Support from afar

Online commissioning provides fast help despite the pandemic

Before the pandemic really broke out, hardly any company expected the impact of Covid-19 to be as serious as it turned out to be – and a manufacturer of refuse-derived fuels (RDF) from Slovakia and a recycling company from Estonia were also surprised by the severity of the pandemic. Both companies had ordered Vecoplan shredders which were delivered on time – but then came the coronavirus with its entry restrictions. The Service division headed by Jochen Pfeil quickly developed a concept for online commissioning and offered it to the customers – with great success and potential for the future.

“The pandemic presented us with quite a few challenges,” says Jochen Pfeil, reflecting on the past months. Jochen is the Head of Vecoplan’s Service Division located at Bad Marienberg in the Westerwald and is responsible for all aftersales. The company develops, produces and sells machines and plants that shred, convey and process primary and secondary raw materials in the production and recyclable materials cycle. The materials include engineering plastics that are solid, tough or highly temperature resistant, pre-shredded biomass that must be homogeneous and free of extraneous material after processing, and waste materials from communal landfill sites for use as alternative fuels in the cement industry. Jochen Pfeil was taken aback by the pandemic, as were many of his customers, including Ecorec Slovensko s.r.o. from Pezinok in Slovakia, a company which processes RDF around the clock, seven days a week. The manufacturer commissioned Vecoplan to supply a VEZ 2500 TV series pre-shredder and two post-shredders from the VEZ 2500 T series. Weerec Oü from Kiiu in Estonia is also one of Vecoplan’s customers. The company processes plastics such as PE and PP from household or commercial waste. Vecoplan supplied a VIZ 1300 T series shredder to Weerec Oü. This machine came onto the market in 2019 and is suitable for almost all input materials made of plastic. What do both of these companies have in common? They commissioned Vecoplan with the installation and commissioning on site.

Then came the entry restrictions

The machines arrived in Estonia and Slovakia on time – but when it came to installation and commissioning, the pandemic threw a spanner in the service team’s works. “We couldn’t travel to the customers because of the entry restrictions,” Jochen Pfeil tells us. Together with his co-workers Patrick Kessler and Markus Fritz, Head and Supervisor of Commissioning respectively, they thought about how they could nevertheless provide fast support. “We asked our customers if they could imagine an online commissioning,” reports Fritz – and this was to be a first for the three Vecoplan experts.

Veikko Simon, Product Manager at Weerec Oü, was immediately enthusiastic – after all, it was probably the only option during the pandemic. Lukáš Hulej from Ecorec also saw this as an opportunity to get the machines up and running quickly. “We briefed the customer’s electricians in advance,” says Pfeil. “Of course, they had to have very specific know-how, so we drew up a catalogue of requirements to assist them,” adds Kessler.

Vecoplan technicians instructed the customer’s staff on how to set up cameras on site. Thanks to apps and video conferencing, the Bad Marienberg specialists could look over the shoulders of the electricians virtually, accompanying them through every step that would eventually lead to a successful commissioning. “We provided instructions from our head office for all the tasks, from installations to tests,” says Kessler.

No communication difficulties

The service team transmitted instructions via cameras and microphones. “Although the staff on site had the necessary knowledge, we still had to go into detail now and then,” says Kessler. “But we’re an international team in Bad Marienberg, so we have no problems with foreign languages.” The plant and the necessary equipment were set up in several steps. At Weerec in Estonia, the service technicians also installed the Vecoplan Smart Center (VSC) together with the new VIZ plastic shredder. This new and powerful digitalisation concept offers a modern communication interface between Vecoplan and the customer thanks to the VSC.connect system. The user can access services such as document management and remote service. The integrated, intuitive VSC.control operating panel serves as a communication medium for the machine’s control system and as a link to the Vecoplan technicians. “We were able to switch to the control system and the visualisation, so we could follow every commissioning step in real time,” explains Pfeil.

All-round satisfaction

Differences in quality? The service division sees a clear advantage in terms of reduced travel times and consequently lower travel costs for the customer, and entry restrictions no longer have to be complied with – an advantage which they also see as clear added value: if a problem arose, the customer was involved in finding a solution from day one. It’s precisely this experience that will help customers with future error analyses. And for Vecoplan itself? “Remote commissioning not only eliminates travel time, it also enables us to plan our resources better,” says Pfeil. “And the customer also sees the best possible support options that we can offer in the future, minimising production downtimes.”

A solution with potential

Customers have now become more open to this approach. We currently have two online commissioning projects per month and can already look back on about 25 successful projects,” says Kessler. So will remote commissioning also be included in the product portfolio after the pandemic? “We will be including online commissioning as a service product in the portfolio for machines up to a certain size. The enquiries are coming in and the customer feedback is positive. Not many could have predicted that this approach would work so well – but success has proved that we were right!,” says Kessler. So what started as a premiere or stopgap measure during the pandemic may well become a permanent fixture.

Lukáš Hulej from Ecorec in Slovakia was very satisfied with the remote commissioning. “Everything went smoothly,” he says. In times like these, he would opt for this approach again, although he would still prefer to have Vecoplan employees on site. He sees a clear advantage in the time saved. “The cooperation was very professional. Online commissioning is definitely a viable option.”

Veikko Simon from Estonia is also happy with the way the project is going. “It’s probably the fastest and most economical solution in these difficult times,” he says. “All the preparations went well and we received all the necessary documents in advance.” He would choose this approach again. He is also enthusiastic about the VSC; after all, it means he is always connected to Vecoplan – even from afar.


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