The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our daily lives and the way we work, and field operations are no exception. The sites of facility maintenance for inspecting and repairing are changing greatly to ensure the safe operation of the various equipment running in factories. With restrictions on domestic and international movement, restrictions on entry to factories, and avoidance of “Three Cs” on site, the stable operation of equipment is required amidst these severe restrictions on human movement. Of course, it is essential to ensure the health and safety of the workers working in the field. The hardships and concerns of the field can be alleviated by remotely monitoring the operational status of equipment. In addition, the various data obtained from there can be used to improve and optimize the operation and maintenance of facilities. Here, we introduce Meister OperateX, an Asset IoT Cloud Service, that remotely monitors and manages facilities, appropriate for the new normal era.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Changes the Ideal Way of Facility Maintenance

The impact of the new coronavirus infections has greatly changed the traditional way of thinking, which previously was the norm, on the front lines of equipment maintenance work in factories and plants. Maintenance of the equipment will be postponed due to the restriction of access to the site where the equipment was placed. Restrictions on travel prevented the work crew from going to sites in other prefectures or countries, and recommendations for telework restricted them from coming to the workplace. In addition, the distance between each worker must be maintained to avoid the “Three Cs”, making it difficult for multiple people to work together. In addition, they are also struggling to cope with challenges they have never experienced before, such as encouraging safety measures such as measuring body temperature, hand washing, putting on masks, tool disinfection, and ventilation, and running out of maintenance parts and supplies due to disruptions in the supply chain.

To reduce these hardships and worries of equipment maintenance sites, it is effective to introduce a system to remotely monitor the operational status of the equipment. If you can track the operation of your equipment remotely, you can reduce the number of trips to the site. In addition, by constantly monitoring from a remote location, if you have to go to the site, you can plan your work with an awareness of avoiding the “Three Cs” based on the status of the equipment you know in advance, thus minimizing the amount of time spent responding to the site and reducing human contact. Thus, the introduction of a remotely monitoring system can lead to more efficient operations while ensuring the safety and security of people, such as limiting the risk of infection for workers on site who are responsible for the maintenance of facilities. So, what are the means to make it possible? Toshiba Digital Solutions will make it possible with its Asset IoT Cloud Service for Factories "Meister OperateX" (hereinafter referred to as "OperateX") to remotely perform maintenance work on facilities in factories and plants.

”Meister OperateX” supports facility maintenance in the new normal era

For almost 40 years, Toshiba Group has been providing solutions to remotely monitor and control a variety of devices and systems, including social infrastructure, power, and elevators. OperateX is a cloud service made possible by the knowledge and expertise we have developed from such activities.

OperateX enables maintenance operations of facilities in the future. The reason why we offer this service is because we want to respond to the increasing number of factory and plant owners who want to “avoid investing in large equipment and install the system easily”. Another major reason is that the need to introduce telework has increased due to the spread of work style reform. In addition, advances in IoT and sensing technology have made it easier to acquire data from devices, which has also helped in providing the service.

OperateX allows each customer to use the necessary services appropriate for their operations. As a standard service, we provide functions ranging from data collection and storage to form generation and visualization, including system maintenance, as well as APIs* and development environments that can be customized by customers individually. The OperateX service allows you to manage equipment and power (energy) in your distributed production sites remotely from anywhere. For example, you can select and display a location from a map or a list and check the list of events, such as KPIs** or alerts, that have occurred within that location. You can also see detailed information such as equipment operation states, trend graphs of energy usage plans and actual usage, process flows, and so forth.

*API: Application Programming Interface

**KPI: Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

Among these services, the energy usage management services are particularly helpful to factory and plant owners. OperateX manages the planned supply of energy according to the capacity of the power equipment, the planned use of energy based on the production plan, and the actual energy used. By understanding the variations in energy reserve and usage from the supply and demand trends, you can aim for optimal energy use that is neither excessive nor insufficient. Reducing the excessive use of energy will not only reduce costs, but also lead to conservation of energy.

You can also create forms based on actual and aggregated data. In addition, we believe that the collected data can be analyzed by Toshiba Analytics AI “SATLYS” to create new value, such as forecasts and optimization.

OperateX helps to solve the problem of keeping the supply of energy by identifying problems and breakdowns of power equipment before they occur, in addition to ensuring the safety and increasing the efficiency at the sites where the equipment in factories and plants are located and managed. It is a service that enables you to optimize your operations for the advancement of your business.

Furthermore, we’re pursuing greater convenience for users by partnering with video streaming services to allow streaming and simple live streaming to be performed easier.

Lastly, for “content distribution and sharing”, we have the “Content Community Cloud” (C3) that allows content to be shared over the cloud. The content shared through C3 includes not only that made by content vendors but also content made by training instructors. Users of Generalist/LM can experience the variety of content contained within C3.

As well as this, Generalist/LM comes with optional functions that support the new blended learning of “online training combined with e-learning”, further improving the convenience of users.  This includes not only secure linking with personnel information (such as talent management systems), but also tools that allow easy content creation (text to voice data conversion, digital manual creation, VR* content creation using photos and videos shot by 360-degree cameras, etc).

*VR: Virtual Reality

Sites where the effects of OperateX are expected

Here are some examples of how you can use OperateX to contribute to specific tasks.

First, utilize it in "inspection and examination". Previously, inspections and examinations were done at the site where the equipment was placed. Now, cameras and microphones are installed there. The images, videos and audio data gathered from them allow you to see the situation at the site from a remote location. In addition, image processing and AI technologies have made it possible to convert analog meters into data and even automate some sensory tests, making the inspection process more sophisticated and possible from a remote location. It can reduce the frequency of people going to the site for inspections and examinations.

Next, utilize it in "report creation". Automatically generate journals and periodic reports by compiling and graphing various data from the operation results and work history of the facilities that are managed in an integrated manner. It contributes to labor savings for workers.

Furthermore, in the “Creation of an Operation Plan”, various information related to the operation of power equipment, such as weather forecasts and production plans, is also used to make highly accurate energy demand forecasts and develop an optimal operation plan that minimizes costs. This is where our data analysis technology is demonstrated strongly.

Lastly, utilize it for "equipment maintenance". For example, in the case of power equipment, AI can learn from the operational information of the power equipment and various IoT data collected from the power system to detect unusual situations and early signs of failure, not to mention the commonly used method of setting thresholds for equipment operation information and detecting early signs of equipment failure. Prevent energy outages due to power equipment failure and maintain production activities.

Building an O&M platform to create an ecosystem

We have built the “Asset integration data platform (hereinafter referred to as "Integrated Data Platform")” to deliver this OperateX. The integrated data platform integrates and manages a variety of facilities, equipment and business data related to operations and maintenance (O&M*) operations that were previously managed in separate systems. This management data can be used to perform a series of tasks in O&M, such as predicting equipment anomalies and failures, parts procurement, operation and maintenance planning, restoration and maintenance response, field support, daily or periodic inspections, remote operations, materials management, and data collection and equipment monitoring, all on the integrated data platform.

In addition, we will develop "Meister RemoteX," a service we already provide to equipment manufacturers to support the transformation of their businesses by utilizing digital data of products connected by IoT, also on the integrated data platform, (Fig. 1).

This integrated data platform is intended to be a platform that the users of equipment in factories and plants and the equipment manufacturers who provide equipment can come together to facilitate the use of data and increase the value of data and, in the future, that implements the O&M platform business. As more and more equipment manufacturers utilize the platform and more equipment is connected to it, and as the variety of examples of its use becomes substantial, it will also increase the degree of contribution to solving users' problems. We aim to realize such an ecosystem of users and manufacturers (Fig. 2).

We also believe that data can be used to create and develop new business opportunities. For example, equipment manufacturers are starting to be in the business of maintaining not only their own equipment, but also equipment developed by others. In addition, while it has been common for users to operate their own equipment, as more users and equipment manufacturers use OperateX or RemoteX, businesses will be created that monitor and operate equipment remotely on their behalf.

The integrated data platform common to OperateX and RemoteX is a mechanism that allows users and equipment manufacturers to see the same data, and they can utilize it at ease from a security perspective. The reason for this is that the framework is based on the “Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture (TIRA)”, a Toshiba Group framework in accordance with the “Cyber/Physical Security Framework (CPSF)” established by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), with security measures in place.

※You can read more about the concept and structure of TIRA in the first article in Vol. 32 and the security support of TIRA in the second article in Vol. 32.

Remote monitoring and digitization are essential in the new normal era of facilities management. With Meister OperateX, we will work together with you to protect the health and safety of workers on the field, ensure the stable operation of equipment, prevent problems, improve work efficiency, optimize operations, and contribute to the environment by optimizing energy use.

  • The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of December 2020.

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