The complexity of modern products means that manual operations are often still required. Unlike with automated processes, the monitoring and validation of manual operations is challenging, especially when these are safety or quality critical.

FDS has developed a set of solutions for digitalising manual operations. One of the solutions focuses on the continuous tracking of tools’ position and orientation (pose) in the working volume. This capability can ensure operations are carried out correctly, and also enables the implementation of context-aware work instructions and operator safety systems.

“ Digitalising Manual operations "

The high accuracy solution shown here uses a set of markers fitted on a tool sleeve. Unlike mechanical solutions, the tool remains untethered and allows completely normal operation. The solution can provide both absolute and relative pose tracking so it also works on creeping lines or where the product positioning in the working volume varies.

FDS collaborated with Northern Digital (NDI) to adapt an existing pose tracking solution to track tools used by operators in manufacturing applications. Each optical sensor is a 2 lens self-contained unit that does not require calibration. The detection is resilient to infra red noise and pollution, such as high-visibility jackets, very common on shop floors.
Each sensor can track up to 12 different markers, providing the ability to track many components simultaneously, such as tools, pallets, and other assets on the shop floor.
Several sensors can work simultaneously to work around possible occlusions between markers and sensors, expand the detection volume and provide additional accuracy if required.

The marker-based pose tracking solution developed by FDS allows the tracking of tools used during manual operations in real-time and with a high level of accuracy.. The implementation and deployment are quick and require little to no modification of existing systems and processes.

It is now possible to track manufacturing processes continuously and accurately, without hindering the operators. The millimetre accuracy enables the validation of the position and orientation of tools in specific working locations, and the sequence in which operations are carried out. The system also generates data for optimising manual stations and processes.

“… no-fault forward and complete process traceability”

Software interfaces integrate the tool tracking capability with production management systems (such as MES and SCADA). This guarantees complete traceability of the process and supports more robust and reliable poke-yoke or no-fault forward functions.

The FDS manual operation tracking and validation solution includes advanced user-process and user-system interfaces. These are fed with continuous and real-time information from the pose tracking system.

This data is used to provide direct feedback regarding the operation being carried out. So the user can be informed of the process steps to follow, and deviations from the correct process can be flagged immediately.

… information-rich real-time user interfaces

The solution combines a real-time position data feed with rich screen-based 3D views or super-imposed in the form of screen-based, head-mounted or projected AR (Augmented Reality) layers particularly suited for training use cases and applications.

The data used to enrich electronic work instructions can also used be to develop complementary capabilities focusing on safe operation and well-being, reducing the risk of injury to the human operator.

The continuous data stream generated by the manual operation tracking solution contains a wealth of information about the process, and at a very fine level of granularity.

Metrics automatically derived include overall process cycle time as well as individual operation duration and when they are carried out across shifts.

… unlocking value through DATA”

Mining this historical data set can unlock additional information and highlight correlation between part numbers, product variant, process steps, time of the day, month or year, or specific workstation. This helps identify root causes of inefficiency, and opportunities for potential process optimisation.

The technology used by FDS to develop the manual operation tracking and validation can be adapted to a variety of use cases and requirements.

Prototype systems were developed to track gloves on the operators’ hands when tools are not used.
Markers on racks of parts/component entering/exiting the work area can be used to inform production about internal logistic operations.

"...PERVASIVE Digital information”

Information related to the identification and location of defects can be recorded by the operator using a “virtual marker pen”. The recorded digital information can then be retrieved at any point in the downstream processes or even beyond, when the product is in-use.