Remote Services: So far, yet so near
22nd September 2022
Remote Services enables intralogistics specialists to access highly automated warehouses and carry out troubleshooting in real time. The trend is to not simply respond to problems, but to analyse data and simulate scenarios proactively to enable customers to have maximum availability. The example of the TGW Logistics Group shows why these services are worthwhile.
If your car is having problems and you bring it to a service station, you get it back the next day with a functioning spare part. If you order a shirt online in the morning, you can already try it on that evening. Those who want snacks and soft drinks to go with their evening television usually get them by quick commerce delivery within three hours, at least in many major urban areas. Companies that make their customers delivery promises like this need high-performance logistics. Their intralogistics systems must run without a hitch – around the clock in some cases.
An unplanned standstill causes delivery delays that make customers angry. The mere thought of a successful hacker attack – and thus a standstill lasting days – makes those responsible for operations break into a sweat. The chaos does not need to reach a maximum level, either. Even small software problems elevate the blood pressure of those in management. Years ago, intralogistics providers introduced what are known as Remote Services to offer customers maximum availability. Example: TGW Logistics Group. The Austrian company is now offering nine different services remotely with its Lifetime Services (LTS) unit – and is developing new ones all the time. “Remote Services are increasingly in demand because clients want greater availability,” says Georg Katzlinger-Söllradl, Director Global Lifetime Services at TGW.
Two major driving factors account for why customers are making increasing use of remote services. First, fewer in-house employees are needed on site, which saves money. Secondly, companies want to protect themselves from internet crime, particularly hacker attacks. Thus they have external experts bring the systems up to the latest security standard on a regular basis.
Focus on cyber security
Hacker attacks on the supply chain have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Some 81 percent of those surveyed in an IT study carried out in 2021 with 1,451 decision-makers reported that they were seeing more cyber threats during the pandemic. Fifty-six percent experienced critical instances of a standstill resulting in damages of more than 100,000 US dollars.
According to the study, however, companies place a low priority on cybersecurity, despite the fact that their IT departments have recognized the elevated threat level. Katzlinger-Söllradl observes that companies who have already learned the hard way or heard about such incidents firsthand are the most likely to take the topic seriously. He sees big corporations as being in a better place in this regard than medium-sized ones. “However, there are also major corporations that believe you have to do everything yourself in order to save money,” says Katzlinger-Söllradl.
The fact is that where IT is concerned, you need in-depth specialised expertise. TGW can draw on the experience of more than 1,000 completed systems and offers ongoing training to its experts. A total of more than 130 specialists work in the Remote Services area. Customers who have complete systems built that include a Warehouse Management System (WMS) also benefit from the fact that TGW’s software developers are easy to contact and no third-party suppliers have to be involved.
In-house support centre
Another point that differentiates TGW from other providers in the Remote Services areas is that customers reach the in-house Support Centre directly via the hotline. TGW even does first level support itself rather than outsourcing it to a provider. This enables TGW to solve about 90 percent of all problems in the software area. Only in extremely complex cases, such as combined software and hardware problems, is it necessary for technicians to be on site.
System operators can combine various service modules with each other:
- Managed Connectivity: For the remote access to be as secure as possible, the connection is based on the highest security standards. The solution here is an up-to-date Cisco Multipoint Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology. Multi-factor authentication is required to gain access.
- Remote Expert Support: TGW’s experts are available around the clock 365 days a year to answer the hotline. They speak multiple languages and have mastered the entire scope of services, from mechatronic components to the control system and IT hardware to the software applications such as TGW’s material flow controller or the WMS. If desired, a cause analysis can be added on to each problem-solving procedure.
- Software Monitoring & Alerting: The experts take the pulse of the system at all times. This means that they can monitor all software components provided by TGW – from error statistics of the mechatronic modules to the IT hardware and software applications to the interfaces. Anomalies trigger an alarm. Depending on the agreement, TGW employees work on the problem or the customer does so itself.
- Managed Backup and Disaster Recovery: The complete system is prepared for a worst-case scenario – with standardised and tested procedures for re-importing backed-up data versions. Backups are improved and the availability checked on a regular basis.
- Data Visualisation & Analytics: The generated data are analysed and visualised on a dashboard. The operator can carry out evaluations and start certain queries itself.
- IT Management: TGW offers cost-efficient server and database management. The customer receives reports and recommendations on a regular basis, for example for improvements or software updates.
- Managed Test Environment: LTS specialists mirror the system 1:1 in order to test what happens when updates and/or patches are imported. A variety of operational strategies can be compared without the production system ever being involved. The test system thus always remains at the same level as the production system.
- Patch Management Services: TGW keeps the production system at the state of the art of technology. Experts select security-relevant patches that match the customer’s specific system, test and install them. This makes it possible to close security gaps and minimise failures. Release updates of the database providers are also carried out – with fewer than four hours of downtime being required.
- Security Scanning: Specialists test for security gaps regularly and take countermeasures if necessary. The customer does not have to worry about the topic any more and reduces the risk of cyber attacks.
At a glance: The nine TGW Remote Services
- Managed Connectivity
- Remote Expert Support
- Software Monitoring & Alerting
- Managed Backup and Disaster Recovery
- Data Visualisation & Analytics
- IT Management
- Managed Test Environment
- Patch Management Services
- Security Scanning