Manual assembly and packing operators remain a crucial part of factory floors with almost 80% of work still performed by humans across discrete manufacturing. Despite the increase of robots, this percentage is unlikely to go down significantly, due to fundamental limitations in state-of-the-art robot perception, planning, mechanical design, and energy storage technology.
At the same time, 68% of quality issues are caused by human operators. Additionally, there's a trend towards increasing number of temporary operators. Just in US manufacturing, the number of temporary workers has more than tripled in the past decade. Temporary workers are less trained and sometimes less motivated, and these quality issues are only going to get worse with time.
There are several IoT, projected augmented reality, and Digital Work Instruction solutions in the market that assist operators comply with standard work guidelines. Unfortunately, most of these solutions also expect the operators to change their behavior and slow them down. The most intelligent existing solutions can hardly track 25% of assembly steps on an average process, whereas for the rest of the steps the operator is expected to tap a specific location on a table or a clicker to "digitize" those steps.
Pathfinder's real-time operator guidance technology is built with these inefficiencies in mind. It uses an ordinary web camera and our multiple award-winning computer vision technology to actively track assembly processes and only intervene when an operator is about to make a mistake. We provide multiple ways to delivering guidance and alerts to the operator, including a display, a tower light device, or a multimedia projector.
Balancing Lines and Maximizing Value Add Work
Time and Motion Studies are a crucial tool in any industrial engineer's toolbox. Unfortunately, it is challenging to get reliable studies that represent the work being done when the engineer isn't around anymore. Processes also drift over-time and its important to keep track of how work is being performed vs. how it was planned. Finally, identifying sources of process improvement directly from operators is challenging.
Pathfinder automatically collects timing data for every cycle performed on a line, at a fine-grained level. It identifies non-value add work as well as most efficiently performed cycles. These capabilities directly aid industrial engineers in improving processes. Additionally, Pathfinder grades individual assembly sessions, versus ideal number of cycles that could have been performed and considering operator mistakes. This further helps engineers compare and contrast different sessions and work styles to rapidly improve processes.
Accelerating Root Cause Analysis for Takt Time and Quality
Both Industrial and Quality departments need to observe processes in their natural setting to identify bottlenecks and problematic behavior. This is a big challenge because operators behave differently in front of engineers and managers. Pathfinder provides Video Traceability functionality which allows engineers to remotely replay and analyze every step of every cycle performed on the line. They can compare and contrast cycles performed during day and night shifts as well as those performed by different operators, letting them rapidly arrive at the cause of production challenges.
Pathfinder can be integrated with existing Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to store product identification information e.g. VIN numbers of engines alongside their assembly record. These detailed video records intelligently indexed by AI helps narrow down the scope of potential recall events, saving 10s to 100s of millions of dollars.
Collaboration Tools to Make Insights Actionable
Inspired by the lean term for a place where decision makers discuss potential improvements to processes, we name Pathfinder's collaboration tool, the Obeya Room. Obeya Room is a private social network, limited to your organization, where any piece of information within the Pathfinder platform can be tagged for comments and discussion. Obeya Room helps engineers and manager to collaborate so they can rapidly identify and socialize anomalous events as well as reach conclusions on how to mitigate unwanted behavior.
With enough usage, Pathfinder trains organization-specific AI models on top of these discussions which can respond to future prompts, automatically analyze unstructured data, and act as a cumulative brain of the engineering teams that is always a click away.
Operations Management through Pathfinder Mobile App
We are releasing the first beta version of the Pathfinder app for iPhone and Android. The Pathfinder app enables production managers to track units produced on assembly stations from anywhere. They are able to set up alerts to get notification when a station is expected to become a bottleneck on the line. Further, they can fetch camera images from the workstation to see what is happening there in real-time.
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