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Plant productivity could be increased by virtual support

Metallurgical plant supplier SMS group aims to increase the technical resources of its clients’ plants by using local service teams from SMS group with virtual support from global experts using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies.

The aim is to improve plant performance by solving ongoing maintenance problems and achieve reduced unplanned stoppages through the implementation of preventive maintenance strategies.

Industry 4.0 opens a new competitive playing field with new possibilities in how machines and plants are designed and inspected. The current financial strain on plants makes it difficult to afford long development timelines, costly inspections, time-consuming employee development and unpredictable economic constraints such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

SMS group’s on-site service delivery teams can use digital transformation such as VR and AR to increase its efficiency during site work engagements.

AR remote assistance is the combination between live video streaming and augmented reality, the interactive technology that superimposes computer-generated images to the user’s view of the real environment. A collaborative remote guidance is created with the combination of these two technologies. The technology expert from a remote location can visually demonstrate the desired action, which enables the local site engineer to comprehend and execute the instructions faster, mitigating the requirement for multiple technology experts to travel to a plant location for site work.

SMS group makes use of virtual reality to illustrate and simulate machines and plants as three-dimensional (3D) models. The company’s clients can use this technology to view their machines or plants with VR glasses or on a large screen. This creates a platform for early integration of the client during the planning process with no interference in the day-to-day operations.

This technology accelerates the designing of new plants and machines with the client being able to experience the plant or inspect the machine before it is even constructed.

This functionality of AR provides many new opportunities for the ability to perform integrated levels of service with experts located in different areas around the globe. The service team can be assisted while they are at the client site, with a full team of international technology experts located in different places, interactively inspecting the condition of critical components in the plant, fault-finding, and doing root cause investigations and preparations before concept designs are finalised for big projects.

AR also gives users the opportunity to use 3D visualisation on simulation results and measured design data. This process accelerates activities such as comparing a component in the simulated form to the actual component before the start of series production or modifications. Instead of first transporting components or parts to measuring stations or facilities to merge them with numerical data, AR has the ability to revolutionise this process.

Field service with AR is primarily delivered with smart glasses. This wearable AR device offers the technician a hands-free experience during the inspection or task. The smart glass offers a 3D AR experience which represents a more accurate overlay in situations where total precision is required.

Mobile phones or smart devices can also be used for this function, depending on the needs of the user and the type of function to be performed.