Remote Services: Benefits from a Distance

A growing number of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have adopted or plan to adopt remote services according to a PMMI report.
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Use of Remote Services Continues to Expand

By Tom Egan, Vice President of Industry Services for PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies

When the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers that needed to keep their lines running had no choice but to replace in-person interactions with remote services. They discovered remote services can:

  • Reduce costly downtime
  • Optimize machine/operation performance
  • Deliver a quicker response when a problem arises, and
  • Mitigate skills shortages

Since restrictions on in-person visits ended, a growing number of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have adopted or plan to adopt remote services, according to Trends in Remote Services and Monitoring, a report published in January 2024 by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

Remote services give internal personnel and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) access to machines/operations. These services eliminate the need to be physically present, and encompass remote support, remote training, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, virtual factory acceptance tests, and online commissioning. Remote support, the most widely used remote service, shifts some responsibilities from in-house staff to OEM personnel. It involves remote troubleshooting, diagnostics, and repair and often can eliminate the need for an in-person visit from an OEM technician.

The report notes that the majority of software-based issues are already being addressed via remote support, and many mechanical failures also can be corrected remotely. When repairs can be effected remotely, downtime and costs decrease because travel-related delays and expenses are eliminated.

The benefits of remote services

Two other popular remote services, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, work hand-in-hand using digital monitoring tools to analyze and predict asset behavior, so repairs can be performed proactively. This reduces downtime and product loss, the major drivers pushing CPG firms to implement predictive maintenance, according to another PMMI report, 2022 Challenges and Opportunities for Packaging and Processing Operations. Other benefits of adopting a predictive maintenance scheme include longer machine life and a reduction in parts requirements because replacements are installed as needed rather than on an arbitrary schedule.

The need to try remote services during the pandemic also showed remote training can help overcome skills shortages. With the ongoing lack of qualified operators and technicians exacerbated by the pandemic-related retirement of many of the most experienced team members on processing and packaging lines, CPG companies must find ways to compensate. Remote training can support onboarding and upskilling efforts with instructor-led online sessions viewed as the most cost-effective format. Other remote training options include self-paced online courses, online training manuals, and training sessions based on augmented reality (AR).

Hybrid remote/in-person services

However, it should be noted, that a significant number of decision-makers at CPG firms believe the most effective training option is to place a live instructor next to the machine. So, training is likely to remain a hybrid remote/in-person model. Nevertheless, despite some resistance from older workers, the hybrid model could shift toward the remote side with the evolution of AR and the potential this interactive technology could offer to bridge the gap between remote and in-person training.

The hybrid remote/in-person model also is favored for factory acceptance tests and machine commissioning because many managers are more confident in a hands-on evaluation than in video conferencing software and streaming to ensure the machinery meets specifications. Thus, although remote services, particularly for support, monitoring, predictive maintenance, and training, will continue to gain ground, the report concludes a hybrid remote/in-person model will remain because the advantages of an in-person presence sometimes still outweigh the time and cost savings associated with remote interactions. This is especially true when custom or complex machines are involved.

Implementing remote services

Implementing remote services also must overcome other hurdles such as:

  • The cost of the service, especially when retrofitting machines
  • A lack of in-house IT skills to maintain and update systems
  • The likelihood of having to deal with multiple interfaces across plants and machines, and
  • Cybersecurity risks

Although cybersecurity concerns remain high, CPG firms have become less reticent about granting remote access as they have learned how to strengthen their IT networks and shifted to more secure access methods. In fact, the report predicts the use of externally managed secure networks and converged networks will grow at the expense of cell modem access and direct virtual private networks.

Learn more at PACK EXPO International

Remote services capabilities, cybersecurity, and other processing and packaging innovations will be on display at PACK EXPO International (Nov. 3–6, 2024, McCormick Place, Chicago, Ill.). Ranking as the biggest packaging and processing event on the planet in 2024, the show will present 2,500 exhibitors spread across more than 1.2 million net square feet of floor space and foster idea-sharing among 40+ vertical industries. For more information, visit

About the Author

Tom Egan serves as the vice president of Industry Services for PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Download the full report at

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