We're certainly in a time of unprecedented change, affecting all of us in different ways. As we speak, right across SolutionsPT we're having ongoing conversations with our customers and their System Integrators on how we can help them to adapt and change to fit these new set of unique circumstances.
We've had a number of people asking us how they can extend visibility of their control systems and operational data to remote users, ensuring their businesses can continue to operate optimally under the current Covid 19 restrictions.
We understand that our customers are having to quickly adapt to new ways of working, and in many cases across F&B and Life Sciences they are having to increase production to meet rising demand. These changes vary from new shift patterns, to splitting production into new teams or decentralising access to control rooms with fewer operators allowed on the production line, ensuing new social and physical distancing guidelines are met.
The general theme of these conversations is the same, how can we quickly provide remote access to our essential and non-essential workers with minimal risk to our business. However the way we're helping our customers and System Integrators varies depending on the available technology and different use cases, who needs remote access and what systems or data they need access to.
Some of the things we've learnt so far that might help youThe first step is to determine what applications and information is required for your employees to perform their duties remotely, whether that is essential employees working on-site but remote to the plant floor, or in the majority of cases, non-essential employees working remotely from their homes.
Different roles within your organisation require different information to ensure operational continuity:
- Safe control and monitoring of your processes will require remote access to a SCADA client with full read write permissions, whether it’s from a different location within your plant or from outside the plant entirely.
- Question: Do all remote users actually need access to the full HMI or SCADA system, or do they just need remote access to near real time or historical information to make business decisions or analyse production metrics?
- Question: Do remote users need an enterprise view of your entire processes, with visibility of KPI data from multiple plants to provide actionable information anytime and anywhere to global users?
There is no one solution that fits all scenarios – a lot will depend on where you’re starting from in terms of existing technology on-site, is it running at the correct version to take advantage of the latest web client capabilities for example, what resources do you have available to make changes?
No two customers are controlling their operations with the same software or running the same version – but there are similarities and solutions that can be leveraged to meet your needs.
Some of the solutions we're helping customers with today:
- Utilising best in class web visualisation and content management technology can help extend visualisation of your SCADA HMI and securely share operational data with remote users with minimal risk and change to existing IT/OT architectures and policies.
For our customers who have already centralised their SCADA onto Remote Desktop Servers, AVEVA Access Anywhere provides full real-time monitoring and control of your supervisory systems (InTouch HMI, System Platform or Citect SCADA) through a remote HTML5 web browser.
You can further extend Access Anywhere with AVEVA’s secure gateway to authenticate any users logging in remotely to your manufacturing network. This provides web browser visualisation with full read write access from anywhere with any device, giving your virtual team real-time access to applications to help ensure the safe and continued control of your critical infrastructure.
- For our customers running standalone InTouch SCADA clients, InTouch Web Client allows you to quickly reuse your existing ArchestrA graphics with no re-engineering required and display them through a web browser. This is available to InTouch and System Platform users running Version 2017 and later.
It’s worth noting that InTouch and System Platform versions prior to 2017 are now in the Mature Product Support Lifecycle phase. An InTouch Web Client license is bundled with every Supervisory Client license, with the option to extend to unlimited licenses to scale your remote user access.
- Not every remote user requires access to a full-blown SCADA HMI, the InSight Web Client provides remote visibility of operational data using web KPI dashboards and charts. This can empower business and other functional users working remotely with production metrics, equipment utilisation, and contextualised critical process data for analysis and troubleshooting.
You can also leverage an extensive AVEVA library of reusable symbols and graphics to help build web KPI dashboards, for example the AVEVA Situational Awareness symbol library.
- When it comes to content delivery solutions, we've supported ThinManager for over ten years. You can easily extend ThinManager with the ability to interactively shadow any terminal on the plant floor, adding remote access capabilities to a desktop PC using WinTMC, or a mobile device.
All of these tools can be extended to remote access from outside the plant. How this is achieved securely is also critical to ensuring operational continuity. Serious consideration and risk assessment is needed before opening Firewall ports and granting direct access to the control system network. You need to ensure the right security measures are in place to mitigate against cyber security threats and vulnerabilities being exploited. Our resident cyber security expert Lee Carter can advise you on industry best practice.
We're here and ready to help you (remotely!) leverage your existing technology and extend the visibility of your SCADA system and data to web clients shared securely via your intranet or beyond to provide access anywhere to all remote users.