Rapid Remote Troubleshooting
The causes of machine faults can be analyzed and remedied remotely using SP/1 software from Symmedia. This saves users time and money. Together with GF Machining Solutions, Symmedia wants to conquer new markets.
Out of the blue, a machine in production reports a fault. Suddenly everything is on hold. Such a situation can quickly become expensive. While machine operators try to describe problems to customer service by phone or e-mail, valuable time is slipping away. If service employees have to analyze and remedy the fault on the machine itself, it becomes even more costly and time-consuming. “The most expensive machine time is unplanned downtime,” says Andreas Wehmeyer, Chief Sales Officer at Symmedia. Based in Bielefeld (Germany), the software company has been part of GF since 2017. Symmedia SP/1 software enables companies to prevent this costly downtime, because it makes it possible to analyze and correct the causes of faults remotely.
Andreas Wehmeyer is Chief Sales Officer at Symmedia, a GF subsidiary located in Bielefeld (Germany), and responsible for sales and marketing activities.
Troubleshooting and prevention
Since 2000, Symmedia has been specializing in software for plant and mechanical engineering manufacturers in a wide range of industries – from tobacco processing to mold-making, from to injection molding to packaging. German printing press producer Manroland Sheetfed and GF Machining Solutions itself are among Symmedia’s key customers. When using and marketing the software, machine manufacturers usually brand SP/1 under their own name. Customer service of GF Machining Solutions offers the software to machine operators under the name rConnect.
If a 3D printing, milling, laser texturing, or EDM machine supplied by GF Machining Solutions breaks down, the machine operator onsite can specify the fault step by step via the software on their screen: Is it a stoppage? Is the machine producing scrap? Is it running too slowly? The downtime message is forwarded to a central server, which the machine manufacturer’s customer service team can access via an rConnect box that is installed on the same network as the machine and communicates with the customer’s network. The central server acts as a hub for all the data collected by the software. Details such as the serial number of the machine and the time left on the warranty period are also available and support the customer service representative in troubleshooting all aspects of the problem.
Another niche market
Almost 60 percent of companies operating in the plant and mechanical engineering industry in Germany in 2019 considered themselves outsiders or beginners when it comes to data-driven services. The German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association came to this conclusion in its Industry 4.0 Readiness Study.
- Machine operators in 15’000 production shops worldwide use SP/1 software from Symmedia.
- symmedia SP/1 software is used in more than 100 countries.
- Symmedia has its software regularly tested by TÜV Informationstechnik GmbH (TÜViT) in order to ensure that the security standard is maintained. TÜViT is part of the TÜV Nord Group, an internationally active, independent testing and certification company based in Germany.
A GF Machining Solutions customer service employee can access the respective machine remotely at the push of a button. A so-called digital tunnel is established for the duration of the analysis, through which the GF diagnostics technician can access the machine’s control panel directly from their computer. If necessary, the screen can be shared so the technician can exchange photos or blueprints with the machine operator and mark locations where the cause of the fault might lie. “The fact that the system can be accessed externally means the issue of data security is extremely important to our customers and therefore also to us,” says Wehmeyer. “We only receive access once the customer has granted their approval.” If a fault cannot be remedied remotely, service employees can use the information collected during the analysis to ensure they are optimally prepared for their onsite work. Another advantage is that valuable information about the job is stored digitally – both in customer service and at the machine operator. “If the same fault occurs again later, troubleshooting is much easier and runs more quickly thanks to the information from previous jobs,” says Wehmeyer. This benefits both manufacturer and operator.
The market for remote maintenance and repair services is growing because machines and plants are becoming increasingly intelligent, networked, and therefore more complex. “This is leading to more operator-induced errors,” says Wehmeyer. “Demand has increased further due to the coronavirus pandemic, because in many cases diagnostic and service technicians are no longer allowed to travel.” The merger with GF Machining Solutions offers both partners the opportunity to enter new markets together, he adds. “Digitalization and IT are challenging topics that aren’t self-explanatory,” says Wehmeyer. “GF Machining Solutions has a strong sales organization, with experts in machines, processing, and technologies. Symmedia is an expert in digital topics. So we are bringing together the best of both worlds.” In the past, Symmedia’s focus has primarily been on the DACH region. The partnership offers an optimal starting-point for international expansion. Wehmeyer believes that “the acquisition marked the beginning of a profitable partnership.”
Manroland case study
The printing press manufacturer has been working with Symmedia for more than 15 yearsin order to digitalize its service and maintenance management systems. The company completely overhauled its remote service and reorganized it by implementing the symmedia SP/1 software at the beginning of the cooperation. On the basis of this software, Manroland and Symmedia jointly developed further software products to minimize the risk of production downtime and enable fast and targeted remote machine service.
Thanks to the software, the printing press manufacturer is now connected to nearly 1’700 printing presses operated by its customers. Today, there are 220 ongoing service contracts in Europe alone. Manroland promises its customers a response time of just 20 minutes. Every new printing press supplied by Manroland is now equipped with Symmedia software as standard.