OEE is considered the gold standard for quantifying manufacturing productivity. Actions impacting OEE include upskilling staff through better training, fewer/shorter downtime events, increased first pass quality and faster Mean Time to Repair (MTTR).
A “Design and Experiment" Approach
The four companies took a collaborative “design and experiment” approach to the pilot. During the first stage, Harpak-ULMA deployed its embedded OEE Application, which automatically calculates, monitors, and reports packaging line performance in real time.
Harpak-ULMA next deployed the entire library of PTC AR applications and created its own machine-based AR experiences. AR offers rich, visually based work instructions and training and on-demand expert guidance.
Most AR user experiences leverage the machine’s digital twin, a dynamic model that virtually represents the physical machine. Digital twins enable the life-like animation that allows workers to simulate a maintenance routine or operation before interacting with the machine.
Digital twins also allow personnel to virtually see inside an operating machine to identify the location and condition of components without stopping production.
“AR is the ideal way for Maple Leaf Foods to deliver digital information to front-line workers in the context of their tasks,” said Jim Heppelmann, CEO, PTC. “We believe their pilot program results will underscore the huge opportunity for productivity gains while increasing staff job satisfaction.”
Embedded real-time remote communication and collaboration technologies are also employed, which significantly reduce the need for on-site technical experts.
Demonstrating Early Value
The pilot project quickly demonstrated the value of AR in a packaging line. For example, the OEE application delivers self-diagnosing machine reports that identify machine downtime and high-priority action items by shift.
Using remote connectivity, the Harpak team monitors these reports daily, identifies any high-frequency stoppages – and then builds remediation routines using Vuforia Expert Capture. With this application, OEM experts capture and transform step-by-step procedures into AR-based work instructions operators can access in real time.
When it comes to both training and machine error diagnosis, AR enables workers to view and interact with a real-time digital twin of the machine – from anywhere at any time. This means an OEM can often diagnose a machine without an on-site visit. It also means effective training is possible before an employee enters the plant.
AR-based training is already demonstrating promising results for Maple Leaf. For example, the interactive, visually intensive training has helped minimize language barriers, decrease worker error – and reduce training cycles in an environment that often experiences high staff turnover.
“We’re proud to be part of the team working with Maple Leaf to pilot augmented reality to increase efficiency and improve outcomes across various critical business practices,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation. “It’s inspiring to see the positive impact that this technology has already had on training time and worker error.”
By putting OEM knowledge within easy reach, AR technology can also equip internal employees with the skills to complete complex tasks – such as packaging tool rebuilds – that have typically been performed by an outside resource.
AR not only provides step-by-step instructions, but also audits task completion as needed. Maple Leaf has targeted three high-value activities for compliance enforcement in the pilot: tool rebuilds, startup and shutdown procedures, and sanitation protocols.
Lessons from the Journey
While the protein packaging pilot is ongoing, all four companies will continue to gather feedback, make improvements and assess any future commercialization of the program.
Thus far in the journey, the team has learned the value of a transparent and equitable partnership – and an agile perspective. Each company offers unique skill sets. And honest and open feedback between the partners – plus a willingness to change or redirect efforts – is critical to success.
Above all, the team recognizes that technology for technology’s sake is a recipe for failure. The basis for any investment must be a compelling business case that delivers operational and financial value.