Remote Technologies as Common Practice in Industrial Maintenance: What Do Experts Say?
1.1. Maintenance and the Importance of Communication
- Servicing is the term used to describe measures to delay the degradation of the existing wear stock, i.e., the preservation of the target condition.
- Inspection is the examination of conformity of the relevant characteristics of an object, through measurement, observation or functional testing, i.e., the determination and assessment of an actual condition.
- Repair is considered to be a physical measure carried out in order to restore the function of a defective object, i.e., the restoration of the target condition.
- Improvement includes the administrative and technical assessment and improvement of the target state of an object without changing the original function.
- machine-to-machine communication (M2M), which describes the automated exchange of information between technical systems, e.g., machines, with each other or with a central office. Typical applications are remote monitoring and control. M2M links information and communication technologies and forms the IoT .
- Furthermore, human–machine interaction. Here, the machine is in many cases a computer, digital systems or devices for the IoT that contain information and communication technologies and application or information systems . Given the high complexity of modern production facilities, human–machine communication is facing new challenges. The large amount of data collected increases the demands on visualisation, which must be understandable for both maintenance experts and machine operators on site.
- The third level is human-to-human communication. An example of this can be seen in Figure 1; it describes the communication in the event of a malfunction between a maintenance expert and a machine operator via various remote technologies such as tablet, data glasses, smartphone. In terms of remote technologies, this can be divided into different levels.
- First, information exchange between two or more people via email or messaging service.
- Second, direct live remote connection with and without image or video transmission via telephone, PC or smartphone.
- Third, live remote connection using AR technologies via collaboration software. In addition to video, this allows objects to be drawn and superimposed in the viewing area.
1.2. Aims and Research Questions
- RQ1: What are examples of successful remote strategies in industrial maintenance for intelligent manufacturing systems (Industry 4.0)?
- RQ2: What are the characteristics of the remote strategies?
- RQ3: Which categories can be used to describe remote strategies carefully in order to evaluate their success?
1.3. Structure of the Article
2. Related Work
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. Interview Guideline
3.2. Data Collection
3.3. Data Analysis—Qualitative Content Analysis
4.1. Category System
4.1.1. Category 1—Physical Safety
4.1.2. Category 2—Performance Requirements
- Subcategory 2.1 Technical and Methodological Competence describes all statements on required expertise on maintenance, processes and concrete machines.
- Subcategory 2.2 Digital Competence contains statements about required technical knowledge and confidence in the use of remote technologies.
- Subcategory 2.3 Demography and Technology, states all statements related to the use of technology or technical affinity and age.
- Subcategory 2.4 Human Resources Development includes all statements related to needed training and education of employees due to the use of remote technologies.
- Subcategory 2.4 Communication Capability refers to all statements on the efficient exchange of information via remote technologies and the influence of the technical know-how of sender and receiver.
4.1.3. Category 3—Employee Acceptance
4.1.4. Category 4—IT Infrastructure
4.1.5. Category 5—Remote Technologies
4.1.6. Category 6—IT Security
4.1.7. Category 7—Organisation and Framework Conditions
- Subcategory 7.1 Customer Dependency is described by statements regarding decisions, chosen methods in maintenance, as well as wishes or requirements for maintenance and repair services from the customer side.
- Subcategory 7.2 Sustainability includes statements on the perceived awareness of sustainability in the company.
4.1.8. Category 8—Costs/Benefits
4.1.9. Category 9—Potential Use Cases
4.1.10. Category 10—Remaining Category
4.2. Answering the Research Questions
- What are examples of successful remote strategies in industrial maintenance for intelligent manufacturing systems (Industry 4.0)?
- What are the characteristics of the remote strategies?
- Physical safety for the working persons: In intelligent manufacturing systems, hazards to the physical health of the machine operator can arise both during regular operation and in the event of a malfunction. When implementing a remote maintenance strategy, these hazards must be reassessed. It must be assessed to what extent they change through the implementation of remote processes and whether the existing personal safety measures such as training and personal protective equipment are still appropriate.
- Qualification of the machine operator: Intelligent manufacturing systems are usually complex in structure, functionality and operation. The implementation of a remote maintenance strategy can change the requirements for the qualification of both the machine operator and the maintenance staff. It must be examined how the activities of the machine operator and the maintenance expert change, among other things with regard to the work task as well as the use of technical aids, and whether a qualification gap arises as a result.
- Data security: Production systems generate, store and send security-relevant information. This information flow can be influenced by implementing a remote maintenance strategy. It is necessary to check which information reaches external information processing systems (e.g., cloud-based applications) through the remote process via interfaces and whether these meet the company’s security requirements.
- Adequacy of technology: Intelligent manufacturing systems vary widely in structure and functionality. This results in different requirements for the remote maintenance technology needed. For the development of a suitable remote maintenance strategy, the technical characteristics of the manufacturing system must therefore be identified and used as the basis for deciding on the appropriate remote technology. In addition, the current remote technology is not yet able to transmit all signals of the manufacturing system (noise, odors, vibrations). It is necessary to check whether information about such signals is needed for the maintenance process. Furthermore, it is a challenge to select the appropriate remote technology. Knowledge of the current developments in remote technology variants is usually not available in sufficient detail in the companies to be able to make an informed purchasing decision. Further aspects to be considered from a practical point of view are stability of the connection, bandwidth or loss of information during transmission.
- Change process: The implementation of a remote maintenance process is a change process. During this process, not only is new technology implemented, but work tasks, workflows, rights/responsibilities, and social interaction are changed, among other things. These changes can lead to acceptance problems for the work people involved. To avoid such problems, a suitable change management concept (participation, transparent communication of plans and measures) should be part of the implementation strategy.
- Which categories can be used to describe remote strategies carefully in order to evaluate their success?
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|IoT||Internet of Things|
|M2M||Machine to Machine|
Appendix A.1. Interview Questions/Guideline
|Question (Main Question, Follow-up Question)|
|Introductory questions||MQ||Please give me a brief overview of your company. In which industry does your company operate?|
|FQ||What is the core business of your company?|
|What are the main products?|
|FQ||Is your company embedded in a larger company?|
|If yes, in what form?|
|Does your company cooperate with other companies?|
|If yes, in what form?|
|FQ||To what extent does your company deal with maintenance?|
|(maintenance, repair, troubleshooting, predictive maintenance)|
|How is maintenance organized? (Inhouse, contracts with suppliers, external parties)|
|Have there been any major technical/organisational changes in your company in recent years?|
|If yes, which ones?|
|MQ||To what extent does your company deal with digitalisation in maintenance, e.g., work tasks, processes, evaluations or similar in maintenance?|
|FQ||Since when and to what extent?|
|Key questions||MQ||How much experience does your company have with remote technologies?|
|FQ||(A) If no/little experience:|
|Why? Lack of resources? Cost/benefit aspects?|
|What conditions would have to be created in order to use remote technologies?|
|(B) If moderate/ much experience:|
|What concrete experience have you gained?|
|Which jobs and tasks have changed?|
|What has improved in everyday working life?|
|What difficulties have arisen in everyday working life?|
|Where do you see potential?|
|Has any attempt been made to identity additional skill requirements that have arisen as a result of new technologies?|
|If so, how?|
|Future issues||MQ||In which areas of maintenance can you imagine remote solutions in the future?|
|FQ||What should solutions look like in your company?|
|Do you see any security risks in the implementation?|
|If yes, which ones?|
Appendix A.2. Backgroundinformation about Interviewees
|Interview||Industry||Role of Interviewee||Technical Competence|
|A||Semiconductor Industry||Facility and Plant Management||Plant and Equipment Commissioning|
|B||Industrial Automation/Industrial Information Technology IT||Head of Service Department||Maintenance Planning|
|C||System Integration||Senior Specialist Factory Integration||System integration and monitoring|
|D||Mechanical Engineering||Managing Director||Equipment Commissioning, Servicing|
|E||Semiconductor Industry||Head of Maintenance and Equipment Engineering||Industrial Measurement Technology|
|F||Semiconductor Industry||Maintenance Equipment Engineering||Industrial Measurement Technology|
|G||Mechanical Engineering for Semiconductor Industry||Head of Technical and Support Department||Condition Monitoring|
|H||Mechanical Engineering||Team Manager Incident Management||Equipment Commissioning|
|I||Semiconductor Industry||Manager Maintenance Equipement and Engineering||Industrial Measurement Technology|
|J||Special Mechanical Engineering||Development Engineering||Monitoring|
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|C1 Physical Safety|
|C2 Performance Requirements||C2a Technical and Methodological Competence|
|C2b Digital Competence|
|C2c Demography and Technology|
|C2d Human Resource Development|
|C2e Communication Skills|
|C3 Employee Acceptance (trust/scepticism)|
|C4 IT Infrastructure|
|C5 Remote Technologies|
|C6 IT Security|
|C7 Organisation and framework conditions||C7a Customer Dependency|
|C9 Potential use cases|
|C10 Remaining Category|
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Seiffert, L.; Sczodrok, J.; Ghofrani, J.; Wieczorek, K. Remote Technologies as Common Practice in Industrial Maintenance: What Do Experts Say? Telecom 2022, 3, 548-563. https://doi.org/10.3390/telecom3040031
Seiffert L, Sczodrok J, Ghofrani J, Wieczorek K. Remote Technologies as Common Practice in Industrial Maintenance: What Do Experts Say? Telecom. 2022; 3(4):548-563. https://doi.org/10.3390/telecom3040031Chicago/Turabian Style
Seiffert, Laura, Jana Sczodrok, Javad Ghofrani, and Katrin Wieczorek. 2022. "Remote Technologies as Common Practice in Industrial Maintenance: What Do Experts Say?" Telecom 3, no. 4: 548-563. https://doi.org/10.3390/telecom3040031