What does a Program Manager do when faced with a start of production pulled ahead by four months for the product to launch ahead of competition, and a Design & Validation budget slashed at the 11th hour to match the competitor’s offer? There is neither time nor resources available to work according to standard processes anymore: activities must be rushed, reduced and/or bypassed and risk mitigation becomes pivotal.
Every day, new disruptive companies emerge and challenge the established organizations with lower structural costs, more nimble processes, and a simpler approach. Smart, dynamic entrepreneurs devise clever strategies leveraging new technologies and new mentalities to overrun the slower, historical processes of larger corporations. Existing companies must align to the new market conditions or dwindle.
To cut costs and hope to reduce lead times, Program Managers can no longer afford to design iteratively based on physical prototype trial and error. Design, validation, and manufacturing teams must be involved from the start to reach a common understanding of the design without constructing a prototype. They have to understand and experience the product before it exists. This is as true for manufacture and assembly on the factory floor as it is for the engineering design of the product.
In an experiential discovery mode, an immersed engineer performing a virtual build or service task might conclude that, while a process is “feasible” to be accomplished in the space provided with the proposed tools, the process is sub optimal for comfort or ease. In contrast to a deterministic simulation that might compute that a motion path is plausible for the installation of a component, a human operator will observe that, without super-human powers, they won’t be able to see the workspace clearly enough to complete the task. Computer animations that demonstrate a process can take hours to prepare as they require specialized skills to manipulate a digital human model in a puppeteering manner. Working in a Virtual Reality (VR)-enabled Virtual Build, an engineer can, within seconds, evaluate, perform, and optimize an assembly sequence and tooling manipulation intuitively, just like they would in a pilot production facility.
First-person exploration only gets you so far because the circumstances are unique to the individual. However, the ability to record and playback object animation sequences coupled with advance anthropometric digital human models, allows Virtual Build users to apply their first-person actions to “manikins” reflecting any number of regionalities, gender, and proportions. It becomes easy to explore, in the virtual environment, the build of a new product, and directly arrive at objective analytics for a diverse range of potential workers. Thereby it is possible, for example, to learn that, a 95% European male who performed an assembly action with ease could assign that same action to a 5% Asian female manikin and discover that she would find the same task uncomfortable or even unfeasible.
Assembly sequences are also required for creation of documentation and deployment of work instructions. Recent technology advances in the factory of the future point to a range of digitally guided assembly processes. Augmented Reality (AR) is one hot topic in this area, wherein digital model data can be overlaid with the real product to indicate the required sequence of operations. In a Virtual Reality Build environment, one can validate assembly sequences using only digital data. The findings from Virtual Builds can then be captured and exported as the basis for Augmented Reality digital guided assembly operations. It is not a question of VR versus AR, but instead that Virtual Reality can be used to validate what will eventually be deployed on Augmented Reality, before the physical products are ready.
Bringing in more competences for a product evaluation is always beneficial. That is why modern design processes usually call for a “multi-disciplinary approach” or simultaneous engineering in design reviews and risk assessments. Different sets of eyes spot more risks, different minds find more solutions. Where a test engineer might confirm that a button is too hard to press, an ergonomics engineer might point out that it is too small and not easily accessible, and a sales manager might wonder why there is even a button to begin with. The more interaction, the richer the analysis and the more potential to confirm solutions or to identify problems and suggest design opportunities as a group. The design team can then rework the product with confidence that all parties are aware and on board of the improved solution. At the scale of a global enterprise being able to experience and interact with a product, before it is ever physically manufactured, on-screen, with a head-mounted display, on a power wall or in a Cave, as an individual engineer, as a group, with a supplier or with a customer team, is invaluable. The discussions engaging team members and other stakeholders in an interactive quest for issues
and improvements so early in the program, before tools are even kicked-off, inevitably lead to a stronger confidence in the design and manufacturability of the product from all involved, and ultimately from the whole company.
With ESI IC.IDO, CRRC ZELC improved the efficiency of the product development and subsequent assembly. Courtesy of CRRC ZELC
With IC.IDO, ESI offers a Human-Centric Assembly Process Validation. This immersive platform empowers multi-disciplinary teams to evaluate, discuss, and resolve the challenges that new products and processes bring to the factory of the future. It allows individuals or teams, together or on remote sites, to explore and interact with digital designs, so that engineering teams can identify necessary improvements and corrections before work starts on tooling for the manufacturing plants.
For more information visit https://www.esi-group.com/meeting-production-targets-immersive-human-centric-engineering