According to Forbes, “Digital Transformation isn’t a buzzword anymore. It’s the way.” In today’s increasingly competitive marketplaces, every business is looking for an opportunity to exploit a new competitive advantage that helps combat their industry and market pressures. Numerous cutting-edge technologies promise to help overcome these pressures. What’s more, digital technologies like digital twin, mobility, and augmented and virtual reality are prompting manufacturers to automate and optimize the skills of their workforce and enhance their service capabilities.
In the context of this blog, a few definitions may be in order:
- Digital Twin: A Digital Twin is a digital replica of physical assets, processes and systems. Digital Twins often involve the use of mobility, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
- Augmented & Virtual Reality: Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two of the most exciting developments in digital transformation. Both allow users to visualize and manipulate a virtual asset or digital twin. During operations users can access a digital model of an asset to understand current asset health and strategize asset operations for maximum return on investment. If an asset requires inspection or corrective action, maintenance engineers can combine AR/VR capabilities for an ‘augmented’ user experience that improves workforce efficiency and safety.
- Mobility: The ability for plant workers to securely access applications from any physical location, typically using tablets or smartphones.
By combining these capabilities, operators, maintenance and field service technicians can perform activities with dramatically greater effectiveness. An example of how one manufacturer combined these evolving technologies to automate and optimize the skills of their workforce to differentiate themselves in the marketplace is Italpresse Gauss. Italpresse Gauss is a comprehensive supplier of light alloy casting equipment and automation solutions for three different die casting processes: high pressure, gravity and low pressure. They build machines and automatic work cells mainly for the automotive industry. The company also provides local and remote service to ensure optimum performance and durability of their products, wherever they are.
Italpresse Gauss has embedded AVEVA’s Augmented and Virtual Reality software in its high-performance light metal casting production operations, through a new tool they created called AMe. With AMe, operators can point a camera-enabled tablet to a machine part and extract augmented data and maintenance documentation to diagnose and repair faulty components or processes. The Italpresse workforce says they feel empowered with this new tool.
As a further real-world application of digital twin technology, AMe is also used by Italpresse Gauss customers to improve maintenance of Italpresse machinery. The Italpresse mobile asset management solution relies upon the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), in addition to Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to deliver this maintenance-as-a-service offering. For example, a local tablet can be used for initial diagnostics; a virtual reality headset can then be used by a remote engineer to help guide the local service team. What results is a greatly simplified diagnostic and remediation processes.
“In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, it is critical to separate ourselves from the competition by providing new value for our customers,” said Carlo Scalmana, President of Italpresse Gauss. “As an outcome of our digital transformation strategy, AVEVA enabled us to apply new technologies to existing processes for improved efficiency and customer satisfaction. Based on the strength of the AVEVA software platform, AMe allows maintenance technicians to address service requests faster, reduce down time and increase machine productivity.”
As an existing AVEVA customer, Italpresse Gauss was already familiar with Wonderware’s Monitoring and Control capabilities: in 2015 Italpresse Gauss developed the HMe, a system based on the “InTouch” platform, a powerful solution for monitoring and control of the die casting process. Access to the operations data gained with HMe has been a necessary foundation to develop and deliver AMe.