Industry 4.0 – how plant/asset virtualization will change asset planning and optimization


Posted on: February 11, 2019 by Stefan Zimmermann

Digitization helps companies to boost their operational excellence in manufacturing. It will enable improvements in areas that may have been neglected in the past, or not in scope for optimization due to a lack of enabling technology. Plant (asset) planning has been such an area leaving industries without spatial layouts and optimal positions for machinery in their production sites.

Manufacturing companies and their shop floors are subject to frequent changes in the requirements set for their production flow and therefore the positioning of manufacturing assets such as machines therein. In the past the tracking of the changes in the production flow had to be done manually incurring substantial effort and lacking accuracy since not all assets had been documented and tracked.

Asset and plant (spatial) data is essential for the digital planning process of the shop floor infrastructure, including activities like shop floor extensions and renewals. The lack of digital information about the shop floor’s infrastructure and machinery leads to time-consuming and expensive visits of planning team specialist. Precise and up to date information about the industrial shop floor infrastructure is vital for indoor location awareness and augmented reality applications as well as digital placement of augmented reality overlays to dedicated physical machines.

By scanning the assets on the shop floor and creating a digital twin (3 D model) the planning of the production flow and the assets can be eased. Currently there are three scanning technologies available on the market: ground based laser scanning, drone-based photogrammetry and drone-based stereoscopic scanning. The first technology comprises a ground based laser scanner being mounted on a tripod and rotates horizontally and vertically. If an area is scanned the tripod must be relocated to the next scanning place manually. This technology has major disadvantages such as the time-consuming relocation of the laser scanner or the inability to scan top views of an asset.

Drone-based photogrammetry features a drone equipped with a digital camera system that takes photos of the infrastructure from various angles. These photos are reassembled by photogrammetry to build a monolithic 3D model of the shop floor. Shortcomings of this technology are e.g. longer scanning times as each infrastructure must be photographed from various positions and viewpoints as well as additional processing steps that are required to retrieve the 3D model from 2D photos.

Drone based stereoscopic scanning features a semi-autonomous airborne based stereoscopic scanning of industrial shop floor to obtain a spatial point cloud of the entire shop floor. It generates a cloud based computation of interactive 3-D shop floor models based on plant virtualization software. These models are visualized on tablets and even smart glasses by using a progressive visualization approach.

As project experience shows the drone based stereoscopic scanning delivers the best results of all three technologies. It is for example 50% quicker than floor based laser scanning in plant infrastructure scanning and more accurate since it will scan assets not in sight of the laser.

Independent of the technology employed, plant/asset virtualization will enable industry companies to optimize one the remaining “white spots” in automation, the planning of production asset and the production flow. Thereby they will be able to gain transparency and traceability about the assets employed on their shop floor and substantially reduce planning efforts and costs of employing new assets in their facilities.

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About Stefan Zimmermann

Head of Center Of Expertise Industrie 4.0
Stefan Zimmermann is responsible for the Global Center of Excellence Industry 4.0, which drives Atos’ global Industry 4.0 portfolio and strategy. His team aims at helping industrial companies to identify business opportunities enabled by Industry 4.0 during their digital transformation process, in particular embracing the Industry 4.0 framework. Stefan has a very strong industrial background, having worked for companies like Siemens and Rheinmetall Group and also comprehensive consulting skills gained when working for Roland Berger & Partner.

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