IIOT and the human element

IIOT and the human element

As we anticipate Simutech Multimedia CEO Samer Forzley presenting at LiveWorx on June 11 in Boston, we wanted to give a little preview on his topic of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its impact on the manufacturing workforce.

Since we are in the dawn of IIoT, manufacturing is not what it was in your grandfather’s day. Advances in technology are making the industry smarter, cleaner and leaner, with more plants employing devices like PLCs and sensors and connecting them to the enterprise.

A report from Deloitte Insights entitled “The Smart Factory” explains this new way of operations as “ a leap forward from more traditional automation to a fully connected and flexible system—one that can use a constant stream of data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands.”

Some analysts are predicting that in certain industries, such as material handling, breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence will be driving operations close to complete automation in possibly five to 10 years. More sensors, connectivity and analytics are resulting in enormous changes in production and the capabilities of what can be achieved in facilities.

Collecting data is not new in manufacturing plants, it’s been done for awhile now, but what was being done with the data is questionable. In some operations, historical data was collected, but just sitting on the server. However, now historical data can be put through a machine-learning algorithm to predict defects in products produced. The result? Safer and better products produced with less waste.

What’s more is that plant machinery, powered by AI, is enabled to self-correct itself, thus, preventing even more failures and reducing downtime. However, what IIoT isn’t great at is predicting atypical, but certain events. When introducing an IIoT solution into a manufacturing plant, the environment it is being released in is a wildly unpredictable place. As we all know, the real world is strange, and like the adage associated with Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Anticipating million-to-one events might not seem like an enormous problem, until the number of IIoT devices employed are in the millions themselves. Then million-to-one events won’t be that unlikely.

When advanced automation devices fail, the results can be catastrophic. A worst-case scenario example of this is the recent Boeing accident, which early investigations are pointing to a faulty sensor at the root of the cause in tandem with other failures. The result has been a tragic loss of human lives as well as financial costs estimated at $1 billion for the company.

Of course, there is no comparison to the scale of the human suffering caused by this failure and the downtime caused by a sensor failing on a production line. However, what the two examples do have in common is when the equipment cannot fix itself and there is a major problem, human intervention will be needed to troubleshoot the situation.

No matter how close the industry is to “lights out” manufacturing, investing in workers and equipping them with the skills and know-how to fix an equipment failure will still be needed. After all, if the devices meant to boost productivity and efficiency are down, then they aren’t doing too much to help the bottom line, are they?

As for our customers, we are definitely seeing a rise in those looking to thoroughly understand PLCs and advanced automation devices, which is why we came out with our newest Troubleshooting Industrial Sensors Module.

But more than just simply meet a training need in the industry, we decided to use a 3D simulation platform for the module. We strongly believe that in order to be effective, training should be an immersive experience. Our newest module is designed to have a more realistic look and feel of an industrial environment, so users can understand the complexities of the modern manufacturing plant in a safe space.

In the next part of our IIoT series, we will take a look at how IIoT could affect the future of manufacturing work. And please join us at LiveWorx this June in Boston!

 

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Intelligent manufacturing solutions: AR, VR and robotics abound at ProMat 2019

Intelligent manufacturing solutions: AR, VR and robotics abound at ProMat 2019

This past week Simutech Multimedia walked the show floor of the premier supply chain show ProMat 2019 in Chicago at McCormick Place. The focus this year was absolutely on showcasing intelligent manufacturing solutions for a variety of operations, including material handling and warehousing.

A new piece of technology either using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) or robotics was in almost every aisle. We’ve been talking about the benefits of these devices and simulation used in training for awhile now. So, it was great to see on display at the Raymond booth the Raymond Virtual Reality Simulator, which is used to train new and existing lift truck operators working in warehousing and distribution facilities.

The amount of digital technologies and innovations abounding at ProMat this year makes a clear point that the material handling world is changing fast. According to the new survey, entitled MHI 2019 Annual Industry Report – Elevating Supply Chain Digital Consciousness, eight out 10 respondents believe the digital supply chain will become the predominant model in the next five years. The report, which surveyed one thousand supply chain leaders, also found a 95 percent increase in projected spending from industry companies this year. However, workforce development and hiring skilled labor is a challenge for 65 percent of the respondents. Sixty five percent of respondents anticipate artificial intelligence will grow in importance in the next five years, that’s compared to only 13 percent of respondents making that prediction last year.

The explosion of e-commerce and changing expectations from customers everywhere is putting a lot of pressure on both manufacturers and distribution centers to increase throughput and efficiencies. This has led to an overwhelming pressure to find a competitive edge wherever possible. Business is no longer being done as usual; the times are changing and the advances in technology are speeding up to meet the industry’s evolving needs.

Automation is the usual solution to increasing throughput and increasing efficiencies. However, for years, one of the drawbacks of automation identified was its rigidness. Once a piece of automated equipment was installed, it became fixed in place and couldn’t easily be changed or moved. Plus, automation has been a very expensive option, and for some, the price tag was out of reach.

Many new vendors at this show presented “flexible automation” solutions. One example was presented in a seminar presented by LogistiVIEW, which discussed how AR can be used to unbolt automation and help workers do their job. Through computer vision software, workers wearing industrial smart glasses, such as Google Glass, can see a series of lights and hear voice instructions directing them on how to fill orders.

“AR turns your workforce into a tool,” said Seth Patin, founder and CEO of LogistiVIEW. “The technology connects a worker to everything around them in the workplace.”

He said warehouses and distribution centers can achieve flexible automation by using AR in this way because it increases throughput and decreases inventory touches, but also allows for changes to be easily made.

“It’s automation that’s flexible, adaptive and responsive,” he said.

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What manufacturers can do to tackle the skills gap

What manufacturers can do to tackle the skills gap

We were recently featured in an Industry Week article that aimed to explain the lack of available workers to fill manufacturing positions and what companies can do to tackle the skills gap.

In the article, reporter Adrienne Selko talked to a number of industry leaders, including Simutech Multimedia CEO Samer Forzley, as well as associations and analysts to understand why there aren’t more people going into manufacturing.

As the sources explained, US manufacturing has experienced a rough couple of decades with many factories closing in the early 2000s in favor of competing Chinese operations. This trend was followed by the Great Recession starting in 2009 and continuing into the teens, when many manufacturers had to make cut backs to their labor force. However, when demand rebounded and manufacturers were ramping back up, many factories turned to automation instead of hiring back their full staff.

For the last 20 years, manufacturing wasn’t seen as a viable career choice to many younger generation workers. But with estimates of over two million manufacturing jobs not being filled in the next decade because of the lack of skilled workers available, the industry is realizing it will have to train a lot of people and fast.

There are a few solutions, but as our Samer Forzley says in the article, teaching skills that are often hard to learn, such as troubleshooting electrical and advanced automation controls, can be difficult to do in traditional classroom-type settings. However, by simulating scenarios in realistic representations of actual industrial environments, employees can develop more problem-solving skills that are increasingly needed in complex manufacturing facilities.

To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

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A customer’s success story highlights how companies can overcome the skills gap with simulation training

A customer’s success story highlights how companies can overcome the skills gap with simulation training

Simutech Multimedia has just published a new case study with PBBS Equipment Corp. that encapsulates both the workforce challenges businesses are facing and how they can overcome the skills gap with simulation training.

Since 1955, PBBS has serviced industrial boilers at facilities around the north-central US. But recently the company found itself caught in the double skills gap —having an aging workforce servicing more technologically advanced boilers while struggling to find skilled applicants from a younger generation labor pool.

PBBS’s story is a common one for technical businesses and perfectly illustrates the skilled-labor shortage. However, the company decided to take a proactive approach to solve the issue; the company turned to simulation training.

Tom Hantke, Director of Safety and Technical Training for PBBS Equipment, found Simutech Multimedia while searching for a better solution to teach troubleshooting electrical faults.

He immediately liked that the training could be done online, which allows his service techs to learn anywhere. Hantke also liked the realistic look and feel of the Simutech Multimedia training tools, including the incorporation of using a meter and testing relays.

To read the entire case study, please view it here.

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Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce Podcast: Innovative training for today’s manufacturing workforce

Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce Podcast: Innovative training for today’s manufacturing workforce

Our CEO Samer Forzley talks to ControlGlobal.com‘s Amanda Del Buono for the new podcast Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce. In the conversation, Forzley says before manufacturers can deal with the skills gap or completely employ advanced automation in their manufacturing plants, they have to get their existing manufacturing workforce up to speed. Listen to the complete interview here:

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Assessments 101: Assessments and data measurement

Assessments 101: Assessments and data measurement

In the second part of Simutech Multimedia’s video series on assessments in the manufacturing industry, CEO Samer Forzley discusses the benefits and drawbacks of using an electrical wiring trainer or board to evaluate a person’s skill level.

When looking at whether an assessment tool will work for your company, there are three factors to consider: capability, short-term benefits and long-term benefits. In the case of using an electrical wiring trainer, this solution is not capable of evaluating or training more than one person at a time, thus, does not offer scalability. Plus, setting up the board, evaluating the trainee’s performance and reconfiguring the board again eats up a lot of time and is not feasible for assessing big groups of workers in multiple locations at different plants.

However, an electrical wiring trainer will provide assessors with visual cues about the user. For instance, does the user exude confidence when working on the board? What kind of facial expressions are being given? So, electrical wiring trainers do provide some short-term benefits.

But in the long term, these boards do not provide a complete picture of the assessment, as they don’t have a good mechanism to capture multiple points of data. And if they are used to train personnel, the worker’s progress and what skills are being built are not being captured either.

Forzley says what businesses need to look for are assessment tools that allow scalability and provide data to inform decision making.

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