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Worldwide location communication via Smart Glasses

All over the world, our colleagues at thyssenkrupp are working to safeguard the future of our company by making it more flexible, more efficient and more high-performance. One specific example is the multifaceted Smart Glasses project: Thanks to these digital data glasses, we have dramatically reduced travel time for our colleagues in the components business and brought about a decisive reduction in plant downtime. In this way, we not only save time but also money – and are able to structure work at our locations far more efficiently.

If an industrial plant needs to be set up, if its technology is raising issues, or if the system is faltering or even breaking down completely, good advice is expensive – in the very real sense of the word. This is because the experts capable of solving these problems quickly are not always close at hand, but sometimes have to drive or fly to the scene of the problem. This kind of travel is not only expensive, but also eats up valuable time – time during which plants are often forced to remain idle.

With the Smart Glasses, employees can now communicate visually from any location

In order to tackle this challenge and to render more efficient these processes in thyssenkrupp’s components business, our colleagues at the steering systems plant in Mülheim have developed an intuitive solution called Smart Glasses. These are digital data glasses that permit colleagues all over the world to interact live with one another – without having to leave their workstation. All that the two users need to interact, wherever they are, is a pair of data glasses each. In this way, each can see what the other person sees in real time. While one user is wearing the data glasses, the other user can follow the other user’s current perspective via PC or laptop – live. Thanks to Smart Glasses, our colleagues in thyssenkrupp’s components business can solve problems in Mexico on Monday, Hungary on Tuesday and China on Wednesday.

Smart Glasses: digital dialog instead of analog travel

Daniel Thiele, Head of Quality Assurance in Mülheim, sums up the problem as follows: “As we plan our worldwide assembly lines from our Mülheim base, many of my colleagues have to travel extensively, which in turn leads to high workloads and, needless to say, to high costs as well. Examining this situation, we asked ourselves if it wouldn’t be possible to perform this work digitally.”

Within the innovation team at the Mülheim site, Daniel Thiele was one of the key users of the “Smart Glasses” project

At the helm of the Smart Glasses project is the location’s innovation team, led in this case by project manager Michael Salewsky. The core of the innovation team consists of around five employees from a wide cross-section of disciplines. In addition to their everyday work, their aim is to develop innovations that can be implemented directly in Mülheim and that render work at thyssenkrupp more efficient – if need be, with the help of suitable start-ups.

From pilot project to time-saving helper for locations worldwide

In June 2018, the innovation team presented the many possible usages of the new data glasses using the example of a chess game – a year or so later, the digital solution has established itself as an everyday fixture in the workplace. As Daniel Thiele explains: “We make the Smart Glasses available to our locations and to plant manufacturers. This allows us to follow – as live observers – how a plant is put into operation and whether all designations are correct. We can also create screenshots for documentation and blend in information and instructions. This is ideal for maintenance work, for example. This means that machines standing idle, long waiting times for repair and extensive downtime are all things of the past.” When it comes to final plant inspections, project managers no longer need to travel there – the data glasses do that for them. The colleague in question oversees the inspection directly from their Mülheim base.

Staying in the picture worldwide

Among the places in which the technology is currently being used is the new plant in the Mexican town of Huejotzingo. As expert Daniel Thiele explains: “When dealing with problems, it was always difficult and cumbersome to send photos, text, etc., back and forth. What we do now is arrange a call using Smart Glasses – our process engineers and maintenance staff in Mülheim can then see directly what is causing the problem in the assembly line and provide direct assistance.”

Already the first “chess demo” demonstrated the possibilities the new data glasses opens up

For instance, employees in Huejotzingo can use the Smart Glasses to record the situation and transfer it live to Mülheim. This allows experts in Germany to view the situation on their screens and to provide assistance via the data glasses. Employees also have the option of sharing and viewing documents, screenshots, 3D objects, etc., directly via the heads-up display.

The future of Smart Glasses: a worldwide digital location network

For the future, the team plans to roll out the intuitive means of communication to other locations in the components area. One plant in China has now been issued with a pair of data glasses while others are looking into introducing them as well. This means that an extensive virtual networking of locations is no longer all that far away. There are also plans to use the digital glasses in the area of technical cleanliness in the form of explanatory videos that can be watched by colleagues wearing the Smart Glasses while performing the activity in question. With the help of the app share platform, it is easier to share joint content – this can even be done using smartphones.

“All of our colleagues have accepted the Smart Glasses very quickly, thanks to the new possibilities of making direct contact in the case of queries and exchanging high-resolution photos or live videos in real time,” Daniel Thiele says. “And those of us in production planning benefit from the marked reduction in the amount of travel necessary. This not only saves money, but also allows our colleagues to spend more time with their families.” So it is safe to say that there is still plenty of potential for Smart Glasses in production.