Let's Talk Projects: Remote On-Demand Checkout and Support

Image of an ethanol plant at night with the lights on.

Jeff Miller, Director of Project Management | May 6, 2021

Hello, my name is Jeff Miller, and I'm the Director of Project Management here at Interstates. I want to take just a few minutes to introduce our clients to the advantages of remote-enhanced start-up.

Interstates has developed an enhancement to our equipment and plant start-up services that allows our teams to easily help you with remote expert assistance during this critical phase of the project. As you can imagine, some of this was driven by the need to limit visitors to client's plants due to the global pandemic. However, there are some long-term advantages to performing some, if not all, of your system start-ups from a remote location and keeping fewer people on-site. So, let's talk about what remote-enhanced start-up really is.

First, I'll start with the what and the why behind this initiative. The what really was to generate a set of tools that would allow us to bring in multiple technical resources from off-site to assist with the overall start-up of the plant or process. This would allow us to have fewer people on-site. The why started with the safety concern of having people at client sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after utilizing solutions, we soon realized that there were many more benefits to remote-enhanced start-up. In particular, allowing for on-demand check-out of small areas and remote expert technical assistance.

I'll be looking at the top two tools developed in the next several slides, so I won't cover them here. I did want to mention, though, that one key asset we developed was this remote-ready site evaluation checklist and risk assessment tool. This helps us determine if a particular site would be a good candidate to do some of this from off-site. We use a virtual appliance to remotely connect up to 10 technical experts at a time to your control system network in a highly secured fashion. This virtual appliance is shipped to your facility with easy-to-follow connection instructions, and our team members work with other on-site personnel to get this connected and tested out. We also work with your internal IT team to ensure that they are comfortable with the security protocols being used prior to the virtual appliance being delivered on-site.

Another tool that was built is a custom wireless mesh network with its own internet service provider or cellular modem to gain the connectivity we need in the plant. We use this to provide for mobile device connections being used for remote expert visual assistance, as well as secure internet connectivity for the remote engineering node hardware. We call this service remote-enhanced because, in most cases, Interstates will still have a minimum level of team members on your site to drive this process. This slide shows you one of the versions of the mesh network hardware that we utilize on-site to extend our connectivity into the plant where equipment is physically being verified.

Here are a few key benefits that you might see from utilizing this remote-enhanced service: lower travel costs, fewer personnel on-site in areas that are typically very crowded, the ability to perform check-out on-demand in small areas of the plant, remote experts available from anywhere in the country to assist, and remote monitoring of critical systems performance during system start-up. If you want to learn more about how Interstates remote-enhanced start-up services can help you on your next project, please visit us at www.interstates.com. Or give us a call at 712-722-1662. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the service.