Jim Montague is the executive editor for Control. Email him at [email protected].
Remote machine monitoring used to be possible, but it usually wasn't simple or easy. Leslie Adams, technical services director at Maac Machinery in Carol Stream, Ill., remembers using phone-based modems to connect to its shuttle and rotary thermoforming machines, which are used worldwide to manufacture aerospace, medical, automotive and home products.
"I remember the frustration with trying to monitor machines when it took a long time for information to make its way back via the modem," Adams says. "In one instance, working with a machine in Australia, the delay ran up to 15 seconds."
Thankfully, remote monitoring and control is far quicker and more secure with today's virtual private network (VPN) devices. Maac employs eWon's VPN routers, which don't impact its clients' IT departments. It also uses eWon's cloud-based Talk2M service for automated recordkeeping.
Maac Machinery's Mike and Paul Alongi show off their heavy-duty shuttle-forming machine, which is one the company's many machines that can be remotely monitored and maintained using VPN routers.
Source: Maac Machinery and eWon
"Using an Internet connection, we can connect to machines just about anywhere," Adams adds. "We recently established secure VPN connections with our machines in Calgary and Montreal and in Minnesota and North Carolina. As long as the customer has an Internet connection, we're good to go. It eliminates the need for any kind of special interface. Using VPN routers eliminates 50% to 70% of our support costs, in addition to significantly reducing hours of machine downtime normally associated with waiting for a service technician."
Using VPN routers lets Maac improve its customer service in important economies including China, India, and the Pacific Rim. "Those of us in the United States and Canada take solid phone infrastructure for granted, but this is not true in other parts of the globe," explains James Alongi, Maac's president. "VPN routers get our customers away from the cost of running special phone lines into their manufacturing facilities, and they give us the flexibility to service our machinery using the best communication technology available locally, whether it's Internet, cellular or anything else."
This article is part of the November 2013 cover story, "Remote Access Here or There."