A holistic approach to minimising Industrial ICT network-related downtime

31 March 2021

Do you know how much an hour of downtime costs your business? Unplanned downtime is one of the challenges faced by many industries and it can lead to a significant impact on your bottom line especially in these COVID-19 times.

An interruption in your plant may be accompanied by a loss in productivity, disruption of normal operations, and other negative business implications. Some of these consequences may include lost revenues, scheduling delays, client dissatisfaction, and damage to your brand reputation.

Understanding your network vulnerabilities, scheduling regular maintenance, and providing your employees with certified training are effective ways to decrease interruptions. Plant managers throughout all industries are confronted with the task of ensuring that their assets run at peak capacity throughout their life cycle. Having the correct maintenance solution in place can help you increase your operational uptime and reduce costs.

Here are some tips on how to make the most of your plant assets:

  • Perform regular network audits
    An important aspect in the prevention of downtime is to ensure your systems are installed to the correct technology specification and identify risks. A comprehensive site audit will identify all these risks and provide information on the state of your network infrastructure.

The network diagrams should be kept up to date and ideally, a log of all changes and faults related to the network should be retained. We recommend that you schedule an annual audit as part of your routine maintenance to determine any weaknesses or security vulnerabilities that exist in your network.

  • Establish a preventative maintenance plan
    Applying the results from the audit, develop a preventative maintenance plan that is customised to your specific operational needs and risk tolerances. The goal of preventative maintenance is to proactively minimise failure before it occurs.

Defective equipment should be repaired or replaced to prevent potential failures. Ensure that you regularly measure your progress and whether your plan is working. Permanent monitoring solutions can greatly assist with tracking and monitoring the health of the system.

  • Prioritise employee training
    Train employees on every piece of equipment and technology. This will assist them to be proactive in recognising an issue and in trying to solve it before it becomes a major malfunction. Certified training will empower employees with the knowledge and insight to conduct routine network audits and carry out effective network fault-finding activities.
  • Invest in permanent monitoring solutions and mobile diagnostic tools
    Real-time access to key network diagnostic data from permanent monitoring provides credible insight into the causes of downtime when it occurs and more importantly, can help prevent downtime altogether. Diagnosing network or device issues requires the collection and analysis of the network statistics and physical electrical health data on your network.

This type of data enables plant Engineers and Technicians to keep an eye on their network and to fix problems as they arise. When downtime does occur effective resolution usually requires mobile diagnostic tools and staff trained in their use. Invest in the right tools and ensure staff are properly trained in their use.

  • Sign up for a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
    An SLA is designed to reduce downtime, lower maintenance costs, and increase system availability, offering long-term peace of mind based on the criticality of your system. An SLA agreement can cover your annual audits, support hours for call-outs and solution development costs.

There is no single solution to minimising downtime and these tips are certainly not an exhaustive list, however, they are a great guideline to get you started. A methodical approach to mitigating risk is the smartest route. Industrial Data Xchange (IDX) can assist you in maximising the performance of your plant and preventing downtime.

IDX specialises in industrial applications, everything from process control systems, sensor technology, and systems engineering to custom development, data acquisition, logging, monitoring, and alerting. After your infrastructure has been implemented, our ICT team can provide support, in the form of call-outs and audits to improve your system, and we can facilitate training so that your employees are adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills to optimise your networks.

Categories: Articles
<a href="https://blog.idx.co.za/author/dhashika/" target="_self">Dhashika Ramgolam</a>

Dhashika Ramgolam

Marketing Manager

Dhashika has nearly twenty years of experience across the construction, engineering, fitness, mining and software development industries. Her hobbies include reading, baking, playing scrabble and watching movies.

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