Viewing the Factory Floor from Your Pocket

Jonatan Berglund, a PhD Student from Chalmers University, Sweden, discusses the role of 3D imaging and scanning in factory development and change management. Jonatan is a specialist in Production Engineering with a background in Mechanical Engineering.

The factory floor is a highly dynamic place- new functionalities are added, while old functionalities are removed; machinery is moved around to make the work space easier to navigate. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is change management in the factory.

Since Use-it-Wisely first began, Chalmers University has been working closely with Volvo to revolutionise how we visualise and understand the factory floor. Our aim is to create a ‘Factory in Your Pocket’, using 3D laser scanning techniques and real-time data collection. With the software that is being developed, 3D images of the factory floor may be viewed remotely by many users at once.

Unity Augmented WebMany different types of software were investigated to find the most appropriate tool for the laser scanning. The software types varied based on a number of key factors including:

  • Quality of the 3D images
  • The volume of data which could be collected
  • The throughput of the system

Currently, we are running the model using Unity software. Unity is an open source development tool for 3D scanning which may be run from a browser. This has a distinct advantage as users do not need to install expensive software to visualise factory images and data. Unity is also being used by other Use-it-Wisely partners to improve turbine inspection practices.

Using Unity, we have taken comprehensive 3D images of a specific production site in a Volvo truck factory in Sweden. We are now circulating the images to the Volvo factory ‘end users’ in the Gothenburg and Umea production sites in Sweden. Their feedback will allow us to decide what data is important in the factory setting and how useful our 3D scanning is in factory planning.

Currently, Volvo has factories with production facilities in many countries including Russia, France and Belgium. To enable product flexibility in the plants, Volvo has developed a master process concept to make the production processes at different plants more generic. This means a development towards similar equipment and materials across all factories. This gives them an easy way of reviewing the manufacturing process. The 3D scanning technology which is being developed will help to facilitate this transition in Volvo’s business structure.

Unity Mixed WebWhile this software is being tested in a specific area of one factory facility, it may be adapted to different sites and to different industries in the manufacturing sector. In the future, the model will give users access to real time data of ‘Key Performance Indicators’ which will give them direction on the design, structure and layout of the factory.

Currently, the data we are collecting includes:

  • Ongoing production
  • Availability of machines (uptime or producing time)
  • Throughput of the system

The selection of data which is collected may change based on feedback we receive from the end-users.

Many 3D scanning technologies are expensive and may be out of the financial grasp of small to medium sized enterprises. However, costs are reducing for this technology and data is becoming more and more accurate. Google are currently launching ‘Project Tango’ which will allow basic tablets to integrate imaging sensors. More tools are becoming available, making data collection cheaper and more accessible to businesses across the financial spectrum.

The 3D scanning approach we are taking will strengthen collaboration between all of those involved in the manufacturing and upgrade processes. It will allow informed decisions to be made on a factory’s layout, design and production. This cannot be underestimated in terms of the return on investment it could generate for organisations. We will await feedback from our Swedish end-users with bated breath!

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