homenews and insights case studies remote commissioning of a new bems using a virtual presence

Remote commissioning of a new BEMS using a virtual presence

By Dr Andrew Eaton
26 May 2021

Product Marketing Manager

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The project was to install a BEMS control & monitoring system for a vaccine manufacturing facility in Europe owned by a major global pharmaceutical company during the Pandemic.

The BEMS needed to control and optimise a new AHU to enhance the company’s level of redundancy and support existing plant assets by utilising an effective DutyStandby arrangement. Without this arrangement, they were at an increased risk of system downtime and the corresponding negative consequences that would go with their assets being out of operation. Supporting and powering their critical plant assets is a Siemens Apogee system designed and installed by SSE Energy Solutions.

The Challenge

The demands made upon this pharmaceutical company, and indeed the world, were immense at this time. Operating within the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, these works were to be performed in very challenging times. The works were scheduled to take place within a very tight window that aligned with other works. This gave us only one week in October to commission and set the plant to operate.

Making the situation even harder was the very strict lock-down and travel restrictions correctly imposed by various nations governments in efforts to contain and reduce the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus. The company were therefore looking to maintain maximum availability and uptime, improve utilization of assets, all whilst managing energy usage & costs. They were looking for a BEMS provider that could design, install and maintain their system so that they could continue with their scienceled biopharmaceutical business operations.

The Solution

Our solution was to provide the company with a BEMS system that controlled the Air Handling Units in a Duty/Standby arrangement but, importantly, our engineering and commissioning were all carried out remotely over a secure VPN connection by our engineers communicating directly from our offices in the UK to the site in The Netherlands.


The sequence and methodology below relied on a real-time video/voice link between the site and SSE Energy Solutions. The exact applications used were thoroughly tested well in advance of the commissioning phase, hence we were able to embark on the process with a high degree of confidence that the link was resilient and would perform the functions required by us. Added to this, a backup plan had been considered and tested to give both us and the client additional comfort around deploying the solution. Using the link, we were remotely communicating from our SSE UK office location, directly into the new controller before it was connected to any existing active BMS network. This removed the possibility that any live functions would be interrupted and also removed the need for SSE engineers to travel to the site. It also enabled point-to-point checks directly into the controller database and allowed calibration and signal orientations to be fully checked. Following this, the control and monitoring software was operationally checked using commissioning tools with on-site staff being available locally to trigger mechanical alarms and resets etc.

The use of a remote link from an office into an existing site system is well established and has been used in the past for diagnostic support and minor software changes. At the time it had not been used for the full end to end commissioning of the system due to various practicalities around site interfaces, concurrent working with other trades etc. Having said this, it is more than possible to achieve, provided all parties know and understand their responsibilities and this is what made the difference and allowed us to remotely commission the system which included modifying the server database to incorporate the new controller, loading the new graphics and checking the new controller’s interoperations.