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Digitisation in service and maintenance – The importance of mobile devices for industry 4.0

Digitisation offers companies ever better opportunities to optimise processes.

Digitisation in service and maintenance – The importance of mobile devices for industry 4.0

In particular, the maintenance and inspection of systems is being made more efficient thanks to modern technology. Intelligent mobile devices enable more effective planning of work processes and new opportunities for cooperation. Instructions by experts from any given location and digital measures provide mobile support to technicians in carrying out complex tasks directly in the plant. Here, the connection of all assets enables a real-time availability of all relevant data. This results in an immense gain in knowledge for companies and employees about the condition of the plant and running processes.

Activation and linking of systems and plants
For this to be feasible within the company, an appropriate infrastructure is required. All data must be continuously fed into a linked back end and evaluated via this. By linking the back and front end, data is available at any time and from any location and can thus be used by collaboration tools to direct actions. Only a reliable data stock and data flow ensure process quality. This ultimately secures that effective planning and implementation of maintenance can be carried out and possible sources of problems can be avoided or quickly discovered and remedied.

The integration of mobile devices and tools helps to achieve the goal of a digital production. ECOM therefore adapts its mobile devices perfectly to the needs of the modern mobile worker. They have to support the employee practically in his daily work and at the same time withstand the conditions of a rough industrial environment. Furthermore, devices should be usable worldwide. In addition to general availability, this also requires the fulfilment of various requirements and the ability to be used in various infrastructures. The safety of the worker always comes first. Therefore, all ECOM devices comply with the highest safety standards and measures for fast alerts in case of an emergency.

But mobile devices are more than just communication tools. As part of an overall solution, they also support mobile employees in recording and evaluating data and in reacting quickly and independently to any eventualities. "ECOM understands that enterprise mobility must support new business models and processes within the industry 4.0. That is why we develop products and systems that interact seamlessly to provide the best possible user experience," explains Jörg Hartleb, Chief Operating Officer at ECOM Instruments.

Inspection and predictive maintenance
Optimal planning of maintenance procedures as well as minimisation of downtimes through predictive maintenance and timely replacement of components are decisive steps for effective operational management. By digitalising processes and using real-time data, provided by sensor technology and digital applications, staff members are quickly alerted in the event of an irregularity. Drastically reduced planned and unplanned downtime and lower costs for new purchases are the positive effects.

In order to evaluate the collected data in the back end, it requires a software that draws the right conclusions from the existing data, both historical and current, and uses those insights to develop better planning for the plant.

A user-friendly interface combined with practical devices ensure a high level of acceptance by users. ECOM's new Tab-Ex® Pro tablet for hazardous areas with a 10-inch screen, for example, features an integrated desktop mode making the transition from working in the field to working in the office or from home way easier. Pogo pin charging and a powerful and exchangeable battery with a capacity of 7.400 mAh for a runtime of up to 15 hours additionally ensure perfect operation and a long operating time in the field. The high-resolution screen also guarantees flawless pictures when being supported by remote maintenance or video tutorials.

Companies from various industries like gas and oil have already had great success by implementing appropriate systems with the support of ECOM: projects carried out show that predictive maintenance based on intelligent data evaluation quickly reduces the number of inspections and maintenance procedures as well as the costs for new purchases and downtimes. "As digitalisation progresses, the data stocks become more extensive and detailed, knowledge about machines grows. The knowledge gained from past performance enables better prediction of results, optimisation of maintenance processes in industrial plants and increased efficiency," Jörg Hartleb classifies the results.

Remote support and preventive maintenance
A major advantage created by intelligent devices in industry companies is the possibility of remote support for technicians when carrying out complex inspection procedures. For this purpose, video calls or Augmented Reality (AR) applications can be used via intelligent devices even in hazardous areas. Appropriate peripherals such as headsets and holders ensure a hands-free operation. Real-time analysis of data immediately indicates the success of the maintenance. These options, in combination with predictive maintenance to determine the status of components in operation, guarantee optimum planning of work processes and rapid troubleshooting.

Remote maintenance closes gaps when there is a shortage of skilled workers. Technicians in the field have access to all necessary information at any time and experts can provide support for special problems or questions regardless of their location.

The Tab-Ex® series from ECOM, for example, has various additional functionalities, including an accelerometer, an electromagnetic gyroscope and GPS. The devices also enable workers to use AR programmes in remote support, digital training, and customer-specific tools, which can be useful for various tasks from plant management to plant inspection.

In this way employees have immediate access to the knowledge they need to always deliver top quality work quickly: a direct link to the right support expert and an overview of all open, pending and completed cases. This reduces inspection times as well as downtime costs with real-time expert support, connects instantly to the right expert or information, and eliminates expert travel costs. In addition, it is possible to create a central knowledge database including incident management and reporting, which is available to employees anytime, anywhere.

Remote support and digital processes
In order to take remote support to the next level, ECOM is currently working with a partner to develop further digital products that can be used in combination with smartphones. For an optimal hands-free operation smart glasses are in the focus of the development. They can operate via voice control by the employee on site and give remote experts an optimal view on the processes. An expert can thus provide support or instructions, while information and directions are played live and directly into the workers field of vision. ECOM pays special attention to the fact that the glasses and their functionalities are perfectly adapted to everyday industrial life and usable in hazardous areas. Especially the combination of smartphone and glasses opens new possibilities and advantages as well as eliminates weak points of the previously available models. The challenge is to break away from previous features and rethink the smart glasses concept.

Digitisation in service and maintenance
In order to digitise a plant and make optimum use of the possibilities offered by digitisation, it is essential to be able to collect, aggregate and evaluate data centrally and make the findings available to employees at anytime and anywhere in real time. Intelligent devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and smart glasses, which are suitable for industrial and hazardous areas, play a major role in the development of such an infrastructure. They ensure that employees are not only connected to each other, but also with data and working systems. This way it is possible to plan, share expertise and avoid equipment failures. The results are optimised processes, effort planning capabilities, cost savings as well as a higher productivity. Hardware, software and people form a complex and effective ecosystem.

ECOM is constantly working to adapt its products to the needs of their customers and their employees and develops the product portfolio accordingly. Thus, progressive solutions for process optimisation are created on the basis of years of experience. ECOM is therefore the perfect partner to guide companies into the future of digitalisation.


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