How will the working environment of staff in production and service be changed by the smart factory of the future? Which technologies will be used? One answer is provided by the research project ASSIST 4.0, on which leading Austrian industrial, commercial and research companies have been working since the beginning of 2014.
“Intelligent digital assistance systems will be integral to the smart factory of the networked Industry 4.0,” says Peter Stelzer. He is the Head of the Business Center Vision at KNAPP as well as Head Project Manager of ASSIST 4.0. “Mobile terminals such as tablets, smart glasses or smart watches make communication between any locations possible. With the help of a central software system in the background, ASSIST 4.0 brings knowledge exactly to where it’s needed – to the service technician on site. This new form of knowledge management, based on innovative technology searches for, consumes and evaluates information.”
Test applications for troubleshooting and servicing
After 18 months of collaborative research and development, the research project ASSIST 4.0 has produced a provisional solution: Demonstrator 1. Testing is in progress with various KNAPP intralogistics systems, for example, in the semiconductor production clean room at Infineon Technologies Austria and in the automobile industry in connection with AVL List. The applications focus on the areas of troubleshooting, servicing and remote maintenance. Production staff at the industrial partners are supported during troubleshooting with context-sensitive information. Depending on the situation, either tablets, or, if the both of the individual employee’s hands need to remain free, smart glasses or smart watches are used for information visualization. The application is controlled multimodally in line with the individual requirements of each case through touch, voice commands and, in the future, through gestures.
During an incident, every minute counts. Instead of endlessly searching for the solution in handbooks or trawling through documentation servers, ASSIST 4.0 provides the right information, at the right time, in the right quality and in the right place. The content is compact, adapted to the respective mobile terminal and is provided in multimedia form with texts, pictures or videos. The troubleshooting instructions are presented step by step. This user-friendly editing of content is made possible by an innovative middleware that unites data from existing systems such as ERP systems with mobile terminals.
Enhanced learning for personnel
Interaction with the system is enormously supportive in expanding knowledge. Personnel can document their knowledge and experiences with multimedia when using the assistance system. Any photos, videos, text or voice memos created are provided as support for similar cases in the future. Personnel can evaluate the content immediately, meaning that information that is supportive in the decision-making process is provided in an increasingly accurate way. Should the service employee be faced with a problem that cannot be solved in spite of the digital assistance, they can use the integrated video remote maintenance to contact an expert for troubleshooting or maintenance. This enables more than one person to look at problem and facilitates finding a solution.
Assistance system revolutionizing service
“ASSIST 4.0 is a future-orientated concept for an assistance system. Thanks to the intensive cooperation of all project partners, we have succeeded in comprehensively analyzing the requirements of such a system and in using this to develop a system with the potential to revolutionize service, whilst constantly focussing on the human element. We are striving to develop technology that can be accepted widely and that will provide maximum support in the working environment,” says evolaris Project Manager, Peter Brandl.
Advantages in the international service environment
The reasons why digital assistance systems are being used in increasingly complex production environments are diverse. In the international service environment for example, linguistic and cultural differences, as well as different levels of knowledge are just some of the challenges faced. “With the previous communication channels via phone or email, important information and feedback was often lost. New technologies such as smart glasses support both verbal and non-verbal communication. We have observed that the more naturally and efficiently information on troubleshooting is provided, the shorter the time required to rectify issues and the fewer the errors,” explains Kajetan Bergles, Service Development Manager at KNAPP and spokesperson for the Styrian Service Cluster. Money previously spent on travelling expenses for service technicians can also be saved, as they can be called upon via remote maintenance and no longer have to travel across the globe. What’s more, as personnel can be trained on-the-job, they are also operational sooner – a further advantage of the training.
About ASSIST 4.0
Under the KNAPP lead, the project is being conducted in cooperation with AVL List, evolaris next level, Infineon Technologies Austria, Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, Research Studios Austria FG and XiTrust Secure Technologies and Nexxacon. The project’s duration is 30 months and the cost amounts to around 3 million euros, with 1.8 million euros having been donated by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FGG) project Production of the Future. By June 2016, the Demonstrator will be enhanced with further features.
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