The benefits of adding remote access to your DCS system

Benefits of adding remote access to your DCS system include lower cost service, higher service speed, and changes can be made to similar processes with less effort.

By John Loose, Cross Company February 24, 2015

Even though the economy seems to be turning around, people are still very concerned with price. When a project is going through the planning stages, remote access from your integrator should be considered. There are several significant reasons for this consideration, the most important being quality.

You’ve already made the costly decision to implement a new system, or upgrade an existing system, but penny-pinching at this stage can submarine the whole project. Benefits of adding remote access include, but are not limited to:

  • Lower cost of service over time
  • Speed of service
  • A large number of changes can be made to similar processes with less effort.

Let’s start with the most important one. Implementing remote access to your distributed control system (DCS) will give your integrator the ability to improve your process with a much lower long-term cost. The initial cost of installing the parts required to gain remote access are relatively low. The only real cost would be a new panel and cell modem with a corresponding data plan. This should not discourage those with an existing system from implementing remote access, because the cost is still relatively low compared to the benefit.

As some of you may have learned, a system without remote access can be very costly to maintain or make changes to. Typically, when a system without remote access needs support, the responsible party will contact an integrator to come on-site to perform the job as soon as possible. If the work to be performed is major and requires a shutdown, then it may be best to have the integrator come on-site, which can be costly and time consuming.

If the work to be performed is small and can be done while the system is running, it is much more cost-effective and efficient to use remote access. Looking at the “small work” scenario, the cost of an integrator to come on-site will greatly exceed the initial cost of installing this feature. Drive or flight time, food, hotel, and on-site time will add up quickly and can be avoided with remote access.

If the cost of having an integrator come on-site is not an issue, then the next most important reason to implement remote access is scheduling. If an issue arises that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, it far faster for the integrator to assess and address the situation from its office.

When an emergency comes up, I drop what I am doing and immediately log on the system to determine a solution. If remote access is not available, and if the site is far enough away, then it could be impossible to adequately address the emergency in a timely manner.

In the case where a customer has a large number of sites that have similar processes, maintaining those sites and implementing becomes much easier. If changes need to be made, it is much quicker to log in remotely and make changes to multiple locations, as opposed to traveling to each site and making the changes on-site. Not to mention, the entire collection of systems can be on the same page at relatively the same time.

I would encourage anyone to implement remote access to their systems, even if it is never used. As they say, “pray for the best, plan for the worst.” Remote access is the best, quickest, and most cost-effective way of obtaining timely service for any DCS system. The use of remote access will quickly pay for itself considering the costs of not having remote access if and when an issue arises.

– Edited by Anisa Samarxhiu, digital project manager, CFE Media,