Industry during war

INFOCOM Ltd is one of the most experienced developers of automated process control systems in Ukraine. Today we talked to the Commercial Director of INFOCOM LTD – Oksana Ignatenko – about the work of Ukrainian industrial enterprises and the stable operation of automated systems during wartime.

– Your company has a rich list of customers. Of course, not everyone works in wartime, maybe not at full capacity, but what questions do Ukrainian customers address you with?

– Unfortunately, there are indeed enterprises that are currently not working. Most of them are enterprises from the occupied territories or the South of Ukraine. Almost all projects on modernization, expansion, new production are frozen due to the war. However, some customers are working. The most urgent is request for companies is electrical equipment delivery term. Since the COVID pandemic, the delivery time for equipment of almost all foreign brands has increased from 6-8 weeks in 2-3 or even 4 times, it is very difficult to carry out quick repairs, and it’s not possible to replace equipment if there was no stock of important modules created beforehand. The best way is to search for components in the warehouses of partners and distributors of the brand, but all warehouses tend to run out, and there are more and more repairs. We come to the point that each equipment failure becomes a separate design decision to replace the equipment with what is found in stock. Current repairs, planned replacement of equipment, networks operation check, equipment on stock – all these are relevant requests now. If for some reason there are no particular important spare parts in the company’s warehouse – in the current conditions I can recommended to order spare parts in advance – because one can not expect a quick delivery now. Oddly enough, requests for staff training in programming and maintenance of automated systems are also popular. This is most likely due to the outflow of qualified personnel to the frontline, as well as internal migration of the population away from the epicenters of active hostilities.

– What should the head of the production enterprise pay attention to in this dangerous time regarding the functioning of the automated control system?

– From the point of view of the automated control system operation, its monitoring is much easier than if there is no such a system. The operator has a workplace – an operator’s station from which the entire production process is controlled: process parameters, automatic tracking, notification of necessary actions. In this situation, qualified operators and electricians solve all operational issues. If a breakdown occurs, for any reason, it is much easier to localize (in other words, to find) it by having access to information about the state of operation of the equipment (what is on, what has stopped, from which equipment the signal about the state of operation has not returned, and so on). If our developers have designed an automated system – they can connect remotely and diagnose the state of the systems, and which equipment should be paid attention to. Usually these are specific instructions for the operation of the motor, sensor and so on. Thus, troubleshooting takes at least half the time, and electricians on site do not waste time looking for the problem.

– How is it possible to get remote assistance with the operation of an automated system? And is it possible if you are not the developer of the control system?

– Remote technical support is also a forced measure that appeared during the COVID pandemic, when access to enterprises was actually closed, especially to food industry enterprises, and the need to advise the client’s staff was even more acute. Now all the experience we gained during the pandemic allows us connect remotely to our customers’ systems and help in troubleshooting. It is important to make the connection secure and stable, in compliance with security protocols, and we suggest a whole range of software and hardware for connecting to the client’s internal network, which our engineers have tested and use. Of course, when engineers are the developers of the control system, technical support and troubleshooting is fast. If we are not developers, then together with the organization of the secure connection, we get acquainted with the control system operating at the enterprise, ask for a project – under such conditions we can guarantee that our intervention in the system will be effective.

– Which breakdowns can be solved remotely, and which need to be corrected by specialists only on site?

– Everything related to the software can be solved remotely: diagnostics, remote software configuration, possible changes in the operation of programs, remote updates. These tasks include such issues as operational assistance in the analysis of incidents (this is just a quick search for the causes of stoppages), provide protection against unauthorized access to the control system and protect against unqualified interference in the technological process. Unfortunately, we will not be able to physically connect the equipment remotely, replace modules, sensors – this is the task of on-site personnel. We can provide consulting services to local personnel during the repairs, or our engineer go to the enterprise to perform the usual, not remote, technical support on site. After a joint diagnosis of the causes of breakdowns, as well as advice on possible ways to fix the problem on site, the issue is resolved much faster.

– How to secure the operation of the automated system in wartime?

– Unfortunately, almost all ways to secure automated systems are associated with the process of detailed design, construction of a redundant control system, installation of emergency safety systems, diesel generators, UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems – these are significant investments that not all customers are ready to make. If the process is critical and during the stoppage of production technology significant material losses are possible (for example, metal solidification or oil spoilage) – this is a direct way for the use of such safety systems. In other cases – each additional measure is an additional investment, although economically justified. In any case, special attention should be paid to copies of current versions of software and project documentation. Especially since now they can be stored electronically on a remote server and in case of unforeseen situations it will help to restore the work of all systems.
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Published on November 23, 2022