“Written in Chinese, the word crisis is made up of two characters. One represents the danger and the other represents the opportunity “
Kennedy used this trope regularly in his speeches and later Richard M. Nixon and others made it their own.
Annus Horribilis 2020 is finally coming to an end, and despite its negativities, companies have learned that technology, especially digital, will be an opportunity, a key element to maintain their competitiveness in the market. Consequently, it will be necessary to implement pilot projects 4.0 in 2021 as well.
What are 4.0 pilot projects? They involve the implementation of some of the enabling technologies in a restricted area of your workshop in order to:
- Evaluate and quantify the benefits that this solution brings
- Optimize the solution by adapting it to your production context
- Reduce the associated risks before extending it to the entire ecosystem
Therefore, the characteristics of a 4.0 pilot project can be summarized in the following key points:
- it is affordable
- it has a high productivity multiplier
- it is feasible and usually easy to implement
- it is scalable, i.e. it can be subsequently extended to other areas of production
Some ideas for implementing 4.0 pilot projects are briefly illustrated below.
1. Additive Manufacturing in Product Development
Let’s start with a project that has cheapness and ease of implementation in its strengths. In fact, we are talking about Additive Manufacturing and in particular about Material Extrusion 3D printers. These types of printers are widespread for mostly “home” applications and there is now a large community of “makers” who use these printers for their projects. But how to use it professionally in our workshops? In my work experience, these types of printers are extremely useful in the field of industrialization of new products. In fact, there are countless workshop applications in which supports and protections are used that in the initial stages are used only a couple of times and then be thrown away as they are no longer reusable for the second iteration of the project (the geometry changes).
Consequently, using traditional technologies for such tools is particularly expensive in terms of:
- Costs: tools are often made of metal materials and CNC machined, with all the associated costs
- Time: a few weeks for construction is too long
The cost of an FDM 3D printer for this type of use can range from 500 € to 5000 € guarantees accuracies ranging from tenth to hundredth of a mm, does not require professional equipment and skills, if not the desire to learn some fundamental concepts on 3D printing. .
The resulting benefits, however, are considerable: in terms of costs and times, savings can be up to 80-90% compared to traditional technologies.
Further uses can be discovered in the following post: How to get benefits from 3D printing in a production site?
2. Remote Assistance through Augmented Reality
Raise your hand if you have not attended at least one webinar during the quarantine! The inability to travel for work has made a virtue of necessity. New technologies give the possibility of:
- Working remotely: the so-called “smart working”, or to be more precise “remote office” or “home office”
- Remote learning: webinars, MOOCs and asynchronous e-learning platforms are all solutions that the Cloud (internet) makes available to us. Furthermore, it is possible to get in touch with skills that are not always available in one’s own territory. For example, my online Spanish lessons via ZOOM with a native Spanish teacher!
- Providing remote assistance: that is, viewing the point of view of the operator who needs assistance and providing adequate remote support.
Focusing on this last point, there are several solutions on the market and they all exploit two of the enabling technologies of 4.0: Augmented Reality (AR) through the so-called “wearable devices” connected to the Cloud. Thanks to the camera integrated into smartphones, tablets and smart glasses, the operator will show their POV (Point of View) while the remote technician will indicate on the screen via AR the point to intervene by providing voice or written instructions. In addition, thanks to Artificial Intelligence, translation can take place in real time!
What are the main advantages?
- Timeliness of the service: no need to wait a few hours waiting for the technician, just connect and make the call and probably a couple of minutes of waiting
- Less travel: travel is reduced and the number of people who may have to provide assistance on site is limited as well, massively reducing costs not directly associated with assistance
- Less costs: as already mentioned, transport costs are significantly reduced, which almost immediately pays off the cost of the app, service, or hardware used
3. Location of assets using RTLS
How many times has it happened to you to look for Part Number, be it a component, a tool, a box or a pallet and not find it where you would have expected it? If you work in structured companies, I believe too many times, at least for me it was like that. How many hours do you spend on searching? If the company had implemented what is commonly referred to as an RTLS (Real Time Locating System) you would have saved the issue. For this reason, its implementation can be one of the 4.0 pilot projects of greatest interest to the workshop.
Specifically, these systems work like a GPS for your factory and use different telecommunication technologies: LTE, BLE, Wifi etc. Therefore it becomes essential to choose the solution that best suits your needs. So you just need a smartphone, tablet or smart glasses to know exactly where your asset is.
What does it take to implement such a system? The hardware required is usually low-cost, as it consists of a series of antennas distributed throughout your workshop, and beacons connected to the assets. Accuracies ranging from a few centimeters to a few meters can be obtained, depending on the technology and the capillarity of the devices.
These are the main advantages:
- transparency: the position of the asset is known in real time
- security: it is not possible to “steal” an asset without becoming aware of it
- efficiency: no more useless search for a Part Number
4. Electronic Kanban through Cloud and AGV
There are now several smart solutions on the market that allow the implementation of electronic kanban, or “e-kanban”. An electronic kanban allows you to share information with different production sites, suppliers and customers in order to create a perfectly integrated solution within your supply chain. In addition, within its own production line, it allows to increase efficiency and productivity by reducing the waiting time of the material between one station and another. One way to make an e-kanban system even more efficient is the integration with AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) systems, i.e. robots with a certain level of autonomy and capable of transporting semi-finished products at the exact moment that the kanban system it requires it. This also allows you to balance the production line autonomously.
The advantages associated with the use of ekanban and AGV are summarized in the following points:
- Waiting time reduction: as already mentioned, waiting times for material in the production and assembly line are reduced
- Reduction of direct costs associated with transportation: in the medium term, transport and maintenance costs are reduced, while the cost of the forklift driver is zero
- Greater Transparency: in the absence of an RTLS system, the AGV guarantees real-time traceability of components
Which AGV to choose? Also in this case there are several different solutions and technologies, which must be selected particularly wisely.
We complete the list of 4.0 pilot projects with paperless solutions.
How much paper is there in your workshop? I already know the answer: too much! In fact, most of the information is shared on paper: work instructions, operational tags, specifications and so on. There are numerous disadvantages associated with the use of paper in the workshop:
- Alignment with the latest issue is not guaranteed: every time a new issue is created, it must be ensured that the old copies are removed from the workshop
- Slow data acquisition: only the data is collected by pen and paper, and then subsequently reported on electronic support, for example excel. Simply a waste of time
- Poor traceability: who made the last update? Who consulted the documentation and at what time? This information is useful in the event of critical events
- Higher costs and poor environmental sustainability: printing on paper has associated costs (copier, toner, paper, maintenance) which can be avoided by using commonly used electronic devices (touch screens, laptops, tablets, smartphones)
- Slow multilingual translation: in the case of paper copies, the translation must be done manually, while now paperless solutions offer the instant translation service integrated using Artificial Intelligence
There are still many other cons, but the list would be too long. The use of paperless solutions consequently guarantees greater productivity and efficiency at lower costs and times.
Also in this case the market offers numerous solutions and as always it is necessary to evaluate the real need to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Where to start?
In this post we have pointed out the need to implement pilot projects in our workshops to adopt new technologies. We have also listed 5 pilot project ideas 4.0, although in reality there are dozens, indeed hundreds. It will be the task of the management, supported by suitable professionals with experience in the field, to identify the areas of intervention and the technologies to be used.
In this sense, Accialini Training & Consulting is able to provide adequate support in identifying the most appropriate areas of intervention, in choosing the most appropriate technology and solution and finally in its implementation.
For more information, contact us to discuss your needs together in detail.
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