IMC Newsdesk

Eaton uses Industry 4.0 to overcome Covid-19

  • July 29, 2020
  • William Payne

Power management company Eaton has deployed Industry 4.0 technology to help its global operations navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and continue to service its customers.

Eaton’s Vehicle Group is deploying Industry 4.0 technologies that include augmented reality, rapid application development, autonomous robots, digital simulation, and additive manufacturing.

To enable remote assistance and critical activities, Vehicle Group teams are using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 augmented reality goggles. This remote assistance technology is ensuring that ongoing work can be performed while keeping everyone safe.

Augmented reality also assists with knowledge retention and ongoing training. In one instance, the Vehicle Group is using it to train operators and engineers on new equipment. Previously, this has been conducted by instructors who have had to travel to the various remote sites. Eaton also say that the technology has proven critical in recent customer reviews and approvals.

Eaton’s Vehicle Group is interconnecting plant systems and machines to collect, analyse and report real-time information, which optimises plant floor management and provides visibility to real-time production issues in order to address them right away. These efforts are designed to reduce lead times; maintenance, repair and operations (MRO), inventory, indirect-labor/direct-labor costs; as well as increase performance and improve quality.

To optimise manufacturing flow and eliminate the need for forklifts and other human-operated transport machinery, the Vehicle Group is using autonomous automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). In addition to improving the flow of materials throughout a manufacturing facility, AMRs and autonomous AGVs increase safety and allow for social distancing while also lowering costs.

COBOTs, robots intended to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity, are being used to safely handle complex and repetitive tasks. This results in improved consistency and accuracy during the manufacturing process.

Another way the Vehicle Group is increasing productivity is by using digital simulation applications to define which solution and combination of factors will result in the highest output. These applications can run several scenarios by changing parameters, such as the number of operators, work in process material, cycle times, operator standardised work and many others.

The applications are being used to define new manufacturing cells and assembly lines or to redesign existing ones. In most cases, the Vehicle Group is seeing productivity increase from 10 to 30 percent via higher production output or reduced amount of investment needed.

Additive manufacturing is leveraged to improve safety, quality and efficiency by designing and producing tools, poke-yokes and gauges internally on both polymer and metal materials. This allows fast reactions (shorter lead times), reduced purchase costs and highly customised solutions. Eaton reports that lead times can be reduced from weeks to days, while reducing costs from thousands to hundreds.

“I’m proud of our Vehicle Group team and their ingenuity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said João Faria, president, Vehicle Group. “By leveraging augmented reality, we are able to continue to support our operations remotely and continue the development of new products, ensuring our customer deadlines are met despite the global challenges we are all facing.”