In the world of engineering, even small mistakes can cost millions further down the line. General Electric (GE) is using augmented reality technology in areas of its business including aviation, renewable energy and healthcare, in order to reduce errors, lower costs and improve efficiency.
Upskill’s Skylight solution is an industrial augmented reality (AR) software platform that feeds information to smart glasses in the hands – or, rather, on the heads – of production workers. Their view of the world is thus overlaid, in real time, with the information they need to do their jobs more efficiently.
Upskill’s Skylight has been applied to GE warehouses across aviation, healthcare and renewable energy. More specifically, the augmented reality is helping workers build and maintain jet engines, MRI machines and wind turbines.
GE Aviation, for example, loses millions of dollars each year to errors made during the assembly and overhaul of its engines. These costs are found in lost productivity, delays in testing and increased waiting times for customers – not to mention the many man-hours required to find and correct faults. The situation grows worse if errors aren’t discovered until they reach customers.
Applying Skylight and harnessing the power of AR, GE Aviation has been able to address some very specific issues. These include the correct tightening of B-nuts, which connect fluid lines and hoses and provide a reliable seal. When B-nuts are too loose or too tight, problems can occur.
Something as simple as failing to properly tighten a nut can have huge implications in an aircraft engine. Upskill’s AR solution was to combine Skylight software with Glass Enterprise Edition smart glasses and a Wi-Fi-enabled torque wrench. Mechanics were then able to receive step-by-step instructions in their line of sight and real-time feedback on the amount of torque needed.
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In a pilot of the technology, a GE Aviation maintenance crew saw efficiency improvements of between 8 and 11 percent.
“We believe that Skylight with Glass has the potential to be a real game changer in terms of its ability to minimize errors, improve product quality, and increase mechanic efficiency,” said Ted Robertson, manager, GE Aviation.
Healthcare and renewables
GE has also trialled Upskill’s Skylight technology in its Renewable Energy and Healthcare factories.
At a GE Renewable Energy in Pensacola, Florida, wiring technicians saw a 34 percent increase in productivity while using augmented reality to assemble wind turbines.
At another GE factory, focused on building MRI machines, warehouse workers increased order fulfilment productivity by 46 percent with the help of smart glasses.
It’s not just information related to the task at hand with which Upskill’s Skylight solution can help workers. The augmented reality glasses can also show them tutorials that guide them through more complex tasks, connect their view to supervisors and host phone calls between colleagues.
Skylight’s ‘workstreams’ are central to this. These dynamic to-do lists can be edited remotely, connected to existing workflow systems and navigated using voice commands.
“It is exciting to now have Glass available to enterprises who understand the value of how wearables and industrial IoT can transform a business today,” said Brian Ballard, co-founder and CEO of Upskill.
“Now more than ever, organizations can confidently invest in smart glasses to drive meaningful impact and get the most out of their investments towards digital transformation.”