When on the morning of February 15, 2013, the meteorite struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, a veritable drama unfolded. Windows shattered, phones and the power supply failed and hundreds of people were injured. There was total chaos.
Experts at KHS Dortmund were just about to hook up their remote diagnostics system (ReDiS) to a machine belonging to a long-standing customer in the city in the Urals to resolve a machine standstill through remote maintenance. For some reason, however, they were unable to make the connection. Their attempts to contact their colleagues in Russia by cell phone and email were futile.
It was hours before people realized that the shockwave released by the largest space rock to hit the Earth since 1947 had caused considerable damage to the city of over a million inhabitants – luckily at no cost to human life. “That,” says Ingo Hackler, when asked to name one extraordinary event in his working life, “that was undoubtedly the most hair-raising thing to happen to me since we started using ReDiS at KHS. Compared to that, extreme weather conditions, such as the difficult circumstances caused by cyclones or snow disasters, are more or less routine. The colleagues who provide support on our machines constantly have to adjust to all kinds of local conditions.”
Thank goodness the 45-year-old’s normal working day is more structured! Ingo Hackler is head of Remote Diagnostic Service and Service Contracts at KHS. In 2002 he and his colleagues began developing the software for this highly efficient method of remote line and machine maintenance. Hackler tells us more. “KHS’ objective is to keep our systems up and running without a hitch at our customers’ plants at all times. As anybody with a practical mind knows, this isn’t always possible, but production should at least be resumed as quickly as possible. With the help of ReDiS our functional departments can diagnose – and ideally – also correct faults. They can also directly advise our customers wherever they are in the world and support our service engineers if they encounter any problems when visiting a customer.”
Analysis and help can often be provided through a telephone line (ISDN) or VPN (virtual private network via the Internet) without a service engineer having to undertake time and cost-consuming travel to the site. “This is ensured by connections to over 1,000 KHS customers hooked up to our ReDiS network,” Hackler stresses the number with a certain pride. Grinning, the ReDiS expert remembers how it all started, “when we set up the entire system, still with a headset and camera, in a fancy aluminum case and then installed it at the customer’s site.” Hackler trained as an electronics engineer at KHS 23 years ago; “By the way,” he adds, “my son’s starting his training at KHS this year ...” How times flies; the aluminum case has also long gone, with ReDiS now networked in via ISDN or broadband.
“Nevertheless,"says Hackler, “technical advance can’t replace the trusting relationship we’ve built up with our customers over many years. After all, we’re processing very sensitive company data – which we of course protect and keep totally secure.” He doesn’t even want to share even the tiniest detail with us. “This is our business – and of course that of the respective customer.” Family man Hackler often travels all over the globe in this respect – and also in his capacity as manager of KHS’ wide range of service contracts. He sums up. “I have a very varied and interesting job that gives me lots of insight into the internal workings at our customers’ plants. This is important, since if we didn’t have a direct line to our clients, we couldn’t give them our all-out effort.” And it doesn’t take a meteorite for this to happen ...