The next generation of workinstructions
Posted on November 1, 2011 by Gustaf Nordin
Two years ago, was the first time I came in contact with Volvo IT and the Tech Watch & Business Innovation department. It was the start of a one year master thesis and we left the meeting with one question to answer: How can we create paperless assembly factories. The task seemed simple at first; simply display the work instructions in a digital form. Half a year of academic research proved the task was much more complex than that.
In future assembly systems extreme flexibility will be needed in order to handle the rapid changes in customer demand and mass-customization. Thereby the amount of information surrounding the assembly personnel is vast. This information flow requires the attention to be at a maximum at every moment in order not to compromise the quality.
When trying to push new information to the operators we need to make sure only to focus on the most important information and let all other information be within reach. Information is quickly ignored if repeated and irrelevant.
This research led to a prototype called iMont, where we used an iPhone to display information to the assembly operator. A consumer product like the iPhone has the advantage of mobility, intuitive user interface and social acceptance from the users (Using consumer gadgets Vs Industrial specific equipment). By using a mobile device to unify information we can avoid ambiguity in the information and use attention triggers such as the vibrator to alert important information.
Advantages of mobile information services:
- Always available and allows for easy communication
- Allows for late changes in production
- Can be personalized to suit different levels of experience
- Provides new capabilities for visualizing instructions
- Multi-modal attention triggers can prevent common errors
IT solutions are not always positively experienced by the production personnel. In this case however, we included a test group from the assembly line that where involved in several steps of the development of the prototype. This way of working proved positive as all users that tested the application wanted to see the application realized.
Other mobility prototypes that I have been involved in:
- Connected Mechanic – Mobile work instructions for mechanics
- Service By Voice – Voice enabled applications on smartphones for technicians in the workshop
At the moment I am working on a commuter gamification that will help in “Keepin’ the world cool”, this prototype was awarded best prototype at http://www.travelhack.se/ earlier this month. More information about this project at http://www.greenbits.se/.