tech tube: YouTube for the factory

Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | future of production | In production work in the future, employees will obtain additional information from data glasses – for instance, through the videobased knowledge database tech tube, which thyssenkrupp is currently testing.

The transition to e-mobility, increasing quantities, the high complexity of parts, and many types of vehicle – automobile manufacturers are currently facing major challenges. The same applies to production workers, who will in the future be deployed flexibly at a variety of workstations while still being expected to adhere precisely to all the requirements of the manufacturing process. thyssenkrupp System Engineering is seeking to support people in this new world of work and has, for this reason, developed the idea and vision of the “Future Automotive Factory,” which is digitally integrated and knowledge-based.

Augmented Reality for the factory

An important tool in this factory of the future will be new applications from the realm of augmented reality (AR) – such as data glasses that provide workers in real time with additional information about components, machines, or work processes. They are already being used in the training of new colleagues, and quality control is due to follow soon. “We aim to use AR to boost productivity and ensure quality,” says Dr. Matthias Hartmann, Head of Technology and Innovation at thyssenkrupp System Engineering. “The tech tube project is making an important contribution here.”

Extended view: The data glasses are already being used in training, and quality control is due to follow soon.Extended view: The data glasses are already being used in training, and quality control is due to follow soon.

Video-based knowledge to go

The name is deliberately reminiscent of the well-known internet platform YouTube, where anyone can share their own videos with the whole world. thyssenkrupp is seeking to use this idea to produce a video-based knowledge database from the worker’s perspective – a kind of “YouTube for the factory,” which will then be used within the company. Technologically, this is based on the video camera that is built into every set of data glasses. “Whether it is for entire value chains, intricate production and work processes, or tried-andtested solutions to problems, we can use data glasses to record all production operations – and always from the perspective of the person in production,” says Jens Stolzenburg, who is in chargeof special projects at thyssenkrupp System Engineering. “We can transfer this valuable knowledge to locations worldwide and document it accurately in the form of photos or videos.”

Today, colleagues can only get in direct contact when they are next to each other. In the future, tech tube is planned to enable them to request and share workflows across department and country borders in real-time.Today, colleagues can only get in direct contact when they are next to each other. In the future, tech tube is planned to enable them to request and share workflows across department and country borders in real-time.

Wholly positive feedback

In this way, tech tube is intended to make sure that know-how from practical experience is available to all employees – for example, for quality control in production. In the future, production workers will be able to access through their data glasses information that includes operating instructions, safety regulations, and support for using and maintaining machines and robots. They can also be used to facilitate communication among colleagues – for instance, when a German-speaking employee has a problem with a tool or a robot. “In such a situation, they could, for example, ask a Spanish colleague in another plant for a solution in real time,” Stolzenburg explains. “The ideal scenario is that the technology will translate the reply from the employee abroad either simultaneously or asynchronously. We are still working on that at present.”

The first tests have already been completed successfully. “We are receiving consistently positive feedback from the test subjects who have already tried out the data glasses,” Stolzenburg says. “It could soon become a standard feature of a specialist worker’s comprehensive toolkit.” It is planned to make the application available in the most common languages. The rollout of the new data glasses could already begin in 2018.

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