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Remote maintenance support tools: virtual inter-organisational meeting point for experts

Power systems are becoming more intelligent and complex. Smart grid enters also the residential buildings, which may contain demand response type of elements, renewable energy production and other connected systems. This leads to emergence of new failure mechanisms and causes challenges for maintenance and life cycle management of energy systems.

To answer these challenges, fieldworkers need new types of competences and support. However, companies operate at geographically distributed maintenance and repair teams that include various expertise related to e.g., management of electric and information systems. At the same time, companies aim to be slim and cost-effective and there is usually very limited backup for key personnel in case they are unavailable. Furthermore, senior experts are retiring at an increasing pace and there is a need for training the future talents to offset the retirement.

Typically, to save costs, a single fieldworker takes care of a maintenance task. This person needs remote support from his/her team to tackle the maintenance tasks in the increasingly complex and interconnected systems. In addition, there might be need for open communication with other actors such as customer, equipment manufacturer or other external expert.

Complex maintenance work can be performed more cost-effectively and remotely supported

In Smart Otaniemi, Softability aims to tackle these issues by developing a custom-made remote platform for supporting grid maintenance. The solution provides fieldworkers and experts with a live-video remote assistance solution that contains request handling system and practical annotation tools. With mobile app remote workers can share their mobile device´s or smart glasses view and show the problem to the expert. Experts can easily manage and solve support requests (using live-video and annotation tools) together with fieldworkers.

Interactive data can enrich manufacturer service systems – data serves operational development and equipment design for easy maintenance, repair, and assembly. The solution is also suitable for training new technicians and harnessing untrained workforce as technicians.
With the remote support solution organizations can:

1. Produce more with less costs
2. Use workforce in more flexible way
3. Save costs due reduced traveling and production downtime

Workers can also be used earlier when starting of a new assignment (faster training) and teams can share knowledge more effectively. Teams´ fault rates are lower due updated materials as well as tacit and undocumented information can be shared easier. In Smart Otaniemi, Softability aims to develop support system for remote maintenance, repair operations and life cycle management in smart energy systems. The system will be tested in grid maintenance related pilot cases.

How digital remote support tools can change the current way of working?

To conclude this blog, we take a step further to the future and depict how the current way of working could be changed with digital remote support tools. Maintenance and repair tasks in complex and interconnected systems might need expertise of various systems such as electricity, heating, water, ventilation, air-conditioning and information technology. Maintenance of these systems often require various licences that all fieldworkers cannot have. To get all the licenced experts to maintain the equipment at the site is time-consuming, expensive and may not always be possible. Could the licenced work be performed by an unlicenced worker that is guided remotely by a licenced expert? Or guided by a group of licenced experts? What kind of maintenance tasks could be performed in this way? What kind of connection between the expert and the worker is required to perform the task safely and effectively? Is it possible to change the law to support this kind of remotely guided work and what are the prerequisites?

 

 

 

At Softability we design, implement and verify smart applications for industrial and medical device manufacturers. Our background and knowhow makes us an ideal partner for implementing demanding end-to-end solutions combining sensors transmitting measurement data or other devices, scalable cloud service based processing and data visualization adjusted to different devices.

Our XR Studio business unit develops Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) solutions for mobile and wearable devices, like Microsoft HoloLens, smart glasses and VR headsets. Also, our XReach solution enables modern video-assisted remote support on a global scale.

VTT is a visionary research, development and innovation partner. We drive sustainable growth and tackle the biggest global challenges of our time and turn them into growth opportunities. We go beyond the obvious to help the society and companies to grow through technological innovations.

We have over 75 years of experience of top-level research and science-based results. VTT´s turnover and other operating income is 258 M€.

VTT is at the sweet spot where innovation and business come together.

VTT – beyond the obvious.

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Jyri Hanski

Research Scientist, Smart Energy and Industry Systems

Jyri Hanski has wide experience on national and European projects related to life cycle, risk and asset management. His current research activities include reliability of Smart grid solutions, digital disruption of industries and industrial circular economy. His research interests focus on how asset management answer to the most impactful trends such as digitalization, circular economy and sustainability.

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Juha Asunmaa

Business Unit Director

Juha Asunmaa works as a Business Unit Director at Softability Oy. He is responsible for the XR business Unit focusing on the augmented, virtual and mixed reality applications. In addition to the XR applications the business unit delivers remote support solutions.

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Tero Välisalo

Research Scientist, Smart Energy and Industry Systems

Tero Välisalo has worked at VTT for over 20 years developing safety and reliability of industrial systems. Currently his research is focusing on safety of new technologies e.g. hydrogen-powered ships and reliability matters of new power sources, e.g. wave energy converters. Also maintenance and maintainability of new technologies are an important part of his interests.

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Pasi Valkokari

Senior Scientist, Smart Energy and Industry Systems

Pasi Valkokari has wide experience on enhancement of reliability performance of production lines. His current research and development activities include the life cycle management of manufacturing industry, forest industry and future smart grids. In this work, the focus is in industrial service development and asset management approaches supporting circular economy.