Firefighters know that the more surface area something has, the more readily it will burn. This principle holds true metaphorically across a range of disciplines, including remote facility management.
Remote facilities have a lot of "surface area" exposed to accidents, degradation, and damage. They house important primary equipment, such as telco apparatus, drilling equipment, and servers.
Secondary systems like HVAC, power generators, and battery banks are needed to operate primary systems.
If any aspect of these fails, due to a number of causes, the cascading effect can render the facility inoperable. This can lead to expensive downtime and repairs.
Remote facilities have another area of exposure: unwanted human activity. By definition: removed from populated areas, remote facilities are vulnerable to intrusion. Trespassers may be simply looking for temporary shelter, but could also invade to vandalize, steal, or sabotage expensive property. In order to prevent both equipment degradation and unwanted intrusions, facility owners must invest in a capable remote facility monitoring system.
Remote facilities impose unique maintenance difficulties. Depending on the site size, few if any replacement parts will be stored on location. Likewise, minimal-to-no employees will be present, and their presence will be intermittent at best.
Preventable maintenance issues can run their course unsupervised, leading to breakdowns. The first indicator of trouble may not arrive until the site goes offline. Response times to any incidents when employees are off-site will be slow. This is generally due to the distance and difficulty of driving to the facility - some of which are not conveniently accessible.
These issues compound causing more problems and delays. Without an employee onsite to correctly identify an emerging issue, another worker must travel to a remote location for diagnosis. During transit, the situation can worsen. If upon diagnosis, they don't have the parts, tools, or manpower they need to correct the problem, they must either return or summon additional workers to the site.
Each step increases system downtime and repair cost. Companies pay directly not only for employees' windshield time but also for the lost time workers could be spending on scheduled projects.
Remote monitoring tools obviate these issues. Remote terminal units (RTU) located at the facility can monitor primary and secondary systems for indicators of impending breakdowns. Systems include:
RTUs can report equipment status in real-time, keeping a constant eye on activity and ensuring weekly self-tests of critical equipment like generators. When something starts going wrong, the RTU will send an alarm.
Maintenance managers can quickly diagnose the issue remotely, and dispatch workers with the parts and tools they need. This improves maintenance results, reduces response times, prevents equipment downtime, safeguarding your bottom line.
Many sites can be monitored at once by using a network of RTUs and master stations. Each site should be equipped with one or more RTUs, depending on the complexity.
Company employees can view information sent to the master station from a single computer screen, allowing total system visibility. Master stations understand many communication protocols, allowing them to interface easily with existing legacy monitoring systems.
A single master station can cover an entire region; and for larger monitoring solutions, a top-level master can monitor multiple regional subordinate master stations.
This level of data collection improves short-term maintenance results in the ways previously described. It also improves long-term maintenance results by improving strategic management, such as equipment or parts procurement or deployment.
Being able to see an entire network of sites at once through an advanced remote facility monitoring system is a powerful capability.
Walls can be climbed, fences can be cut, and locks can be broken. Security experts know that passive security measures can serve as deterrents, but will ultimately fail to human ingenuity. This is the reason for night watchmen and security personnel.
It takes active, responsive security to truly keep a facility safe. However, this type of security is costly, especially at remote locations. Also, the risk profile of remote facility intrusion argues against high-cost, active security measures.
The more probable intrusions, such as vandalism or vagrancy, typically have low enough severities that active measures are overly expensive. These idle intrusions are more likely to be deterred by passive measures as well.
While damage due to theft or sabotage will be more costly, the rarity of these events argues against constant security staffing at every remote location.
Still, that doesn't mean companies should roll out the red carpet. Theft and sabotage are serious enough that they must be credibly deterred. Passive measures like fences and locks are required as a first line of defense.
While it's too expensive to staff every site, a responsive central security staff able to deploy quickly to deter or apprehend intruders can provide a balanced, successful response.
A remote facility monitoring system will make this possible, by bridging the gap between passive and active security. Remote terminal units can be wired to door alarms, camera systems, and motion sensors. Control relays in RTUs can lock doors and turn on lights or sirens.
An alarm triggered will:
Organizations with many remote facilities benefit in multiple ways from remote monitoring solutions. Active insight into environmental and equipment conditions at remote sites across a region gives maintenance the information they need to do their jobs efficiently.
Security systems deter intruders and help dispatch teams to apprehend determined trespassers. Remote monitoring generates ROI by reducing equipment downtime due to preventable maintenance and simplified management of your revenue-generating equipment spread out in large, remote areas.
Image courtesy Unsplash
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