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Improving Efficiency in Chemical Manufacturing with Mobile Augmented Reality

Improving Efficiency in Chemical Manufacturing with Mobile Augmented Reality

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Chemical manufacturers face various challenges to efficiency because of the volatile nature and complexity of their operating environments. Often, they must rely on legacy methods and tools to record and share information, as mobile devices are restricted in combustible operations. Personnel in manufacturing roles are, thus, disconnected from real-time data and communications, impeding their efficiency.

Additionally, manufacturing environments are increasingly complex and global, with operations and experts geographically dispersed, making communications and data-sharing challenging. The changing demographics of manufacturing teams, with experienced employees retiring, is also a challenge that makes training imperative for tech-savvy new hires who must handle increasing complexity in operations. Chemical manufacturing may realize 3-5 percentage-point improvements in return-on-sales through digital technologies. But, however automated the industry becomes, must still incorporate human knowledge and input to truly improve operational efficiency.

Augmented reality is a digital tool that, when deployed on approved mobile devices in the hands of personnel on the operations floor, can greatly enhance the efficiency of chemical manufacturing processes, including everyday operations, maintenance, training and quality assurance.

AR for Mobile Workers Means More Efficient Processes

Augmented reality (AR) provides digital information visually overlaid onto real surroundings via video technology running on mobile devices. AR uses sensors to determine the user’s position in relation to objects nearby without blocking the user’s view of his or her real surroundings like virtual reality does. Thus, AR is well-suited for plant operations where personnel’s unimpeded situational awareness is important for safety. AR bridges the gap between digital and real worlds, helping technicians, operators and inspectors to optimize performance, reduce costs, ensure quality and enable efficient completion of tasks.

Chemical manufacturing personnel carrying intrinsically safe tablets can use AR to:
- See data related to equipment including performance, output, temperature, etc.
- Make decisions based on data diagnostics and real-time feedback
- Access drawings, instructions and PDFs of workflows and engineering data
- Receive step-by-step guidance via 3D visualization in real environments
- Get remote assistance or training

With certified intrinsically safe tablets, these activities can be completed in hazardous areas where combustible materials are present, enabling workers to be more time- and cost-efficient. Quicker data-based decision making means improved process efficiency and, hence, improved efficiency for the overall operation.

Mobile AR for Efficient Maintenance

Augmented reality on certified tablets allows operators and technicians to perform their tasks more efficiently. In chemical manufacturing facilities, assets can require hundreds of complex maintenance procedures, which may be difficult to map out into digital workflows. Instead, companies can use AR to provide technicians with:
- Work order information
- Asset diagnostics
- Video/photo capabilities
- Remote expert advice

Augmented reality maps and diagrams on approved tablets can help guide maintenance personnel to the physical location of an asset or process failure. Digital twins, which are digitized 3D models of entire manufacturing facilities, can also be viewed through AR applications on tablets to visualize processes and assets in real time, contributing to more efficient maintenance checks and repairs. These activities further help to increase first-time fix rates and increase asset up time.

AR for More Efficient Training and Knowledge Transfer

Training and sharing information with newly hired chemical manufacturing personnel can be greatly facilitated by augmented reality tools. Teams can communicate in real time from anywhere using intrinsically safe tablets, plus they can access AR apps to monitor plant operations remotely. AR on tablets helps to “democratize knowledge” by sharing actionable information among team members wherever they are.

Combining video, photo and digital twin training helps new employees more quickly grasp concepts and operating techniques by overlaying instructions on real world visuals. Chemical manufacturers have reported 6-12 month reductions in training time from utilizing mobile AR applications in their operations.

Mobile AR for Improving Quality

Moving from paper-based work processes to AR helps chemical manufacturers increase product quality, as well as customer satisfaction. Chemical manufacturers utilizing AR have seen a 3-5% increase in profitability according to some studies.

Deploying AR applications on intrinsically safe tablets enables organizations to:
- Decrease cycle time while increasing on-time delivery and capacity efficiency
- Reduce manufacturing rework to correct defective, failed or non-compliant products
- Decrease scrap material and, hence, manufacturing cost per unit
- Reduce quality non-conformance, thus increasing customer satisfaction and yield
- Enhance productivity and safety

Augmenting Efficiency with Mobile Technologies

As automation, data analytics and IoT are increasingly utilized in chemical manufacturing, AR is becoming more important for connecting the mobile workers who help make those processes run more efficiently. From operations to maintenance, personnel using AR applications on intrinsically safe tablets in chemical manufacturing environments are able to:
- Capture digital operations and maintenance data to share in real time with their organizations
- Reduce errors in data entry
- Capture photo and video of assets during operation
- Connect assets to predictive analytics and machine learning
- Improve rounds efficiency by accessing historic data and creating digital workflows
- Increase compliance with digital audit records
- Accelerate new hire training with digital knowledge base and augmented instruction
- Increase asset uptime by boosting real-time collaboration between maintenance and operations personnel

Ask Aegex Technologies how our aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablets can run AR applications to increase efficiency in your chemical manufacturing operations.