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How to Increase Plant Capacity With Virtual (and Augmented) Reality

Introduction:

Meeting a Quota in the manufacturing industry isn’t just about making sure you reach the right volume. It is also about making sure you reach it within a given time as efficiently as possible. Herein lies three keep concepts that define if this happens or not.

The first being manufacturing Capacity, considered as the total amount of products your manufacturing process can produce. Next, we have Throughput, which is the total number of successful products created by the manufacturer that is accepted by the customer. And finally, we have Output. This is considered to be the total volume created by the manufacturing process. This includes both rejects, waste finished products, scraps, and stockpiles.

Efficiency comes into play when these three factors meet at an equilibrium.

This, however, isn’t so easy to achieve. But remember, a manufacturer should be able to increase the production capacity based on user demands. This usually comes at a higher cost in terms of labor, resources or tools.

Lost Capacity can either be as a result of Equipment Losses (capacity lost due to equipment running at less than its full potential) or Schedule Losses (capacity lost due to time that equipment is not scheduled to run at all).

A more effective path to achieve this is with the use of VR and AR tools. In every manufacturing process, there exist unused potential both in terms of the process and the tools used. To improve throughput we first have to eliminate the bottlenecks on our manufacturing process. Virtual and Augmented Reality devices can help to maximize the use of the tools and resources available, doing so means we have to take a few steps.

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1. Reduce equipment downtime

For any piece of equipment in the manufacturing process to be effectively used, it must have skilled operators handling it. This means that trainees and unskilled hands will create an issue by either not maximizing the potential of the tools or using it improperly. This leads to obvious equipment downtime.

Instead, imagine that you could create a realistic virtual environment of your manufacturing environment and simulate the operations of the various tools available. This would mean you would have the ability to train and teach the needed skills for more efficient use of the various types of equipment before workers get on the production floor. Thereby perfecting their skills and efficiency. This also means a reduction in the possible damage to equipment that might result from improper usage.

2. Reduce the Parts Rejection Rate

One of the main factors that cause headaches to manufactures is having a high rejection rate for a given product or part.

For example, having a 10% rejection rate in producing a given part, means that if 5,000 parts are produced in an hour, 500 of those parts would be rejected. In a typical workday, this would mean losing around 4,000 parts per shift.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

One of the great uses of AR technology is being able to see details overlaid that might not have been so obvious initially. Hence, manufacturers would be able to scan through the production process to identify points of failure that result in product defects and make changes accordingly. This can be taken one step further by creating virtual environments with possible improvements over the process to check and verify the reduction in the rejection rate.

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3. Increase in Manufacturing Safety

An injury on the manufacturing floor usually means all work comes to an end. This directly leads to loss of working hours, reduced manpower, insurance overhead, claims and a host of other fallouts. Hence, safety on the work floor isn’t an optional convenience but an upfront priority.

In every production environment, there is always an element of danger, either in the complex series of steps required to create a finished product or the use of intricate and powerful equipment. First-time handlers of such are most likely to make errors or misuse said tools in a way that might be harmful to themselves or others.

To ensure both the safety of the workers and the longevity of the tools, proper safety regiments need to be followed and adhered too. This can be taught in VR simulations, where workers are not only shown what to do in an emergency but also placed in such a situation and directed to the practical steps to take in mitigating the danger.

These simulations can also help to identify hotspots within the work floor that have a high risk of injury to the workers and help manufacturers take the needed steps to reduce or eliminate them.

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5. Hire skilled labor

We have expanded on the need for safety in the manufacturing process but one step needed to stop any such incident in the first place is simply by having skilled staff. This can be done by acquisition or by training.

Training existing staff or new hires can be done by letting them expand their skills by preparing them in VR – thanks to gamification/competition mode, your workers will learn to perform their tasks faster and more efficient. One added advantage to using VR is that there is no problem with the language barrier. You can add any language you need and hire worldwide.

Conclusion

So can Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really make a difference in the manufacturing process? This simple answer is a resounding Yes. Not only looking at the cost savings from increasing throughput but also a general increase in operational capacity without needing to spend on expensive hardware. Plus these are reusable tools that can be adapted and modified as your business expands and grows, hence always giving an edge over the competition.

Creating a modern workplace isn’t just about maintaining the status quo, but adapting to industrial changes and using the best tools to increase productivity and efficiency. Thereby meeting clients’ quotas and schedules with minimal loss. Both VR and AR technologies can be indispensable in achieving this.

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4Experience Crew - 11/22/2019 - AR / Technology / VR - 0 Comments

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