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BWI Group’s Digital Factory – PaperLess 1.0

At BWI Group, we are developing modern technologies in the field of Industry 4.0 solutions by improving existing processes and transferring them to the digital world. The multidisciplinary expert teams at our technical centres have undertaken several initiatives to increase production efficiency and reduce operating costs of our manufacturing facilities.

One example of this is the initiative to implement a project called “PaperLess 1.0” in our shock absorbers and suspension modules factory in Cheb (Czech Republic). The project has contributed to the elimination of printed paper instructions in the production area through the introduction of electronic process documentation and video instructions, changing the course of the production process and positively affecting product quality and operator performance.

The electronic documentation and instructions are displayed on industrial touch-screen computers installed at the workstation and easily accessible to the operator. Through specialised software developed at the Technical Centre in Cracow, the application enables the display of all necessary documents, i.e. work instructions, process parameters, inspection plans, maintenance instructions, changeover instructions, quality alerts, etc. This software is integrated with the company’s device network, allowing distribution of documentation to take place remotely without the need to physically upload files to each manufacturing workstation. Only information specifically required for the product being produced is made available, eliminating the need for the operator to search through a large amount of general information to find information specific to the task at hand, allowing the operator to find the information and act in a reduced span of time.

The availability of documentation directly on the machine and the acceleration of the process of finding the necessary information have contributed to the increase in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) for production lines and in the efficiency of operators. Effectiveness of training of production employees has noticeably increased, and the elimination of administrative activities related to the distribution of printed page versions of documentation and instructions in the production area have significantly reduced paper and printing costs.

Building upon this concept of digital and specific on-demand material, instructional videos and/or animation available at the workstation allow the presentation of complicated and complex sequences of activities. This applies especially to those operations which are difficult to imagine by the operator or are so complicated that describing them would translate into an extensive printed paper instruction with many details. In our case, a natural application is found in the semi-automatic process of assembly of components of an air suspension module consisting of eleven work sequences and requiring the assembly of six components in 26 seconds according to a strictly defined order and method of assembly. The video instruction has made it possible to present the assembly with all the work details necessary to meet the required performance and quality of assembly.

Based on our experience, we have found the following advantages of this type of instruction:

  • Integration with existing production and business systems such as CMS, ERP, PLM, MES.
  • Presentation of the exact sequence of taking and assembling components, offering increased training effectiveness, easier understanding of the presented material and reduction in rejection rate during manual assembly.
  • Reduced time for employees to adapt to new duties.
  • Information about changes is displayed directly on the operator panel.
  • Immediate visual alerts are very noticeable to the operator and hard to miss or ignore.
  • Every step of the process can be visualised, so there are no uncertainties or ambiguities in the entire sequence of the cycle.
  • Training can take place many times and on-demand, without the need to involve the Training Department.
  • Changes in the production process are implemented in a shorter time.

During the preparation of such video instructions, we were faced with new challenges and opportunities that were unprecedented in the case of using printed paper versions, i.e.:

  • Selection of appropriate video playback speed. Playback that is too fast makes it necessary to rewind frequently to elements that are interesting to the operator. Playback that is too slow causes frustration while waiting for the desired sequence.
  • The possibility of audio playback in production conditions with noise from machines and processes and its proper synchronisation with elements of the instruction. If sound cannot be used, it must be replaced by subtitles and additional graphics.
  • The possibility of implementing multilingual instructions – either through subtitles or audio soundtrack – is thought to offer a large advantage.
  • New possibilities exist for placing emphasis on particular elements of the instruction by using a freeze-frame, introducing graphic elements such as exclamation marks and the possibility of enlarging selected details.
  • Ensuring a suitable graphical user environment (GUI) to be prepared for specific working conditions of the operator in terms of ergonomics, number of details as well as working with a touch screen, e.g. while using protective gloves.
  • Reducing the size of video files and format for currently used production and business systems.

The time of development, approval and distribution of electronic documentation is critical in the entire process. A team of engineers at BWI Technical Centre in Cracow has developed a procedure in which the creation of video instructions takes less time than standard manual instructions, especially when accounting for changes to the printed page documentation. This procedure includes the process of preparation, recording, selection, editing and releasing for production of all elements included in the instruction.

Although electronic instructions have undeniable advantages, it should be remembered that there is always the need for careful and flawless preparation of the material so that it may be fully understood by the operator. The participation of operators and observation of how they use the instructions during their work is not without significance in the whole project. Every effort should be made to create an environment where processes and instructions are intuitive, well-presented, and well-understood.

Electronic instructions in the form of static elements, animated sequences or video recordings are the next step to increase the effectiveness of production documentation management and of the process of training production workers. In the process of development of this field, the next step will be the introduction of so called augmented reality which gives the possibility of superimposing images, documents and animations directly on the display glasses in the real environment of the processes and tasks covered by training.

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