Mobile Device How Bartec will Drive The New Mobility in Process Industry

Author: Anke Geipel-Kern

The working world is becoming more and more mobile in the process industry. The acceptance and the desire for more mobility in operations is there. So, it is the right time to bring mobile devices even in the hazardous areas into the field, says Nader Halmuschi, who is leading the new Business Unit Automation and Communication Systems at the explosion protection expert Bartec.

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The tablet PC Agile X brings mobility into the field.
The tablet PC Agile X brings mobility into the field.
(Picture: Bartec, [M]-GötzelHorn)

Smartphone, tablet PC and handhelds — Nader Halmuschi has arranged all this according to size on his table in front of him. He keeps talking about end devices in his speech to make a statement or clarify one of the in-built functions.

For him, it is just a question of time till mobility manages a breakthrough in the process industry, even in Ex areas, where a combustible atmosphere exists due to solvents, gases or dust and demands a lot from the end devices.

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“Users see the possibility to improve their productivity and safety using the mobile solutions”, says Halmuschi, who is leading the newly established Business Unit Automation and Communication Systems at Bartec.

Digital Natives rule the business

The driver is often change in generation and the availability of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE technology. The digital natives, who learn to handle smartphones and tablets already in kindergarten age, rule the businesses and to properly change the working world into a process industry.

The trend goes from data recording and communication device to multifunctional solution, says Halmuschi. “It is not about selling individual devices, but to understand the needs of our customers”, he says. As compared to the hand scanners standard in hazardous areas, the new smartphones and tablet PCs open up different horizons.

Thanks to cameras, RFID and scan functionality, all data recorded in the field can be transferred to superordinate systems or documented in Office, SAP or a database with just a click of the mouse.

Mobile connected —  Responses in real time

The manager is quite mobile today in the office and at home, so why not in the chemical or pharma industry. Laptop, smartphone and tablet have clearly replaced the desktop at the workplace and facilitate communication in real time as well as quick, direct decisions.

The growth rates in some fields is two-digit and Halmuschi is convinced that there will be a similar boom in the process industries very soon. And the explosion protection specialist wants to accompany this change with his new business unit and mix it in this dynamic business field.

Important step in this direction was the acquisition of the Norwegian mobile specialist Pixavi two years ago. The company from Stavanger founded in 1991 has brought along a lot of mobile competence and valuable contacts for Norwegian oil and gas industry.

Apart from the smartphone Impact X and the HD camera Gravity, both certified to Atex Zone 1, Pixavi has developed components, which enable establishing wireless networks in Ex areas. For a key-ready solution, the Norwegian subsidiary has a series of video-collaboration apps and device management software solutions in the portfolio.

How to survive in a fast market

One must be effective and quick to be able to survive in the fast market, says Halmuschi. That applies above all to tablet PCs, for whose development Bartec is collaborating with the Taiwanese specialist Winmate. This collaboration has resulted in Agile X, an industry tablet PC for rough environments. The tablet has a large number of international certifications and can be used globally. It is certified to Atex and IECEx Zone 2/22 as well as to UL Class I Division 2.

The notified target group are maintenance technicians, operating personnel, engineers and project managers in the field and in the industry that require complex information such as technical drawings, tables and other office documents for their work.

Wi-Fi and optional LTE modules facilitate data transfer in real time and thorough networking. The device is really flat and an extension interface on the rear side facilitates to connect special accessories like a Hart modem for a direct and secure parameterization in the field with the Hart protocol or an RFID reader with further data recording options along with the integrated barcode scanner. Further developments are already in the pipeline.

Where does the problem lie for the customer?

Where does the division manager see maximum potential? It is obviously about increasing the productivity and integration, but also about reducing errors and breakdown times, he says. It is important to make the right offer to each user group.

If you want to see an R+I pattern in the field, you need a larger screen that takes a photo of a damage to send the image to its operating engineer and to take short instructions, requiring a camera-suitable smartphone.

Here, the user expects the same comfort and performance like for devices, which are used in non-Ex areas. Bartec has identified maintenance as quite a big field of application, as here it is an advantage for those making end devices and the amortisation times are the highest.

Halmuschi’s favourite example is from the oil industry and his convincing argument for the smartphone Impact X: The handy device facilitates recording of HD videos on an oil platform or the transfer of a latest maintenance scenario using a suitable helmet camera. Video conference instead of a helicopter journey, even that is possible.

A helicopter journey on an oil platform costs 50,000 euros, says Halmuschi: “The smartphone amortizes in less than one single saved use.” In the chemical industry, one has not reached so far. But the market is developing. “Initially, customer ordered three of four devices for testing purposes, but now the big projects are coming”, explains Halmuschi.

Globally active companies are not looking for one single product is what his customer experience says, but a tailor-made solution, which fulfils all company standards and provides a good balance of consistency, reliability and technical innovation.

Customer orientation is therefore the key for him. To supply a single-time designed end device over many years with the same features is not a problem for Bartec, Halmuschi says. “We are supplying to a customer in the Middle East, who wants to use a smartphone without the camera function for cultural and security reasons.”

The latest mobile offer is now completed step-by-step. Bartec will introduce two other devices at SPS IPC Drives: An Android tablet with a display size of 7 inches and a mobile computer with 4.3 inches. Both devices fill the gaps in the existing range.

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About the author

 Anke Geipel-Kern

Anke Geipel-Kern

Leitende Redakteurin PROCESS/Stellvertretende Chefredakteurin PharmaTEC, PROCESS - Chemie | Pharma | Verfahrenstechnik