Facility owners and operators are rapidly digitizing their physical space to improve the utilization and availability of systems and eliminate downtime. But there are others areas to use new technology to realize gains. Facility operations, maintenance managers and field teams perform numerous designed inspections and assessments to ensure business continuity and improve enterprise resilience. Even with Industry IoT and smart systems in place, several tasks demand a hands-on, labour-intensive approach – people to physically inspect, monitor and maintain plants or in-the-field assets like transmission lines and energy systems. If routine maintenance checks are not performed on time, it could result in costly downtime of equipment. These delays impact not just the facility employee productivity but can also impact business outcomes. Many of these operations, compliance and regulatory norms can benefit greatly from augmented reality (AR) and automation.
Augmented Reality to Digitize the Built-in Area
Many buildings, assets and operation management systems are designed to manage the processes and systems of a facility. What these systems do not provide is other critical information related to precise equipment location, guided navigation, operating manual, issue logs and historical patterns. Superimposing a computer-generated model in the real world is a core feature of AR. Further, AR if crafted correctly, can help replicate the kind of service that Google or Apple map apps provide for the public – it provides valuable location services for each piece of equipment.
How Does AR Help?
Typically, floor plans are displayed in a 2-D format across critical locations in a facility as part of an emergency exit plan. However, built-in environments operate in closed, restricted spaces making them inaccessible for any satellite or GPS-based positioning services. Insider Navigation, a new age augmented reality platform, digitizes a built-in space by plotting coordinates (x, y, z) generated from the computer vision system to the floor plan. The physical space or an asset in a facility is mapped to its relative 3-D coordinates just like a meeting room location or product aisle in a large warehouse. The platform then renders the layout and defines its walls and routes making spaces interactive. The interactive platform provides employees seamless guided navigation to equipment like fire extinguishers, heavy machinery, storage tanks, etc. using a smartphone, headgear or using industry rugged devices compatible with AR core as a feature. Embracing new technologies, particularly AR, can improve the facility management function and can lead to even greater gains in productivity, continuity, resilience, and safety.
Common Use Cases for AR in Facility Management
A specific example of how AR can improve building resiliency is by automating routine equipment checks. Traditionally, a routine check of important equipment and systems involves physical inspection and recording of data on a pre-printed paper. An effective approach is to leverage AR for a digitized representation of the facility with precise location-tagging of assets. This significantly reduces ambiguity about where to go or what to do next. An AR-based approach to facilities or operations management can also be integrated into existing asset management systems like SAP, Infor, Maximo and Salesforce to automatically retrieve data that contributes to the health of all assets, including defect management tools like ServiceNow to report issues and schedule repairs.
There are a variety of potential use cases for this kind of mobile-centric, AR-based system that can be deployed in any asset-heavy, process-oriented, regulatory compliant enterprise.
- Maintenance and compliance
Asset-heavy industries, like a manufacturing plant, require timely assessment of its machinery both from a regulatory and business continuity standpoint. Any error in assessment leads to delayed production or restarting of the entire process resulting in a huge economic impact. For example, a global automotive manufacturing plant headquartered in the US was losing about 11 hours of productive time per week due to machine breakdowns and poor maintenance. By harnessing the capabilities of AR-led inspections, they were able to solve downtime issues resulting in a savings of around $9 million per year.
- Logistics and warehouse
Standalone warehouses or those adjoining production shop floors require agility and a fast turnaround time. A Tier 1 supplier headquartered in Canada, implemented Insider Navigation’s AR solutions and enabled the platform’s Insider Logistics capabilities to optimize its fleet of 550 forklifts. The organization identified a 30% excess in its fleet that resulted in massive savings, optimized processes and an increase in warehouse safety.
- Data center
A global oil and gas industry leader based in the Middle East was finding it difficult to visualize IT asset details resulting in delays and outages. With the implementation of AR-led asset tracking and location capability, the team seamlessly enabled fast allocations and navigation of IT assets and their associated network connections. This helped the organization reduce downtime by providing an additional layer of asset verification to ensure there are no zombie assets.
Many companies are using automation and new-age technology like AR to improve their business processes. But facility management and maintenance improvements should not be overlooked. AR and automation can significantly extend benefits in many areas including health and safety, employee/consumer experience, regulatory compliance, locating assets, maintenance, logistics, warehouse and many more. Employing new technologies in facility management can lead to actionable insights that provide measurable gains in productivity, continuity, resilience and safety.