Factories of the Future
In a blog post last month, Giuseppe Scavo explored the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the growing trend of connected devices in factories. Smart devices and sensors can bring down production and maintenance costs while providing data for visualization in Augmented Reality devices.
Connecting AR and IIoT requires applied research. In this article we’ll look at the EU-sponsored SatisFactory project, which is focusing on employee satisfaction in factories by way of technology introduction.
Innovation in Industrial Production
In 2014, the European Union launched Horizon 2020, a seven-year research and innovation program (ending in 2020) dedicated to enhancing European competitiveness. Horizon 2020 is a partnership between public and private entities and receives nearly $90 billion in public funds. As the program’s website describes, Horizon 2020 aims to drive smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.
Within this push is the Factories of the Future initiative, a roadmap providing a vision and plan for adding new manufacturing technologies to the European production infrastructure. Objectives of Factories of the Future initiative include:
- Increasing manufacturing competitiveness, sustainability, automation
- Promoting energy-efficient processes, attractive workplaces, best practices and entrepreneurship
- Supporting EU industrial policies and goals
To meet these objectives, ten partner companies and institutions from five European countries founded the SatisFactory consortium in 2015. SatisFactory is a three-year project aiming at developing and deploying technologies such as Augmented Reality, wearables and ubiquitous computing (e.g., AR-enabled smart glasses, etc.) and customized social communication and gamification platforms for context-aware control and adaptation of manufacturing processes and facilities.
SatisFactory-developed solutions seek higher productivity and flexibility, job education of workers, incident management, proactive maintenance and above all a balance between workers’ performance and satisfaction. The solutions are currently being validated at three pilot sites (one small- and two large-scale industrial facilities) pending release for use at industrial facilities throughout Europe.
SatisFactory’s vision of Industry 4.0 includes a framework with four sets of technologies:
- Smart sensors and data analytics for collecting and processing multi-modal data of all types. The results of this real time data aggregation will include diagnosing and predicting production issues, understanding the evolution of the workplace occupancy model (e.g., balancing numbers of workers per shift) and enhancing context-aware control of production facilities (e.g., semantically enhanced knowledge for intra-factory information concerning production facilities, re-adaptation of production facilities, etc.).
- Decision support systems for production line efficiency and worker safety and well-being. These systems can take many forms, ranging from Augmented Reality for human visualization of data to systems for incident detection and radio frequency localization.
- Tools for collaboration and knowledge sharing, including knowledge bases and social collaboration platforms. Augmented Reality for training by remote instructors will provide flexibility and increase engagement. Collaborative tools also allow employees to exchange information and experiences, and these tools are combined with learning systems.
- Augmented Reality and gamification can increase engagement. SatisFactory will use tools previously developed by consortium partners and, in pilot projects, explore use of smart glasses and human-machine interfaces. Interaction techniques and ubiquitous interfaces are also being explored.
SatisFactory solutions are being tested at the pilot sites of three European companies:
- The Chemical Process Engineering Research Institute (CPERI) is a non-profit research and technological development organization based in Thessaloniki, Greece. The company provides a test site for continuous manufacturing processes.
- Comau S.p.A is a global supplier of industrial automation systems and services and is based in Turin, Italy. The company provides manufacturing systems for the automotive, aerospace, steel and petrochemical industries.
- Systems Sunlight S.A. is headquartered in Athens, Greece, and produces energy storage and power systems for industrial, advanced technology and consumer applications.
In the next post, we’ll look at activities at the sites and how the project is applying Augmented Reality at the different production facilities.