My first B2B media job primarily covered factory applications, namely packaging automation factories in the early aughts, and it showed me a range of sophistication in the discrete space. I witnessed a high-end dairy beverage producer and its in-line molding and filling machines — Krones Inc. — or smaller just-in-time operations, such as bag filling machines.
However, process automation has become a big part of my editorial coverage and I recently wrote about how oil and gas companies are using more automation in the field to reduce maintenance operations — Remote Processing Helps Shale Producers Find Profits. This article uncovers a new monitoring and control solution for capturing flare gas and reselling it.
It’s called a mobile gas processing unit— Mobile Alkane Gas Separator (MAGS)— but the platform is monitored and controlled from a remote location, some 200 to 300 miles away. Pioneer Energy relies on a roving army of technicians with operation and maintenance skills to service wellsites, while using smartphones and tablet to link into the platform.
Related is a recent post at Microsoft’s blog page that discusses the “empowerment of the field worker’ and quote ARC’s Ralph Rio. Rio discusses maintenance tech workers ability to do more sensing in the field, below:
“Mobile devices and state of the art software solutions have vastly improved the lives of field teams,” explains Ralph Rio, vice president at ARC Advisory Group. “Today’s leading field service workers are much more efficient and can quickly respond to faults through access to real-time data and line of business applications. They have a fully-digitized job list with the ability to report the status of a job, even if they’re out of network range.
Rio also discusses virtualization in the blog post and how this could alter the landscape. I’m not there yet with virtualization in the field, with oil and gas prices leveling off, demand low and products not fully realized.