Mobile SCADA increases staff efficiency in logistics operation by 15% and cuts support call costs by 60%

21 November 2011

SCHAD, the developer of the EXTEND7000 mobile SCADA system has implemented a mobile solution for BAUR, a German multichannel retailer.

BAUR is using the mobile SCADA system, which allows the monitoring and control of automated processes to be extended to an ordinary mobile device, smartphone or tablet.
BAUR operates three large, automated logistics departments at three locations, responsible for controlling warehouse receiving docks, high-rack storage machinery, conveyor belts and sorting technology. At these sites, BAUR operates a variety of different conveyor systems and 14 stacker cranes (SRMs), controlled by over 60 PLCs, which are monitored 24 hours a day from a central control room via a WinCC visualisation system.

The implementation of the mobile SCADA system has resulted in employee efficiency increasing by 15% and the company’s support telephone call costs reduced by 60%.
"Business trends are clearly moving towards enterprise mobility, it is unstoppable. In two years everyone will have a smartphone so it is only natural to utilise them to improve business processes,” said Roland Säum, BAUR technical services project manager. "To ensure the most efficient workflows, employees should be able to receive logistics technology notifications and have access to system controls anywhere at any time. EXTEND7000 helps us by avoiding unnecessary walkways, improving the efficiency of staff deployment and saving time, increasing productivity."

BAUR’s automated warehouse is a complex environment. There are around 70,000 defined notifications within its logistics technology including conveyor states such as ‘running’, ‘standstill’, ‘maintenance switch off/on’ or run time errors. All notifications are sent to the central visualisation system in the control room, which is staffed by several employees around the clock. On average, these employees forward around 60 cases each hour to the relevant technicians.

"The use of mobile technology simplifies and optimises communications and efficiency of operations,” said Säum. "EXTEND7000 offers an affordable and functionally rich solution for mobile monitoring and control of all our logistics technology."

Before integrating EXTEND7000, control room technicians would individually call maintenance engineers and verbally forward on error messages. However this caused workflow issues because control room personnel were not aware of which of the 35 engineers were in service, or, whether they had already accepted previous tasks. As a consequence, several calls were required in order to locate an engineer able to take over the given task – resulting in an unnecessary loss of time. This situation is exactly what BAUR wanted to prevent when they decided to invest in a mobile SCADA system.

The system was integrated into the existing system control concept and is now directly coupled with the Siemens S7-300/400 control systems. It was not necessary to modify the existing control programmes or restart the CPU’s to achieve this.

Incoming notifications are now simply sent directly from here to the engineer’s BlackBerry devices. In this way, technical staff can receive alerts at anytime, regardless of their location.

Before introducing EXTEND7000, each employee carried normal mobile phones with call tariffs. Today, smartphones are being used with more cost effective ‘call & surf’ tariffs. Since call times have now been reduced by 60%, the additional costs incurred by contract conversion were immediately covered. Additionally, control room personnel and field technicians are now able to work more efficiently. Since EXTEND7000 does not source through the existing WinCC visualisation system, it also functions as a SCADA backup in the event of a WinCC failure.

As part of phase 1, EXTEND7000 has been used to pass on an initial 28.000 maintenance error notifications. However, BAUR’s long-term goal is to communicate a greater level of information and notifications through SCHAD’s innovative mobile SCADA software. In the future, EXTEND7000 will be used to inform middle management about plant states, number of units, individual departments’ work progress. BAUR also plans to integrate its entire building management systems into EXTEND7000.

“The implementation we have completed for BAUR illustrates the value a mobile SCADA system offers to retailer that has invested heavily in automation to reduce errors and streamline logistics operations. As margins are continually being squeezed downwards, retailers cannot afford to incur unnecessary costs through system downtime and a solution such as EXTED7000 pays for itself very quickly both in lower overheads and all round better customer satisfaction,” said Christian Schad, CEO of SCHAD GmbH.

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