AR to transform the maintenance of industrial packaging machines

Harpak-ULMA extends the capabilities of its platform to support augmented reality on its Rockwell Automation-enabled packaging solutions, entering beta testing with a commercial availability target for its augmented reality (AR) option next year.

The company is the North American arm of ULMA, a $1 billion industry leader in complete packaging line solutions for food, medical, bakery and industrial products. Harpak-ULMA provides smart, connected packaging systems using Rockwell Automation controls and information platforms to deliver increased efficiency, availability, and throughput, as well as improved packaging quality and reduced garbage.

Augmented reality represents a leap forward for staff knowledge transfer – using digital visual overlays through a combination of wearable and hands-free devices. It replaces traditional approaches to operator training and maintenance of industrial assets. AR presents a powerful solution for producers looking to alleviate well-known development issues associated with high labor turnover, productivity, and error protection.

According to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, by 2025, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be available, of which 2 million will remain vacant. AR can help producers bridge the skills gap that is causing this major disconnect. By 2025, three out of four workers will be millennials, raising new expectations in the workplace. the Journal of Organizational Learning and Leadership reveals that the innovation and exploration traits of millennials are best enhanced by active learning.

Although AR has not yet been widely used in packaging markets, other industry experiences indicate that real-time “active learning” dramatically accelerates learning curves for front-line staff and reduces mistakes.

For example, Boeing employees have made complex wiring harness assemblies using AR-based work instructions, reducing assembly time by 25% and reducing error rates to near zero. . Personnel with little or no formal training can be quickly qualified to perform complex, non-repetitive activities – the type of work inherent in many unfilled manufacturing positions today. When a machine malfunctions or a tool change is needed, AR visually guides the operator or maintenance worker step by step through the execution of the task.

“Augmented reality requires new roles such as UX or UI designers, graphic designers to create assets, and 3D modelers who understand how to turn an engineering dataset into production-ready graphics for the user. You also need IoT software architects to define the AR experience data streams to ensure the scalability of the experience. We quickly realized that it was not enough to simply enable AR on our platforms – our customers want more than a toolkit,” said Alexander Ouellet, innovation engineer at Harpak-ULMA, who is leading the effort. company’s AR development.

“That’s why we build fully contextualized, solution-specific AR content. When our customers opt for AR as part of their purchase, we intend to provide a library of experiences for tool changes, maintenance, expert capture of training processes, and related device recommendations . We do the heavy lifting so customers can deploy a full AR experience with asset commissioning. We also expect customers to be able to request custom AR content, which will also be supported,” he added.

Reliable, well-designed solutions reduce customers’ total cost of ownership, help them overcome the challenges of an aging and changing workforce, and improve maintenance expense control through competitive parts sourcing.

In addition to offering the ULMA primary packaging system and complete automation solutions, Harpak-ULMA is the exclusive North American distributor of G. Mondini traysealers, RAMA secondary packaging machines and weighing/pricing equipment. /DIGI labeling.

Building connected packaging solutions

In 2018, the same year it joined the Rockwell Automation Partner Network, Harpak-ULMA launched its strategy to produce smart, connected platforms that deliver packaging as part of the digital manufacturing thread.

These platforms enable emerging Internet of Things (IoT) software applications (such as augmented reality) that leverage production data to digitally transform traditional processes for maintaining and operating plant assets.

However, simply enabling the use of such applications is insufficient to help producers realize value. The combination of skill sets needed to develop AR content isn’t just atypical of producers’ staffing models — they’re quite rare.

Harpak-ULMA uses applications such as FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by CTP and PTC’s ThingWorx IoT solution platform and Vuforia AR platform. All rely on a Rockwell Automation control platform to maximize IoT data availability and scalability. Vuforia enables the rich, contextual digital overlay that users demand for a true AR experience.

Kevin Roach, CEO of Harpak-ULMA, said while their vision and role is critical in accelerating the digital transformation of grower packaging processes, “it takes a village” to bring these disruptive technologies to market today. .

“Both Rockwell Automation and PTC are large and well-known vendors in our markets. Together, we will continue to create compelling value that is easy to implement and use for our customers,” he said.

Jim Heppelmann, Chairman and CEO of PTC, offered additional insight. “To successfully meet our new normal demands by bringing digital to the 75% of workers – 2.7 billion globally – who are part of the frontline workforce.”

He added: “Knowledge workers have tools like Microsoft Office, Zoom and others that work great on a computer screen, but not on the factory floor. Frontline workers need a way to collaborate, publish and share “how-to” digital data and content mapped to the real world rather than a computer screen – and that’s the very definition of augmented reality. AR is essentially the frontline equivalent of those tools that knowledge workers rely on so heavily. »

Meanwhile, Blake Moret, president and CEO of Rockwell Automation, noted that manufacturers around the world are looking for integrated approaches to digital connectivity and automation controls to unlock unprecedented operational productivity, put their products on the market faster and increase asset utilization while reducing risk.

“Our connected enterprise vision encompasses practical approaches that bring these concepts to life. Including working in collaboration, as we did in this case with Harpak-ULMA and PTC, helps more growers leverage innovative technologies to bring tangible improvements to production operations. Together, we combine our strengths to bring a more connected company to life.

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