By Sacha Porges, Global Director - Customer Quality & Programs, GKN Automotive
Have you ever wished you had X-ray vision giving you the capability to see inside a complex assembly, in 3D?
How about an on-demand means to train your operators in complex assembly or inspection processes one that does not require them to take their eyes off the job, and allows them to instantly recall and scroll through detailed instructions without needing to read from a set of documents and can be instantly updated?
Or before even placing a purchase order with a vendor, being able to model and emulate a dynamic, interlinked multi-station production line that allows you to instantly (and safely) simulate both human and machine process breakdowns, to prove off the effectiveness of your planned safety measures, error-proofing/poke-yokes and defect part containment?
Well now you can!
Welcome to the world of augmented reality: a virtual toolbox of unprecedented depth and scope, a world where the physical and the virtual become ‘one’—giving you the freedom to rapidly design and construct safe, robust, effective products, processes, and operator training before the first piece of equipment is installed in your plant.
Many of you have no doubt heard of the so-called 4th industrial revolution, also known as ‘4IR’ or ‘Industry 4.0’ this journey started a little over ten years ago, with the aim to digitize manufacturing.
There are four essential elements to 4IR:
Interconnectivity: machines, devices, sensors, people all connected and communicating with one other via the internet of things/ people (IoT / IoP).
“By replacing the HMI screen with wearable AR, production times were improved by 25 percent and RFT (error reduction) was doubled.”
Information Transparency: providing operators the capability to make instant, data-driven decisions through collection of immense amounts of data at all points in the manufacturing process.
Technical Assistance: the organic result of information transparency is AR-driven assistance in human decision-making, problem diagnosis/resolution, and efficient, accurate support with difficult or potentially unsafe tasks, to an extent only dreamed of 20 years ago.
Decentralized Decisions: cyber-physical systems are able to make decisions and perform their tasks as autonomously as possible, only delegating to a higher level requiring human intervention due to exceptions, interference, or conflicting objectives.
We are going to focus on the ‘technical assistance’ aspect of 4IR, and how it is rapidly becoming an indispensable tool to improve product safety and quality.
The Augmented Operator
Augmented reality (AR) is an incredibly powerful tool to bestow upon the shop floor; STLA, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Tesla, and other major OEMs are already implementing AR applications for their internal needs, in most cases using Google Glass-like AR wearable devices to facilitate faster, more accurate vehicle production.
These wearable AR devices are able to recognize and capture a live view of an object and display its type and location, helping anyone so equipped to get instant data about each component or sub-assembly they are working on.
Take two simple examples to demonstrate the benefits AR can bring:
Usually, the task of manually seeking specific item(s) in storage according to a list or BoM, then transporting those components to the required location(s) for processing.
Picking occurs constantly in automotive, and is essential to support just-in-time assembly line production—yet remains an (almost) entirely manual task.
Using AR, the chief benefits are: (1) improved right first time (RFT) by reducing the time to locate and confirm the BoM to the box labels of stored items, and (2) significant time saved with accurate selection and transportation from usually multiple storage areas to the shop floor.
AR can be easily extended to guide operators picking from multiple similar but different parts bins line-side as well, and always in the correct sequence/matched to the correct product—think flexible production lines, making multiple different parts at once!
Augmented Training & Processes
Another huge step forward with AR is training, together with providing essential support to the operators for complex assembly and inspection processes.
Training can now safely take place in real-time, on the shop floor with a minimum of distraction or having to read through and memorize complex instructions—dramatically reducing training time, whilst simultaneously boosting operator confidence and familiarity with their tasks.
Aerospace was the first to use wearable AR to construct highly intricate yet manually dependent sub-assemblies, for example, wiring harnesses—planes contain hugely complex webs of wires to connect electrical systems, traditionally a painstaking process achieved only by using assembly guides viewed on a laptop display or HMI.
By replacing the HMI screen with wearable AR, production times were improved by 25 percent and RFT (error reduction) was doubled!
Those same benefits are now being realized in the much more dynamic automotive world, thanks to lower costs combined with exponential jumps in computing. AR applications are already here to stay, spread, and evolve; the global automotive AR market alone is predicted to hit $10B by 2026, with North America expected dominate this market.So, get ready to embrace, implement and enjoy all the benefits AR can bring the future is now!