What if factory staff could wear glasses that allowed them to see, besides the real environment, an additional set of information, like instructions on production or quality control operations? This is the goal of the DEO – Digital Enhanced Operator, a project that brings together INESC TEC, Skill Augment, and Volkswagen Autoeuropa; the goal is to integrate augmented reality into the automotive industry, improving the skills of operators and contributing to increased levels of productivity and production quality.
The project will develop a pilot solution at the quality control area of the production line of Volkswagen Autoeuropa, aiming at the implementation of augmented reality solutions to improve the skills of operators on the factory floor. In particular, the DEO project aims to support production and quality control operations by providing a visual set of information, e.g., instructions on specific procedures that ought to be considered during certain production steps, through HMD’s (Head Mounted Displays) – more specifically, augmented reality glasses.
“This way, we hope to contribute to an increase in productivity and quality, while decreasing human errors at production lines, thus adapting the workers to the digitalisation of the factory floor and providing them cognitive and personalised reinforcement,” explained Filipa Ramalho, adding that the project will focus on the development of the components of the KIT-AR product, by the tech-company partner of the Skill Augment project.
According to the INESC TEC researcher, “in general terms, the industrial augmented reality system will identify the type of interventions required, synthesise and provide information to the operators, according to their needs, when and where necessary. The content is reproduced through of a process execution system, supported by context-based models”, she stated.
In addition, the system will allow a real-time verification of the actions, and in case of malfunction detection, the occurrences will be visually communicated to the operator. “Besides being an innovative aspect, the feedback provided to the workers on the correct completion of each task (at the end of said task rather than afterwards), allows to implement quality control measures, using advanced machine learning and machine vision techniques, unlike the current solutions, which use static checklists“, mentioned the researcher.
Another differentiating aspect of the project is the fact that “the solution combines process mining and data analysis, collected during the execution of the work, allowing the engineering and management teams to monitor manual processes, evaluate the existence of possible performance bottlenecks and process variability, towards verifying the conformity of the production processes”.
The DEO project is funded by the Portugal 2020 programme and the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, with an overall budget of more than €830K.
The picture represents the KIT-AR solution and was provided by Skill Augment.