Remote commissioning

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The commissioning process is a vital part of almost any project, whether it’s a biogas skid in Brisbane or a dewatering plant in the Pilbara.

But modern technology has enabled commissioning to be conducted remotely, using tools such as virtual private networks (VPN’s) to PLC and HMI hardware and Skype video conferencing. There’s a number of advantages as well as disadvantages to this approach. Let’s take a look.

Advantage 1: It’s cheaper

With remote commissioning, you can save on airfares, hire cars, accommodation, meals and other sundry costs associated with getting an engineer onsite. Particularly for remote locations, these can add up to significant savings.

Advantage 2: It’s more flexible

You can pay a remote engineer by the hour, rather than having them onsite for a number of days – you’re not paying them to stand around waiting for the next flight. In addition, often an engineer can be available remotely at short notice.

Disadvantage 1: You may need an electrician onsite

A remote engineer can assist with any software and hardware testing and debugging. However, they obviously can’t physically alter the electrical wiring and hardware. If any changes need to be made, you may require an electrician onsite to make the modifications under supervision from the engineer. However, with a thorough factory testing regime and proven quality assurance systems, it’s rare to require physical wiring changes onsite.

Disadvantage 2: It may be slower

A remote connection to the control system PLC and HMI allows the engineer to diagnose and debug the system operation. However, if there are issues with the instrumentation and/or process equipment, the engineer may not be able to detect these. Issues may take a little longer to be resolved. You can greatly reduce this potential issue by having a skilled process/instrumentation engineer onsite to assist with troubleshooting the process.

Remote commissioning is becoming increasingly popular; the cost savings and flexibility generally significantly outweigh the potential complications.