Wouldn’t it be nice to have a teleportation system? To step through a convenient portal and be at your destination instantly?
If you’ve ever had to go any distance on a customer service call, you may have entertained such a fantasy while waiting—wearily—in an airline terminal or bus station.
Our last Customer Spotlight shared how a NetBurner system-on-module and development kit can quickly and easily provide the core technology that empowers a customer product. But that’s not the only way our customers benefit from NetBurner’s decades of product expertise.
In today’s Customer Spotlight, we’ll tell you how a different customer employs another NetBurner product, the SB700 EX Secure Serial to Ethernet Server, to transcend time and space. Using NetBurner technology, MDI effectively enables their service technicians to be in two places at once (or three, or four, or even more).
MDI: Metal Detectors, Inc.
Metal Detectors, Inc. (MDI) is a family-owned designer and manufacturer of high-quality production line metal detectors for use in a wide variety of manufacturing industries. MDI, located in beautiful Eugene, Oregon, was started in 1965. It is now in the hands of the family’s 4th generation. Metal detectors made by MDI can be found in customer facilities all around the country, carefully situated either under or surrounding process conveyor belts and chutes.
MDI’s principal customer base is the forest product industry. For example, in a sawmill, logs passing through the sawmill’s processing system may contain extraneous metal—nails, bolts, bands, fence wire, etc.—that could severely damage or dull saw blades, planers, or chippers downstream.
Other industries also share the same problem; materials such as aggregates, plastics, textiles, or recyclables passing through a conveyor system may also contain pieces of metal that could damage expensive downstream customer processing equipment.
MDI custom-designs and adjusts each metal detector to suit a specific customer process in order to protect the machinery in place after the metal detection point.
The MDI Product Line
The MDI product line includes metal detectors in several different formats. They have Surround Systems that completely encircle the flow of customer materials. They also produce Under Conveyor Systems that can be placed below the flow of material. Finally, they make Hand-Held Probes that are rugged, reliable, and simple to operate without a lot of complex adjustment needed.
MDI also custom fabricates non-metallic conveyor sections for their customers’ systems. These strong and durable fiberglass components replace metallic sections of the conveyor that would otherwise interfere with detection, enabling the sensitive electromagnetic sensors in MDI’s metal detectors to “see” and locate metal in the materials passing along the conveyor.
Once it has been detected, any customer material containing metal can be automatically marked and/or diverted for inspection.
MDI components and accessories are modular and easy to service, replace, or upgrade.
MDI Technology Is Mission Critical
Detecting extraneous metal in industrial processes is without a doubt a mission-critical issue. Customers that use metal detectors rely heavily on their MDI equipment to keep production lines up and running.
Stray pieces of metal, whether nails, bolts, fence wire, spikes, stakes—you name it—can be the kiss of death for a production line. In a sawmill, industrial saw blades are very specialized and quite expensive. We’re talking the kind of expensive that means vendors typically won’t even list prices on their websites; you have to ask for a quote!
Extraneous metal that is not detected and removed from the line can destroy an expensive sawmill blade. At the very least, it could require that the blade be removed and re-sharpened. As the old saying goes, “Time is money,” and line-down situations can be very costly for MDI customers.
MDI: Dealing With Customer Service Challenges
When first installed, MDI metal detectors are carefully tuned to be as sensitive as possible to unwanted metal in the material flow without false triggering. However, technology changes of any kind in the production operation—variable frequency motor drives, handheld radios, cell phones, and static interference at customer sites—at times may result in false triggering or other anomalies. These can abruptly require an unscheduled service call from MDI.
Downtime Is Deadly
Any sudden and unexpected customer downtime used to require wearying and expensive travel for MDI’s technical support staff.
Sending out a technician from MDI’s home base, though sometimes necessary, is a costly and time-consuming proposition.
Even more important than reducing the costs of dispatching an engineer on a cross-country mission, MDI wanted to reduce prohibitively costly operating time loss on their customers’ major production lines.
NetBurner To The Rescue
Searching for a bit of a miracle to enhance and accelerate their ability to respond to customer crises, MDI reasoned that if they could give their engineers remote access to equipment installed at their customers’ sites, they could save a lot of time and money on travel and at the same time provide customers an immediate solution that would reduce their down-time.
The MDI View-Link Remote Diagnostic Module
Using NetBurner’s SB700-EX Secure Serial to Ethernet Server, MDI was able to develop what they have called the View-Link Remote Diagnostic Module. They discovered that the SB700-EX comes out of the box ready to work. It can extending the reach of whichever standard serial protocol they might want to use (RS232, RS485, RS422) to MDI installed equipment anywhere in the world.
MDI simply connected an SB700-EX to their metal detecting equipment in the field. Using the industry standard TCP protocol, diagnostic data from a serial port in the metal detector can be easily accessed by MDI service engineers without ever having to leave the home office.
At the office end, MDI has a legacy application that connects to their field equipment using NetBurner’s Virtual COM Port software. Our customers receive this software for free with the purchase of every NetBurner Serial to Ethernet product.
Recent global disruptions have made the MDI View-Link more important than ever. MDI reports substantial time savings as a result of no longer having to send engineers to board an airplane at the drop of a hat in order to deal with a line-down issue. One of MDI’s engineers recently told NetBurner this:
“Usually I have to fly a few times a year around the US to be there. The 700 allows me to help anybody right away. They don’t have to wait, and metal detectors are vital to protecting process equipment.”
Some Additional Nice Bonus Results
But wait, there’s more!
Being able to access their products right from the home office has enabled MDI to stay ahead of the maintenance and service curve. Rather than wait for a trouble report, they are now able to regularly and continuously monitor the stability and performance of their metal detectors in the field.
NetBurner technology gives MDI real-time access to data from their remote equipment. As subtle changes in conditions or configuration occur at customer sites, MDI can now stay on top of the situation and fine-tune settings in order to keep detectors operating at peak efficiency. Program customization, patches, and upgrades can also now be remotely installed.
Not only has NetBurner tech empowered MDI’s remote diagnostics, it has earned MDI some free ink as well.
The MDI View-Link remote interface was recently featured both in an article and on the cover of the October, 2020 issue of Wood Bioenergy Magazine. In that article, you can read about some specific “wins” enabled by the new MDI View-Link.
MDI is justifiably proud of the way that the SB700-EX has enabled newfound ways for them to improve customer support. Likewise, we’re proud to be a part of their solution.
Could NetBurner Give Your Service Team an Edge?
If you want to be profitable, you already have your customers’ best interests in mind. This is even more true in the light of current global business challenges. Customer driven companies must strive to become as rapidly responsive to their customers’ needs as possible.
By engaging NetBurner’s SB700-EX technology, just like MDI, you can quickly and securely extend your product’s serial port anywhere in the world at a very modest cost.
Imagine the advantage of having hands-on, internal product diagnostic data available to your techs before they ever have to step foot out of the door?
Maybe your product already has a built-in diagnostic serial output. If not, adding it and incorporating a NetBurner Secure Serial to Ethernet product will be well worth your effort. You won’t regret investigating the possibility. Not only in terms of time and travel savings, but also because of the improvement in your customers’ satisfaction.
Yes, the NetBurner SB700-EX can indeed make it possible for you to be in two places or more at once.
NetBurner Has Your Back, With Products and Support
Why not spend a few pleasant minutes right now, browsing the wide array of NetBurner products and solutions to be found on our website? With a little imagination, you’re sure to discover one or more NetBurner offerings that perfectly fit the product or service needs your company specializes in. Who knows? You might be surprised to discover a marriage made in heaven.
You can be sure that NetBurner support will be there for you when you pick up the phone or contact us by email. We’re passionate about making sure our customers have the information and resources they need to succeed. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or concerns.
Note: All illustrations licensed or courtesy of Metal Detectors, Inc..