Factory of the future”, “industry 4.0”, “digital transformation”: these terms are now central to the strategic challenges of the industrial world. This new era brings in its wake various technologies, whose potential, often unanimously recognized, remains to be validated in terms of real value brought to the field. Among these technologies, we find solutions for the digitalization of operator spaces. Grouped under the concept of “Operator 4.0”, it aims at addressing the strong need for efficiency and competitiveness that production and maintenance sites are facing.
The big question is whether these flagship Operator 4.0 technologies provide concrete, tangible, effective answers in this area. And if so, how is their relevance assessed in order to guarantee their successful deployment?
What is the operator 4.0?
The concept of “Operator 4.0” itself needs to be clarified before analyzing its value creation potential.
Traditionally the operator is in direct contact with the machines and products to be assembled, mostly following paper instructions. With the suffix “4.0” he becomes an “augmented” version of himself, in which digital, IoT, software and data have a central place. He is then armed with innovative solutions and tools based on technologies such as augmented reality, connected tools, digital instruction sheets or even smart glasses such as hololens. Thus, the 4.0 operator is supported in his assembly, control and reporting tasks.
This results in productivity and quality gains, improved workstation ergonomics, and enhanced traceability.
The operator 4.0 at the heart of digital transformation
If the implementation of 4.0 solutions to move towards a digital transformation seems to be a very attractive idea and a turning point that manufacturers must take, it requires certain precautions, with an agile approach, where the human being is placed at the heart of the process and not the machine.
Indeed, digital technologies are increasingly central to the systems and strategies of manufacturers. In particular, the operator, as the owner of its outcome, is the primary player of the factory of the future.
Nevertheless, the deployment of new tools to support operators is not always unanimously welcomed by end users. The latter may feel threatened and see robots and other innovative technologies as machines and tools aimed at removing and replacing them as they go along.
Accompanying the change
It is therefore essential not to rush them and to include them in this process of digitization. Let’s not forget that the industry relies heavily on the skills and know-how of technicians, who are true experts in their field. Moreover, such upheavals in an organization must be accompanied by careful monitoring if the tools and software implemented are to be understood, adopted and used properly.
This is why, in this transformation process for the factory of the future, it is necessary to keep the current resources and manage to coexist with new ones to enable operators to become more efficient and increase their skills. To do this, they must be integrated from the very beginning of 4.0 projects as key contributors on subjects such as the selection of use cases, the POC phases, the choice and integration of equipment in the work environment, or the adaptation of processes.
Skills development for 4.0 operator
These new technologies are redefining the role of the operator and his place in the factory of the future. Thanks to the digitization of processes and the implementation of digital tools, newcomers can quickly take control of their jobs and operators become operational more quickly on lines subject to new or variable configurations.
For example, thanks to the Diota solutions, the operator can take full advantage of this combination of software and hardware which brings previously unattainable computing power. Moreover, he can reproduce a given operation a large number of times without getting tired and especially without risk of error. Finally, humans bring their creativity and their ability to think about complex problems thanks to the information generated by the solutions deployed. All the ingredients are combined to guarantee full Human-Digital collaboration and improved performances.
© BAE Systems
To go further
As such, immersive technology such as augmented reality facilitates the digital transformation of factory of the future projects and increases the skills of each employee.
In addition, in the industry, complex tasks that traditionally require an effort to interpret the related documentation are facilitated, and the risks of errors are considerably reduced. The results: a faster ramp-up of skills, improved work comfort and performance optimization, even for newly integrated operators.
Towards an autonomous operator 4.0
Much more autonomous, the 4.0 operator takes more initiatives and can take informed decisions thanks to qualitative data collected with digital tools. This good cooperation between the technician and the digital technology allows to promote the industrial digital transformation. It also helps to reduce quality errors, non-conformities and to achieve the “right first time” in an ever more intense industrial context.
As such, more and more companies are equipping their technicians with mobile devices to support them in their daily work. Via tablets, hololens and other objects connected to the company’s system, they have access to important information regarding their mission and benefit from viable support.
Thanks to 4.0 solutions and technologies, there is no longer a break in the transmission and analysis of data collected in the field. Previously, data could be lost and information sharing was not optimal. This is no longer the case today.
At Diota, we like to talk about the “digital loop”: it is supported by the data collected by the 4.0 technician during production and maintenance operations. Thanks to innovative data management tools and protocols, the data and field intelligence feed the digital twin and generate precise and relevant reports and analyses.
We can therefore say that the notion of operator 4.0 is not a myth but a response to the expectations and challenges of manufacturers. These solutions support technicians and enhance their skills, make them more efficient and increase the quality of their work, while placing them among the key elements of the company’s strategy.
Finally, in order to successfully make the transition to Operator 4.0, you need to surround yourself with the right professionals and above all the most innovative players on the market. These players support manufacturers from the industrial sector in their digital transformation and in the development of business skills related to innovation for a successful deployment and a sustainable use in the processes. Diota is one of them and provides access to the most innovative digital technologies based on the use of the digital mock-up in assembly or control operations.
[Article Aero Mag] BAE Systems
December 15, 2021
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