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How AR can improve the maintenance in a manufacturing environment

Thomas Smolders
Resident Writer

One of the most important aspects of running a manufacturing facility is keeping equipment functioning. This can be achieved by regular preventive maintenance, which helps increase throughput and ensure customer satisfaction with delivery lead times. It may be tempting to see maintenance as a burdon, results are not always (immediately) visible, but the cost of downtime due to malfunction can be much higher than a good maintenance regime.

Postponing maintenance may create unsafe conditions in harsh manufacturing environments. Poor-quality or worn cables and wires for example can create dangerous situations.

Luckily there’s hope: since a few years manufacturing companies are using technology to measure the condition of equipment. Ultrasound, vibration analysis and power usage for instance, can give an insight into the probability of failure in the near future.

After doing extensive research, and based on our own experience, we’re convinced that Augmented Reality will be an even better suited technology to improve the maintenance in manufacturing. With Augmented Reality - often abbreviated as AR - information is 'superimposed' on the real world, and can consist of several things. For example, In The Pocket developed an application for Telenet that helps users with the installation of their digicorder. The information that is added in AR is displayed as an extra layer on the surroundings and doesn’t interact with reality.

Construction equipment manufacturers are using AR to create an optimized reality for their customers, by displaying real-time information about the equipment status.                                                                                        

Ensure all maintenance engineers are properly trained and keep good records

Over time, workers may lose sight and purpose of a particular routine task, such as changing a filter. Regular trainings to refresh this knowledge will keep them motivated to carry out the full range of tasks, as well as giving an opportunity to discuss how your system can be improved.

AR displaying information which buttons to push
Here’s an example of how AR can help with the training of maintenance engineers.

Provide maintenance engineers all tools & support to not slow down their productivity

It’s difficult to make sure all engineers are up-to-date with all the latest development and to expect that all maintenance engineers know how to change every part of complicated equipment. Providing manuals on how to maintain the equipment can be very useful for generic and repetitive tasks.

This video shows an example use of the HoloLens in a plant environment, during a typical maintenance task. To help keep the user's hands free for doing the work, voice commands are implemented in the software.                                                                                        

Remote assistance

For more complex tasks, it’s good that junior maintenance engineers can rely on professional advise. Remote assistance can be of great help here. Vuforia Chalk for instance, a simple, powerful remote guidance and collaboration app designed for technicians and experts to more effectively communicate and solve urgent problems.

Use technology for anomaly detection

A lot is expected of maintenance engineers, machinery can be so complex that it’s difficult to be 100% sure you have detected all defects. With a combination of computer vision and augmented reality, it’s easy to spot anomalies.

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