CradlePoint Enables Remote Access to Industrial Scales

The CradlePoint CBA250 Cellular Broadband Adapter connects to the scale’s management console to enable remote diagnostics and maintenance. The CBA250 provides IP Pass-Through capabilities for a LAN device requiring wireless broadband access, converting Ethernet to cellular and cellular to Ethernet. The CBA250 handles the connection without configuration and supports multiple and concurrent application streams. The size of a handheld PDA, it’s truly a “drop-in” solution.

CradlePoint Enables Remote Access to Industrial Scales

CBA250 Cellular Broadband Adapter Is a Fool Proof Way to Administer Industrial Scales Over Long Distances

Situation:
C.T.P.Z. Application Innovations provides custom software solutions for large industrial scales. These industrial scales are used to weigh railroad cars, trucks, grain, coal, and other materials moving on conveyors, etc. The founder of C.T.P.Z. Application Innovations, Stephan Horlak, often partners with distributors like Dean Smith of D&G Scale to cooperatively develop custom solutions that allow industrial scale owners to extract custom data and reports, based on that owner’s individual needs and requirements. Typically, these custom solutions are deployed on different models of Mettler-Toledo industrial scales. Mettler-Toledo scales have Ethernet ports that allow access to the scale’s software system. Using a laptop, Stephan, can upload his custom applications (which use an API provided by Mettler-Toledo), deliver patches/fixes and add functionality as a customer’s needs evolve.

Challenge:
Industrial scales are deployed all over the country, far from the company’s main Ohio location. Traveling to a site each time it needs an update or upgrade is expensive and time-consuming. Further, many of the locations that use these scales—for example, gravel pits, coal mines, power plants, train yards, etc.—are located far from urban areas, so getting a local area technician to the site can require hours of travel.

Solution:
“My [CradlePoint] CBA250 [Cellular Broadband Adapter] plugs into the Ethernet RJ-45 port of the scale. Using its mobile broadband connection, the CBA250 makes the scale accessible to me over the Web,” says Stephan. “It’s as if I was right there at the scale with a laptop. Only I’m not. I’m sitting in the comfort of my office with all the resources I need.”

The first few weeks of operations of a new industrial scale are when most patches and upgrades to the custom software typically occur. “Before I started using the CradlePoint, I’d have to contract with a skilled service technician to go out to the site,” explains Stephan, “and you don’t want to know what service companies are charging per mile. Then once the tech got to the site, he would connect his laptop to the scale’s Ethernet port and then we’d troubleshoot together, with me on the phone talking him through the diagnostics or the upgrade. It was a tedious and frustrating process.”

With the CBA250, Stephan no longer has to dispatch a high-cost technician to the site. “Pretty much anyone that can drive a car can do the job,” say Stephan. “They just plug the CBA250 into the RJ-45 port and then step back while I do the troubleshooting or upgrade the software remotely.”

There are two areas where Stephan plans to expand his use of the CBA250. “Instead of waiting for feedback to come in on new installs and then reacting with a service call,” explains Stephan, “we’re going to partner with folks like Dean Smith of D&G Scale and proactively attach a CBA250 with an air card to the scale for the first few weeks, so we can immediately tweak and adjust as issues come up.”

That leads to the third scenario. “A lot of these scales are in outbuildings or remote sites that are far from any kind of network. Yet owners and managers need the data from the scale for accounting and operational purposes. So they send a person out to the scale once a day or once every other day to collect print outs or download information. Well, that’s really inefficient. But to run fiber to the scale or set up a point-to-point wireless bridge costs $5,000 to $30,000, so no one is going to spend that.”

But with a CradlePoint CBA250 Cellular Broadband Adapter attached to the scale (about $180), plus the cost of an air card (about $240) and a monthly mobile broadband account (about $55), a main office can access that data for a fraction of what it would cost to connect using conventional means.

“The savings are tremendous, whether in terms of installation cost, or even the cost of driving back and forth to the scale all the time. Also, some companies rely on the paper tickets printed out by the scales to track load weight, time of weighing, etc. Well, drivers can lose tickets pretty easily. But you can’t lose data that you’re pulling directly from the scale onto your computer. Plus it eliminates manual keystroking that’s just wasteful.”

Benefits:

  • Easy. “The CBA250 is foolproof,” Stephan reports. “You plug it in and it just works. No set up. No reset button. It’s perfect for those isolated areas where there’s no IT help within a hundred miles.”
  • Reliable. “I’ve never had a problem,” declares Stephan. “Not one instance.”
  • Money-saving. “The CBA250 puts me and my software programmers right inside a scale…for a fraction of the cost of actually traveling to the site,” notes Stephan.
  • Pervasive. “There is almost no industrial scale site that doesn’t have some sort of mobile coverage,” says Stephan. “If you can make a phone call, you can send and receive data. All I have to do is ask the locals which mobile service to use in what location and they know.”
  • Affordable. “Even if it was $500, it would be worth it,” says Stephan. “But $180 is even better.”

Stephan sums up his plans for using CradlePoint solutions: “If I can sit at my desk and make a two-line code change in two minutes that solves a customer’s problem, versus spending hundreds of dollars on an on-site visit, that’s a huge benefit for me and my customers.”