When there are troubled times within an industry, it’s nice to know that help is at hand if things start to go wrong. With an unprecedented lockdown within Australia’s borders, there are still essential services that have to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside emergency services, food and beverage processing and manufacturing is vital in keeping Australians fed and watered.
A key to keeping manufacturing moving is making sure plant and machinery is in tip-top shape, and if there are issues, they are solved quickly and easily.
VEGA is one company that has been supplying German-manufactured, high-quality products to the food and beverage industry for a long time. Like most companies, they are adapting to the new climate pretty quickly and have people on the ground in most states and territories.
“We’ve got three in Western Australia, one that covers South Australia and the Northern Territory, three in Queensland, five – including two service guys – in New South Wales, and two in Victoria,” said VEGA service manager, John Coulton. “I support them by phone and also Zoom video and remote support if need be. Internationally, we have a 24-hour hotline and if a call comes to my mobile during Australian daylight hours, or if there are issues interstate, I will discuss with the BDM and work out an action plan taking into consideration travel restrictions in the present environment.”
VEGA is using a few strategies to help clients when it comes to troubleshooting. While it is ideal to be on the ground, with lockdown laws in place, other methods have been adopted.
“We’ve got everybody on Zoom, so that is our main way to support the industry in terms of our service and sales team to help with any issues remotely,” said Alex Mazor, VEGA’s marketing manager. “We are available to help customers with product settings, adjustments and diagnostics. Also, we’re remotely assisting our customers by being able to access VEGA software platforms such as PACTware using a remote function via IOS, Android and PC devices, so that helps them with any set up, product demo or backend configurations.
“Our service and sales team have a wealth of experience and utilising Zoom for them as been really central, especially when it comes to reassuring our customers that it is business as usual for VEGA.”
Coulton gives a practical example of how this assistance works in for both VEGA and the client.
“We have a bagging company that is a client who bought two new radars from us and they tried to set them up themselves but didn’t have much success,” he said. “So, the client set up the PACTware software package, and sent us some echo curves and that helped tell us what the issue was.”
PACTware is utilised similarly to a depth sounder in a boat. It gives users a graphical representation of what the radar can help them see, said Coulton.
“He was in the Riverina, so we connected to his computer via Team Viewer, and we saw what was happening albeit on a smaller scale. We got drawings of the silo, so we knew what we were looking at. As you would expect the bagging system had a big taper, so it wasn’t a straight forward job. It took us two days to help set up the two different silos – we did one during one morning and the next one after that. We told the client what he needed to do in terms of aiming the radar – which is similar to aiming a torch and seeing where you shine it – and fixed the problem. We were seeing it live even though we were not there. With our experience, we were able to fix it.”
Another example of support with the same software package comes with what VEGA calls a service recording. The customer does not have to understand what the issue is or to look at it. All they have to do is connect it up to the sensor, which starts recording all the data – such as the parameters, echo curves, trends and an event model – and they can email that information to Coulton.
“I’ll take it home and a have a look at it and help them fix the issue,” he said. “If it was something like the bagging issue, it might be that it is playing up where they’re filling it, and they need to do several changes to fix it. While he is doing these changes, I’m looking at it at the same time as him and helping him solve the problem. I treat it like it is a training exercise for them, as well as fixing the problem.”
VEGA Tools App
One piece of technology that the company is utilising is the VEGA tools app, which can be used on either an iPhone/iPad or Android mobile phone.
“In the old days there were two ways of setting up an instrument – either pressing a button on the top or a laptop. Now its Bluetooth, so the customer can pull out their iPhone or iPad or android device, and use the VEGA tools app. They don’t need a laptop anymore,” said Coulton. “I was up at a mine in the Pilbara for a couple of weeks doing a training course.
We did an exercise where the foreman decided to invite some of the young technicians who utilise a device, we call a hockey puck, which is connected to their phones via Bluetooth. They put it the puck on the sensor and put the information onto their iPhone and they sent me a screen shot of the problem. As with this exercise and in real instances, nine times out of ten we can fix the issue if we can see what the issue is. It gives clients another tool to fix a problem.”
With Zoom, VEGA has gone a little bit further. The customer can have their phone on them, start the VEGA tools app, have all the settings ready, and can have a Zoom meeting and can show Coulton the problem that has occurred via mirroring.
“John can mirror his phone with Zoom and diagnose the problem,” said Mazor. “It takes screen shots to the next level. The customer can see what is happening and so can John and can diagnose or change settings that way remotely. The sales team can work in tandem doing the same. It really just takes troubleshooting and support to the whole next level. You can screen share to the service team using any IOS or Android and PC devices. That is going to be really critical and we are utilising the technology as much as we can to reassure customers that we are there for them.”
VEGA is also doing product demonstrations live through Zoom, setting up a scenario where the company can go through the product with clients.
While the circumstances in which they work might have changed, the amount of support the company offers has not.