REMOTE DIAGNOSTICS -- Service With a Smile
Remote diagnostic capabilities have followed the course of the overall digital revolution in printing, moving from prepress to presses (offset and digital), and now on to postpress equipment. Information can be pulled from the electronics and controls already being incorporated into modern devices, so installation of additional sensors isn't a requirement. However, a PC may be needed to run the diagnostic routines on a scheduled basis and before calling the service center when a problem arises.
Faster, more cost-effective equipment servicing is an obvious, direct benefit of the technology. It also enables vendors to be proactive in maintaining hardware by using real-time monitoring and a database of system performance stats to identify problems in the making before they impact performance. Software upgrades to a machine's control systems can be handled remotely and automatically.
Along with providing assistance to equipment operators when there's a problem, this capability can be used for remote operator training on an ongoing basis. Adding a Web-cam to the system can further enhance the level of interaction between the operator and technician.
The ultimate extension of the technology is to have a system automatically request a service call and order the necessary parts so they are on-site when the technician arrives. Which leads into the issues of costs and control.
Remote diagnostic capabilities typically are included as part of a service contract, but may also be offered separately on a subscription basis. The nature of individual vendor agreements determines the level of functionality offered. A lower cost service contract, for example, may implement more passive monitoring rather than enable the system to initiate actions such as ordering parts.
Some vendors elect to give customers a choice by offering service tiers at different price points. A top level that covers all costs makes it practical to offer automated service scheduling and parts ordering.