While routine work is becoming increasingly automated in operation sites of various industries, facility maintenance and irregular process changes are need to be handled by human workers. Such intervention may inevitably lead to human errors, and the resulting economic losses are one of the biggest problems in plant operation.
Yokogawa considers that AR(Augmented Reality) technology can help solve the problem of human errors. By combining this technology with mobile technology, which has been rapidly developing in recent years, and by using these in manufacturing plants, Yokogawa aims to reduce human errors and improve the safety and efficiency of field work. We call this concept "Industrial AR" and are working with customers, toward creating a vision of the future, and developing technologies to achieve it.
Yokogawa has developed a mobile solution system that incorporates AR technology and helps field work in plants, and has conducted several field tests with customers to determine its feasibility (proof of concept).
A pilot project with CF Carbons, a joint venture between AkzoNobel Industrial Cheimcals and Fluorchemie Frankfurt at Hoechst Industrial Park, is shown below. In this test, Yokogawa gave field workers a tool for maintenance patrol: a tablet device linked with a distributed control system (DCS).
When the device recognizes a facility requiring field work, its AR function displays additional information associated with the facility, such as process values. With this tool, field workers can manage actual facilities and information intuitively, while they can add new information such as a record of their work and save it with actual images of facilities.
This solution reduced the time required for calibrating multiple instruments by up to 47%, thus confirming the effectiveness of this system.
Field test at a site of AkzoNobel
Mobile application for field workers
As in AR and mobile technology, innovation is rapidly progressing in various areas. In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has spread, and it is estimated that the VR and AR markets will be worth billions of dollars (hundreds of billions of yen) in ten years.
The future world involving such technologies has been vividly portrayed in various movies, animations, and games by top-ranking creators. Yokogawa has created a future vision that applies advanced technologies to manufacturing plants, and is developing related technologies to achieve this vision.
Processes in manufacturing plants may operate continuously for several years or even dozens of years, while changing in behavior every moment. Changes in the composition of raw materials or the deterioration of catalysts may lower the efficiency and quality of production, and in some cases, cause damage to facilities or loss of human life. For managers and operators of a manufacturing plant, keeping a close watch on the ever-changing plant behavior and never missing any sign of abnormality has long been a long-cherished desire. Yokogawa has already developed a technology of online simulation that predicts future changes based on past data**. Meanwhile, AR and VR can help human operators understand the situation intuitively. What technology could arise from their combination? Yokogawa is vigorously working on this innovation.
** MIRROR PLANT on-line plant simulator
Many plants in upstream sites in the oil and gas industry are located in harsh environments which are difficult to access, such as polar zones, remote areas, and deep seas. Maintaining production in these environments poses a serious safety risk. In addition, securing skilled field workers is very expensive. Although fully automated, unmanned operation is ideal and huge investments have been made throughout the industry to develop the related technologies, in practice it is difficult to eliminate management and maintenance work by human workers with this approach.
Yokogawa takes a different approach: carrying out works by human workers without going to a site. In this concept, AR and VR technologies are used to extend the human senses, while robots do more of the actual work on behalf of humans.