meaning reduced waiting times and less-crowded waiting rooms.
Integrating digital work schedules into the app allows both the medical office and the operators to keep on top of any timetable changes or appointment cancellations, and allows appointment reminders to be created.
Benefits of the Mobile Field Operation Platform
We have already talked about the specific advantages of each app, but what benefits does the platform provide as a whole?
- Time Saving: Downtime and task completion are less time-consuming, which frees up resources for activities with higher added value.
- Data quality and standardization: Digitalizing the process improves the quality of collected data, avoids transcription and interpretation errors and standardizes the format, collecting only complete and coherent information.
- No paper: paper is completely cut out, which is good for both the company and for the environment.
- Improved perception of work: using tools that simplify the way of working is positively perceived and facilitated by adopting digital technologies.
- Increased interaction between business functions: information exchange between distinct business functions is facilitated by the speed of communication and the use of compatible formats.
A project in continuous development
The apps we have described in this article are the result of collaboration with our clients and their number continues to grow: Our expert design thinking and agile and mobile development teams are constantly working to plan and implement new mobile apps in order to cover every demand relative to field operations.
The factory journey methodology (informally called “Digital Frog”), which is specially designed to introduce innovative solutions to industrial establishments, and make daily activities simpler for those who work there, is one of our major strong points.
This approach uses a mix of design thinking for planning, a fast test for proposals (with one week from plan to test) and agile approaches to create apps in the field though iterative, incremental release cycles that mean fast and continual feedback for the end user, so as to obtain a product designed for operators, by operators.
Other articles of this series on Digital Advisory:
- People at the center: the key to a successful transformation
- The role of Technology Onboarding in innovation projects
- The pros and cons of remote Design Thinking
- Checking and monitoring devices remotely: IoT or Historian?
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): the KPI for improving production processes
- Digital Twins, a pillar of digital transformation
- Heat and material balances: monitoring yield and consumption, identifying losses