The Covid-19 pandemic has brought several unforeseen challenges for many industries. Travel bans, closure of domestic and international borders, quarantine requirements and restriction of visitors have caused serious delays in repairs and commissioning – particularly where specialized personnel were required from manufacturers. Consequently, companies have had to look for alternative ways to ensure that production and services can be maintained.
When a major steel products manufacturer in the Middle East ordered a new Compact Weldac tube welder last November, a new approach was required to successfully complete commissioning, and this is where the digital control system has come into its own – turning a problem into an opportunity.
“Remote commissioning solved our problem when we couldn’t go to the customer”, says Project Manager Pål Haugerud at EFD Induction Norway.
EFD Induction has a longstanding relationship to the customer that has previously purchased three other Weldacs, most recently another Compact Weldac that was successfully delivered and commissioned earlier this year.
The latest order, which arrived at the customer in April, originally included commissioning and start-up by an EFD Induction service engineer who would spend three days on site.
“Because of the new wave of Covid, we realized we may run into problems sending a service engineer from Norway”, Pål says. “So, we alerted the customer and agreed it would be better that an engineer from EFD Induction India should do the job.”
However, as the Covid situation in India quickly evolved into a full-blown crisis, travel restrictions became ever stricter, particularly for people from India. Ultimately, national borders were closed completely.
“It was actually the customer that suggested we do remote commissioning”, Pål says. “And, as we had already done this successfully on several occasions earlier this year, we thought it was a good idea.”
The new Compact Weldac was a retrofit that was going to replace an existing Chinese welder. “The customer is obviously quite familiar with EFD Induction equipment, so we were confident that they would have no trouble on their side of the process”, Pål says.
First, there were two video conferences so that both parties could present their requests and agree on which preparations had to be done before the commissioning could take place. When the date was set, the customer’s team knew exactly what to do and who to call if they had any questions.
“The customer prepared the ethernet connection to the Weldac control system, so that our service engineer had remote access to the machine”, Pål says. “They also stayed in touch via WhatsApp, Teams and e-mail for all necessary communication during the commissioning. There were a few challenges underway but nothing that couldn’t be easily solved.”
The customer is already in negotiation for yet another Compact Weldac to be delivered in July, and they actually want remote commissioning for that one too.
It will probably still be a while before remote commissioning and repair will become the new normal, but there is no doubt that with or without Covid-19 remote access will play a bigger part in supporting our customers in the years to come. As digitization and Industry 4.0 evolves, it will probably be part of the regular service our customers will come to expect from us – and with the fully digital control system, EFD Induction is prepared.
REMOTE ACCESS: Both service personnel and operators will benefit from having remote access to the machine.