SupportPoint will be helping companies to get their failing PLCs up and running again by pooling experts from all over the world. Founder Peter Goeijenbier explains how Support Point will connect supply and demand.“Years ago I was working in a power plant”, says Goeijenbier. “In the middle of the night there was a problem with a malfunctioning PLC. I had no idea how to solve it. Luckily I got someone on the phone to guide me through the process. The incident got me thinking. In the course of time there will be more and more legacy systems in industry, while knowledge of them will fade away. Getting someone on the phone quickly will be increasingly difficult.”

Goeijenbier’s thinking evolved into SupportPoints, a unique platform that concentrates on brokering knowledge about legacy PLCs of three manufacturers: ABB, Siemens and Allan Bradley. These cover a large part of the market. “Initially we will focus on supporting service suppliers, because more than half of industrial companies have sourced out maintenance”, he explains. “However, we are open to deal directly with end users. Also, we expect to work mostly on quick hardware and software fixes for critical problems at first. Hopefully, when awareness among companies about the risks of ageing assets grows, we will also be involved in preventive maintenance and timely replacement of older components.”

Easy to use

SupportPoint’s platform is easy to use. There is a pool of experts whose knowledge has been tested by SupportPoint. A client may simply make an account on the site, answer a few questions about his needs and be presented with a choice of experts that might be able to help. Goeijenbier: “When there is a match, client and expert must negotiate a price per hour and a maximum amount of hours. The full price is the due to be paid to the platform, because our experts do not work on a no cure no pay basis. We do have a rating system for both experts and clients, so in the course of time both parties will know more about each other. And of course, in case of serious we as a platform will look into that.”

On the spot

“Our experts will support local technicians with their knowledge of obsolete PLC’s, but since they do not know the local situation, the local technician always remains responsible for what happens”, Goeijenbier continues. “Our mission is to be extra input for someone who is trying to run through all possible causes of a broken PLC on the spot. I still remember how happy I was when I got somebody on the phone to guide me through the process in that power plant. It saved me a lot of time and anguish, and my employer a lot of money.”