Eaton announced its Vehicle Group has been leveraging Industry 4.0 technology to help its global operations safely navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and continue to service its customers.
The group says it envisions Industry 4.0 as both operational and informational technologies, enabling autonomous production systems that are connected, optimized, transparent, proactive, and agile. Supported by an integrated ecosystem, the technologies are composed of autonomous robots, augmented reality, rapid application development, digital simulation, and additive manufacturing.
The group is using Industry 4.0 technologies in the following ways:
Implementing robots to promote safe distancing and increase productivity
To optimize manufacturing flow and eliminate the need for forklifts and other human-operated transport machinery, the Vehicle Group is using autonomous automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). In addition to improving the flow of materials throughout a manufacturing facility, AMRs and autonomous AGVs increase safety and allow for social distancing while also lowering costs.
COBOTs, which are robots intended to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity, are being used to safely handle complex and repetitive tasks. This reportedly results in improved consistency and accuracy during the manufacturing process.
Displaying 3D images and connecting remotely to improve safety
To enable remote assistance and critical activities, Vehicle Group teams are using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 augmented reality goggles that offer the capability to display 3D images in physical spaces and connect remotely. This remote assistance technology ensures that ongoing work can be performed while keeping everyone safe.
Enhancing training and expediting review processes through augmented reality
According to the company, augmented reality also assists with knowledge retention and ongoing training. For instance, the group identified an opportunity to use the technology to train operators and engineers on new equipment, which would have traditionally been conducted by instructors who travel to the various remote sites. Additionally, the technology has proven critical for recent customer reviews and approvals.
Analyzing data to reduce costs, improve quality, and reduce lead times
The group is also interconnecting plant systems and machines to collect, analyze, and report real-time information, which optimizes plant floor management and provides visibility to real-time production issues in order to address them right away. These efforts are designed to reduce lead times; maintenance, repair and operations (MRO), inventory, indirect-labor/direct-labor costs; as well as increase performance and improve quality.
Using digital simulation to improve production efficiency
Another way the Vehicle Group is reportedly increasing productivity is by using digital simulation applications to define which solution and/or combination of factors will result in the highest output. These applications can run several scenarios by changing parameters, such as the number of operators, work in process material, cycle times, operator standardized work, and many others. The applications are being used to define new manufacturing cells and assembly lines or to redesign existing ones. In most cases, the group reports seeing productivity increase from 10-30% via higher production output or reduced amount of investment needed.
Leveraging 3D printing tools internally to expedite processes
Additive manufacturing is leveraged to improve safety, quality, and efficiency by designing and producing tools, poke-yokes, and gauges internally on both polymer and metal materials. This allows fast reactions (shorter lead times), reduced purchase costs, and highly customized solutions. For example, lead times can be reduced from weeks to days, while reducing costs from thousands to hundreds.
For more information, visit www.eaton.com.