[Case Study] How ABB managed corrective maintenance with Augmented Reality

How ABB managed corrective maintenance with Augmented Reality

ABB is a Swiss Swedish multinational company operating in robotics, energy and automation, with a global turnover of 28 billion dollars. For some years the management has decided to start a series of projects in the Industry 4.0 field to test the most promising technological innovations for the Manufacturing sector, including an Augmented Reality project to improving how corrective maintenance was handled.

Inglobe Technologies has been involved in an Augmented Reality project aimed at testing the usefulness of the technology in some maintenance processes, in particular corrective maintenance, to allow operators to promptly intervene on certain types of faults without involving specialized maintenance personnel and in order to reduce downtime.

The activities carried out

The project had three phases: one for analysis and planning of activities; one for the execution of the project; the last one to evaluate the results.

During the planning phase, the Inglobe team and the ABB engineers of the Frosinone plant identified the most sensible use cases on which to develop the pilot project, identifying a series of equipment and technical procedures to be digitized.

The next phase saw the actual realization of the project with the following activities:

  • Creation of 3D targets for object recognition and tracking
  • Creation of digital operating procedures with the HyperIndustry platform
  • Customization of the mobile app for mobile devices
  • Deployment and Training

The operating procedures, organized in sequences of non-linear steps, therefore including branches, were created with the HyperIndustry industrial Augmented Reality platform, using a visual workflow, without any need for coding.

Finally, the procedures were published and made available on the mobile application, which in this case ran on an Android tablet. ABB staff has been trained to use the mobile application autonomously.

In the last phase of the project, ABB management carried out assessments on the main KPIs of the project in order to evaluate the quality of the technology.

Challenges of the project

The implementation of projects concerning new technologies, and therefore also Augmented Reality, in a factory, is almost always challenging since they introduce various new elements.

Among the challenges of the project we can mention:

  • Choice of the most appropriate device
  • Choice of the most appropriate use case

The choice of a device in an Augmented Reality project requires careful and thoughtful assessments as the success or otherwise of the initiative may depend on this single variable. In the case of ABB it was required that multiple operators could use the same device and it was not required that at the time of use the operator had both hands free.

These initial requirements, and the due assessments in terms of the impact of hardware on the project costs, prompted us to opt for a mobile device rather than a smartglass, also based on the battery life compared to the duration of the work shifts.

For the choice of the use case, ABB has assessed on which machines the stoppages were more frequent and could be solved with low complexity interventions, such as the replacement of small accessories. The choice fell on a machine that is part of the assembly process of industrial switches. The reason is that one of the most frequent causes of machine downtime was the breakage of the screwdriver insert, a component that can be easily replaced by line staff without requiring the booking of the intervention of a specialized maintenance technician.

The results of the corrective maintenance project

Thanks to the Augmented Reality pilot project to support maintenance, ABB has managed to provide an easy-to-use tool to its operators, allowing them to carry out a first level maintenance with the Augmented Reality app, which acts both as an instruction manual (and therefore training tool) and troubleshooting tool, supporting operators to intervene and repair the fault.

The ABB plant in Frosinone has continued to implement Augmented Reality in its industrial processes by involving staff in this transition from paper to digital and by adopting the HyperIndustry platform to extend the technology to other production lines of the plant.

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