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IIoT Expanding Remote Monitoring Capabilities

The use of a new automation systems remote monitoring controller helped a UK systems integrator remotely commission PLCs installed in Phoenix from their home office 5,000 miles away.

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Newton Tesla is one of Britain´s leading experts in variable speed drives and a supplier of advanced automation systems to factories and plants across the world. Specializing in Mitsubishi products, they have been working with drives and inverters since 1987.

When commissioning an automation system, it is often hard to solve everything in one go. Usually, there are certain processes you have to wait for or other systems that need to be installed before everything is 100 percent finished. That means that you often have to go back to the site several times.

Another issue can be physical access. George Newton, Managing Director at Newton Tesla and drive system expert explains, "At some sites, we need special permits or have limited access to our drives. For example, we recently built a system for a silver and platinum processing plant in America. Security was so tight that our mechanical commissioning engineer could not take any tools, mobile phone or even his laptop into the area. This makes on-site commissioning a challenge."

To get access to their drives systems remotely, Newton Tesla had been looking for a remote management system for some time, but no system had quite lived up to their demands.George Newton continues: "I always had the fear that a remote management system would be complex — that it would be hard to establish a connection and, above all, that the connection would be unstable, which could really be a problem if you are programming a PLC. But when we found Netbiter, it was surprisingly easy."

When Newton Tesla delivers a new drives system, they connect a Netbiter EC350 gateway to their Mitsubishi PLC, which controls the drives. The Netbiter communicates via the cellular network and sends data from the PLC to the cloud-based Netbiter Argos service. By logging into, Newton Tesla can see data such as operating frequency, running hours, energy consumption and much more.

By using the function called Remote Access they can also use the gateway to establish a secure data tunnel to the PLC, through which they can debug, program and commission the drives system. After opening the tunnel, and can then access their Mitsubishi PLC, just as if they were connected on site.

The first time Newton Tesla used Netbiter in a customer project was when they shipped a system to Phoenix, Arizona. After the initial set-up on site, they could handle the rest of the commissioning remotely from the office in Warrington, UK. "If you calculate the costs for a service engineer to get all the gear ready, travel to a customer and connect everything on site, you quickly realize that even a short service trip is costly," states Newton.

Nowadays, Newton Tesla always equip their systems with a Netbiter EC350 gateway from HMS Industrial Networking, a process that can be done by someone who isn´t a PLC programmer.

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