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Julio de 2020 Página 1 de 3

Five digital technologies for the industry's new normal

Alaín Castillo, Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP).

The new reality imposed by the pandemic has revived the need for digitization in the industry. Learn about five solutions that optimize manufacturing operations in the following article.

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2020 brought about an untimely change in our way of living and living together. The health crisis, almost from one day to the next, altered the operation of all activities, both industrial and social. As humans, we had to adapt to new ways of communicating and working. The home office was implemented in a massive way because although it has been a common practice for some years, it was only used in some administrative, sales, and support positions. The way we met also changed. Now the meeting rooms are empty and we use video conferences.

Operating and managing production plants from home is, to a large extent, possible. The tools to carry out industrial activities remotely were on the market some time ago, only the pandemic came to give the industry a push to implement them. Below are five key technologies that solve the challenges of the new reality, enable continuity of operations, and are truly affordable for medium to large business.

Remote assistance devices

I was just a child when the film Universal Soldier was released in 1992, it was about a new generation of soldiers equipped with various technological accessories, among which was a headband, which had a camera and a screen adjusted to the eye. On the screen the soldier could visualize relevant information for the successful execution of his mission, as well as having communication to a control center from where the mission was commanded and monitored in real time, in that distant 1992 that seemed like a utopia.

Currently, the technology is available for use in industry, he is known as a Remote Expert. In this device, on the one hand, we have the user in the field, he is the one who wears the headband, at the other end is the remote expert, who is going to guide the user. The headband incorporates a camera, a screen, headphones and a WiFi and / or 4G communication system, all in an ergonomic design that does not obstruct the user's visibility and audibility.

In COVID times, many services that are outsourced have had to be suspended due to mobility restrictions, therefore, remote assistance has come to continue the work. With this technology, even when the physical presence of the expert is not available, a benefit is obtained on both sides in aspects such as better response time, lower costs associated with travel and, above all, in the current situation, reduce exposure and the health risk.

How does it work? In the field the user wears the headband and can receive instructions via audio, the interlocutor, from the office and through the use of specialized software, can observe what happens in the field through the camera on the device, in this way he can guide the user with instructions to perform the work, in addition, the information the user receives can be complemented by the transmission of images and videos that are displayed in the field on the screen of the headband.

This technology comes to replace telephone assistance, although the dialogue is with the same person, viewing is enabled on both sides, allowing more efficient guidance since the expert is not blind. In a way, it is taking videoconferences to the field or to the plant floor.

Equipment manufacturers turn to augmented reality 

Augmented reality is the term used to describe the set of technologies that allow a user to visualize, through a device, a real space or environment that is complemented by graphic information digitally added by it.

For augmented reality visualization, devices such as smartphones or tablets are generally used. To start the deployment of additional information there are various applications, however, the principle of operation is very similar, I explain it below:

The tag or identifier of the equipment or system from which the additional information will be displayed using augmented reality is read on the mobile device. Once the tag is identified, the camera of the mobile device is pointed at the equipment, the displayed image will be a combination of reality and additional information superimposed.

It should be mentioned that many manufacturers of industrial equipment and systems are adding this functionality to their products. To use it simply requires the installation of an application that is provided by the manufacturer.

The most common additional information that is integrated through the use of augmented reality is: general equipment information, access to manuals or connection diagrams, video tutorials and contact information for support. In this way, it is as if each device had a repository of the relevant documentation for its use and maintenance, so we no longer have to worry about taking the manuals to the field.

Digital factory

A more complex application of augmented reality is linked to the engineering and construction of new plants or their modernizations. When designing a plant, equipment or system, digital design tools are used, however, usually this information used to remain on digital plans, today it can be used to be integrated into the digital plant. For example: using the piping and instrumentation diagrams (DTI's) you have the routing of the wiring, from the field device to the control system, through the connection boxes, and you can also view the information of the control loops.

Palabras relacionadas:
digital transformation, the new normal in the industry, perational technology, OT, informational technology, IT, Digitize operations, plant automation, plant cobots, industry cobots, production automation, digital twins, smart factory, Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, augmented reality

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