How to minimize costly downtime in a complex mill or plant environment? I bet that every mill has faced this question every once in a while. We are entering to a new era in mill maintenance, as augmented reality (AR) is becoming a new reality.
Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it in real time. AR can be a valuable maintenance tool. It enables a new kind of access to information when performing maintenance tasks, which means improved efficiency and safety and savings in time and money. Also, with the help of AR, preventive maintenance measures can be checked remotely leading not only to better efficiency but to better predictability and prevention of failures.
The control room is the nerve center of a mill or a plant, where screens display thousands of measurements from different parts of the process stages drawn in piping and instrumentation diagrams. With the help of AR, this process information can be displayed virtually in a headset, and mechanics can take the information they need with them when they are working on a machine.
For example, we have created virtual solutions to visualize process measurements at pulp and paper mills. With the help of mobile devices and modern wearables, technicians can easily access the maintenance instructions and process measurements for mechanical components, valves and other equipment. This makes the whole operation more safe and manageable.
Technicians can also shoot 360-degree video when tackling a task for the first time together with a more experienced worker. When executing the task alone, they can verify the different stages of the work through AR devices. This is one way to ensure consistently good results in maintenance work, while also taking safety issues into account.
With AR, the most preventive measures can be checked fluently 'hands-off' instead of 'hands-on' repairing procedures. All the repairs due could be predicted and scheduled well before possible failures happen, and that approach would obviously have a huge impact on plant reliability and production uptime.