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Wireless Technology: Tablets Provide Productivity Pluses

Feb. 2, 2022
Mobile devices improve access management and more for Korean company

A petrochemicals producer in South Korea put development of a digital platform for its safety, health and environment management system (SHE) at the core of its digitalization strategy. The firm was gradually replacing existing analog processes with more-efficient digital alternatives and looking to artificial intelligence and big data to help with the future-oriented optimization of processes. The goal is to achieve a significant increase in efficiency in the processes through faster and uncomplicated availability of all relevant data and information. The digitization offensive started in 2017, and many areas now use cutting-edge technology, such as drones and thermal imaging cameras to inspect plant equipment, and predictive maintenance with intelligent systems that flag risks.

The security aspect of the SHE system also includes managing access authorizations to the petrochemical plants, not only for the company’s own employees but also for personnel from suppliers and service providers. The company realized the importance of standardizing and accelerating this process, to eliminate issues that hinder different service providers, departments and production units from working closely together.

Previously, the data required for access authorization were recorded manually and forwarded in paper form to the respective plant managers for approval. With subcontractors for example, this includes the order, authorization, expected duration and exact location within the plant (hazardous or non-hazardous area). Depending on the current location and workload of the plant manager, the approval process could involve long waiting periods before the external workers deployed. The new digital SHE platform is designed to speed up and streamline this process. The plant managers digitally receive the applications of external workers, including all relevant information, and can approve them in real time regardless of location.

Selecting A Device

As part of its digitalization initiative, the petrochemical company searched for a flexible mobile terminal certified for hazardous areas that met the requirements of the digital platform. The first decision was choosing between a smartphone and a tablet. The company opted for a tablet because the larger display offered more convenient operation for its specific needs. Looking at general compatibility, it found the Android platform harmonized best with its proprietary digital platform. LTE and 4G connectivity also were important criteria, to avoid Wi-Fi constraints, e.g., in remote locations. The main decisive factors were information technology (IT) security, fast on-site support, and the possibility to carry out configuration and software updates over the air.

After considering these requirements, the company selected intrinsically safe Tab-Ex tablets from ecom, a Pepperl+Fuchs brand. Based on the Samsung Tab Active tablet, Tab-Ex reliably covers updates, configuration, and support from Samsung in a user-friendly manner. Samsung Knox, the most popular cybersecurity software package on the Korean market, ensures high IT security standards. Last but not least, the Tab-Ex series opens up a multitude of additional application scenarios in line with the company's digitization strategy by supporting augmented reality, RFID and barcode scanning. The tablets not only support the organization on site but also can receive and analyze data in real time, considerably accelerating processes. In addition, the mobile devices serve as an important part of worker protection and, thus, safeguard the entire plant.

Efficient Access Management

A total of 70 Tab-Ex tablets now support the digital workflows in the petrochemical plants. Employees, suppliers, external workers, and other visitors no longer apply for access to the petrochemical plants on paper but instead register digitally in the associated software on the tablets. All data required for the authentication procedure, including the qualifications and a picture of the particular person, are stored there. The site managers receive the access request digitally in real time on their own ecom tablet. This way, they have an overview at all times of which persons with which qualifications are entering the facility for what reason, for how long, and for what activity. Those responsible can process access requests quickly on the tablet, even remotely. The access authorizations, including all data and documents required for them, are centrally saved on the company’s digital platform.

Tab-Ex also accompanies workers for the duration of their assignment. If, for example, personnel from a service provider need more time on the company’s premises than originally requested to complete a specific task, they easily can apply digitally for extension of their stay. Through mapping functions on the integrated software as well as a push-to-talk function that enables rapid communication even in case of an emergency, Tab-Ex ensures the safety of the workers throughout the entire assignment.

By installing 70 tablets in the plant, the company significantly increased productivity. Thanks to the compatibility of the devices and the individual set-up, they were integrated into the daily work routine quickly and an expansion of functions and devices is possible at any time.

Moreover, use of the tablets not only significantly speeds up the authentication process but also ensures complete traceability of data and, thus, security within the facility. With the help of the new software and ecom’s tablets, plant managers save time, and reduce costs by 10%. In addition, the digitization frees up space and resources: fewer paper documents require storage on site or transport between locations.

 HYEOK CHOI is PA sales manager at Pepperl+Fuchs Korea, Seoul. Email him at [email protected].

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