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Full of energy at E.ON Ruhrgas

E.ON Ruhrgas AG is one of Europe's leading gas companies and together with their associated companies they offer a comprehensive range of services and products for the transportation, storage, marketing and usage of natural gas. The activities of E.ON Ruhrgas AG concentrate
primarily on the purchase and sale of natural gas. They agree long-term contracts with domestic and international producers for the purchase of natural gas and supply their customers such as grid gas companies, public utility companies, industrial companies and power stations - with natural gas to suit their requirements. The supplies system of E.ON Ruhrgas AG consists of natural gas pipelines covering a total distance of over 11,000 kilo-metres, 12 underground natural gas storage facilities and 26 compressor stations. The principal duties of the technicians, therefore, also include the supervision and maintenance of all technical facilities in the companies, as well as the elimination of faults and repair work to restore supplies at short notice.

"MAIB" - The mobile workstation in operation

As part of the "MAiB" project, E.ON Ruhr­gas AG wanted to create a system that would provide specific assistance for main­­­tenance processes in the technical depart­ments for network support. Above all, the solution had to be economical and should reduce the mountains of  paperwork. It was important that the notebooks could be used as an office workstation, in vehicles and also when out and about in the field in the toughest conditions, such as rain, frost and heat. E.ON Ruhrgas AG decided to ensure these requirements were met by using a combination of the Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 and the Panasonic CF-07 display in the "fully ruggedized" protection category.

Safety for employees and data

It was important to find a practical and safe solution for the use of the notebooks in vehicles. "What we had to do was to imple­ment a solution that would guarantee the safety of our employees as well as our data," explains Edzard Dirks, project co­ordinator at E.ON Ruhrgas. With the help of several crash tests carried out by the DEKRA testing and certification company especially for this purpose, Panasonic developed the so-called "Seatbox", which received the authorisation from the German vehicle licensing authority as E.ON Ruhr­gas AG had insisted. The Seatbox is a robust metal casing with additional communications ports, in which the CF-28 is placed and assembled on the rear seat of the service vehicles.

Connected wirelessly to the CF-28 on the rear seat bench using WLAN technology is the portable CF-07 display, which is fitted into the dashboard of the service vehicle. This way, with the help of the navigation system that is integrated into the "MAiB" and which can be operated via the display, the technicians can be "guided" without any problems to the locations where they are needed, which is often well off the beaten track. The display can be removed from its mounting and can then be used outside of the vehicle within a range of approximately 50 metres. The technician still has wireless access to the data in the CF-28 via WLAN.

A system that has proved its worth

Since 2002, over 220 Toughbooks from the CF-28 range with the portable CF-07 display have been in productive use - very much to the satisfaction of Dirks and the employees.

"Previously, for example, for an ad-hoc call-out the workers first had to drive to the local office, find the corresponding maps, copy them, and only then could they set off to where they were needed," reports Edzard Dirks. With the Toughbook the employees have all the information  with them that they need to complete the task in all weather conditions, in any location and at any time when they are out of the office. As a result, they can get to wher­ever they need to be more independently and more quickly than they used to.

"The Toughbooks really are extremely robust - after having used them for two years, the very low failure rate justifies the decision we made at that time to use this solution. Our initial expectations have been completely fulfilled," confirms Edzard Dirks with satisfaction.