Brain Gain

Christian Boos

In the Golden Age of the assembly line, thousands of stationary workers concentrated on one task at a time, performing to the rhythm of the conveyor belt. Today, the roles are reversed. Now, individual workers chase thousands of tasks. Even a single product can have from 500 to over 1,000,000 components and require 200 to 500 steps to assemble.

Thanks to a potent mix of digital technology, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality, however, today’s workers are handling these minute operations with intuition, skill, and the advantage of augmented reality.

At the heart of this revolution is IOXP. The Germany-based company and SAP partner has created an augmented reality platform that guides manufacturing and maintenance workers step by step through complex tasks – from changing a high-end printer cartridge to assembling an intricate electronic device.

“As complex as it seems, the underlying principle is amazingly simple: When you guide people correctly the first time, you don’t have to inspect the great work they’ve done at the end,” says Nils Petersen, CEO, IOXP.

Systematic for the people

At the heart of this logic is a sophisticated, customizable set of assembly guidance systems. Using smart glasses, tablets, and other devices, the solution provides novices and veterans alike with step-by-step guidance through an entire work process. With the help of augmented reality, the system superimposes visual instructions, feedback, and critical information onto the worker’s field of vision at just the right time. This, in turn, allows them to carry out tasks quickly. A camera mounted inside the user’s smart glasses allows the system to precisely manage processes and provide guidance. From the user’s perspective, the rich, immersive experience is effortless.

Field trip

The solution also extends beyond the factory floor and into the field, where maintenance engineers constantly need access to technical information. Instead of fumbling through encyclopedia-sized maintenance manuals, it delivers an on-the-fly digital reference handbook to maintenance workers. From components and technical specifications to replacement part numbers, it highlights and overlays images onto real-time objects. As a result, the right people are empowered with the right information at just the right time. Components are recognized. Repair information is presented. And cumbersome searches for the right details are eliminated.

Deep magic

The solution delivers visible impact on the factory floor. But the real magic happens deep inside a company’s ERP systems. Using advanced interfaces, it seamlessly connects to manufacturing execution systems (MES), supply chain management (SCM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and more. Like a central nervous system, it fires raw brainpower across the enterprise’s synapses and nerve endings, allowing it to respond to opportunity and avoid danger. Tasks can be performed to perfection. And employees are able to deliver excellence with greater ease and less pressure.

“Augmented reality has finally arrived on the shop floor,” says Claudius Link, SAP’s SVP global head of LOB Digital Manufacturing. “It’s delivering real business impact by eliminating errors at the source through the technology’s ability to support operators in producing high-quality products.”

Want to find out more about the latest trends and innovations in today’s global industrial manufacturing business? Watch our on-demand webinar SAP Industries Forum 2020: Industrial Manufacturing.

Christian Boos

About Christian Boos

Christian Boos is Vice President, SAP Startup Engagement for S/4HANA and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP. Christian and his team, working closely with the SAP.iO, engage with the most promising startups to expand the value of SAP’s S/4HANA portfolio for customers. They foster business-driven innovation and ensure startup solution integration succeeds by accelerating startup solutions within SAP’s open innovation ecosystem.