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Aiming to ease remote access adoption

OpX Leadership Network paints a more receptible picture of remote monitoring.

Remote Equipment Access cover
Remote Equipment Access cover

The OpX Leadership Network was born from the belief that while there may not be only one way to do something, a genuinely collaborative approach between CPGs and their OEM and service providing suppliers leads to one solution that is best for business. Remote equipment access is the latest example of two heads working together trumping butting heads.

A shared understanding of the relative pros and cons of industry methodologies regarding remote equipment access benefits both parties who share the same goal: safe and secure remote equipment diagnostics and assistance by the suppliers of current and future operating equipment in CPG manufacturing plants.

“Ensuring a secure remote connection at an acceptable price-point is critical to securing authorization for remote equipment diagnostics for CPGs,” says Rob Dargie of Amway. “This was our primary objective in developing this work product.”

The technologies driving remote access are not new, but when compared to other industries, including finance and healthcare, adoption by CPGs is slow. The distinct and often different needs and goals of the information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) departments cause most of the hesitancy. Despite this, remote monitoring for predictive maintenance and improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is progressing, but for security reasons, the fear of data breaches and cybersecurity risks means that troubleshooting remotely continues to trail behind.

To help bridge this gap and guide choices about remote equipment access, the OpX Leadership Network’s Remote Equipment Access Solutions Group created a tool: the Remote Equipment Access Best Value Option Analysis.

The document contains descriptions of six of the most predominant industry methodologies enabling remote equipment access:

• Direct VPN

• Converged network

• Cell modem access

• Black box

• Technician access

• External managed secure network.

Each tactic is evaluated on seven key attributes:

• IT skills required to select, install, and configure the solution, as well as provide necessary training for operations personnel

• OT skills required to maintain, update, and support operations in the ongoing utilization of the solution

• Acquisition cost to acquire and install the hardware and software components of the solution

• Operating cost to maintain and update the solution through staffing (internal or outsourcing), ongoing licenses, and hyper-care

• Reliability of the solution based on the stability and robustness of access to the remote equipment

• Operational protection and technical security of the factory floor (Operational Technology)

• Business protection to segregate the OT network from the IT network

Additionally, the relative pros and cons of each industry approach are identified.

Finally, leveraging the Subject Matter Expertise (SME) of the OpX Remote Equipment Access Solutions Group, leadership guidance for each industry methodology is offered.

Taken together, the descriptions, pros and cons, attributes, and leadership guidance provide the primary tools for analyzing and determining the Best Value Option for a company investigating remote equipment access.

Not a prescriptive document, it merely provides some significant tools for companies to use in making decisions about remote equipment access.

According to James Li of Abbott Labs, The Remote Equipment Access Best Value Option Analysis tool gives CPGs a clear picture on the available technologies and connections to allow OEMs to access their installed equipment for maintenance and troubleshooting in the most economical and secure ways.

“Understanding these pros and cons allows the CPG to make an informed decision regarding the option that best fits their needs,” Li says. “At the same time, the guide provides OEMs with a finite list of connection options with which they need to be proficient in order to ensure that they are ready to make the remote connection once the CPG provides authorization.”

To download a copy of the Remote Equipment Access Best Value Option Analysis, visit www.opxleadershipnetwork.org. Other helpful tools at this site include work products addressing the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), OEE, and more. The OpX Leadership Network will also be on hand at PACK EXPO International (Booth N-4550) with members available to discuss all of the Network’s solutions for better business.

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