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It’s Time for New Tech in Manufacturing

Sept. 8, 2020
Augmented/Virtual reality tech and Machine Health monitoring are the keys to staying on track during COVID-19.

Sometimes, necessity isn’t the mother of invention. Sometimes, it’s merely the kick in the seat that spurs you to use something that already has been invented.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about installing new technology or implementing a task management system, but you haven’t pulled the trigger yet because other priorities or fires have consistently pushed the concept off your to-do list. But today’s world is pushing the boundaries of what manufacturers are used to, and there are technologies out there that can help you respond to these challenges and make your operations more resilient.

For industrial companies, the practical “invention” I have in mind is augmented and virtual reality(AR/VR) hardware and software. And the necessity that is spurring its use involves the repair and installation of manufacturing equipment, especially during a time of coronavirus restrictions. Now that traditional approaches to repair and install new technology are difficult, if not impossible, it’s time to turn to the AR/VR tools and other new technologies that many manufacturers have been slow to adopt.

A Quick Story

Let me give you an example of how these new—but field-tested and reliable—tools can make a difference. Consider the case of an Italian-made piece of machinery that starts to malfunction. Diagnosing and explaining what’s wrong is the first challenge. On top of language differences, a U.S.-based operations technician talking to the manufacturer in Europe would have to overcome the often poor phone connections available on the typical factory floor—and the incessant din—to try to figure out the problem. When I was dealing with such a situation a few years ago, we brought over a technician from Italy to analyze and repair the problem. The bill for that visit was several thousand dollars in direct costs, plus the downtime associated with scheduling the visit, the trip itself, and the repair.

Of course, many foreign machinery manufacturers have in-house experts based in the U.S. But these days, even domestic travel is iffy, expensive, and subject to delay.

For a modest investment in AR/VR software and hardware (which can be had with noise-reduction features), a manufacturing operation can connect with a similarly-equipped machine-maker anywhere in the world and be walked through diagnostics with little or no wait time. Users of the devices can potentially see the malfunctioning part or system in operation, which is crucial since many problems cannot be detected if a machine is shut down. In addition, the device user can see computer-generated images, or overlay images, from the experts they are connecting with, of how to repair or replace the faulty part. The repair can then be done much more quickly than if an in-person visit had to be arranged. Finally, if the language is a problem, Google Translation is there to help.

Implementing Machine Health

Another invention whose time has come is machine health monitoring devices connected by the Internet of Things. By using IoT monitoring devices such as those made by Augury, which provides machine health diagnostics and analytics, operating executives can detect where problems may arise before equipment fails, and arrange for maintenance or replacement at optimal times.

When you combine Machine Health monitoring with AR/VR you create a winning combination. The machine sensors can pinpoint the problem on the equipment and can also provide historical trends. This makes the AR/VR session with the technical expert much more efficient since it is focused on the root cause of the anomaly.

Another important use of AR/VR technology is in aiding factory floor mechanics and technicians to install field sensors to monitor Machine Health. With COVID restrictions and growing demand putting increased pressure on manufacturers, the installation of machine health monitoring technologies is paramount. Augury recently announced that it now offers remote support that enables operating personnel to implement machine health monitoring—aided remotely by their experts—resulting in shorter activation times and faster ROI. A side benefit, that can’t be understated, is that operating personnel become more familiar with the monitoring equipment after aiding in installations. This creates ownership at the site level and can help them understand the goals and objectives of their machine health program. It is a win-win.

Just as Zoom meetings quickly have become the new normal in our age of social distancing and minimal travel, the industrial future of remote assisted repairs, installations, and machine health monitoring has arrived. Fortunately, stepping into the future turns out to be a lot easier and much more rewarding than anticipated. Don’t wait for tomorrow to start enjoying the benefits of this game-changing technology today.