Vehicles are becoming electric, connected and ever more personalised. These advances will likely be accompanied by changes to the manufacturing process, with greater use of factories that are smaller, more flexible and closer to the end user. This will, however, increase the complexity of training workers and delivering expertise to the factory floor. With over eight million people working for original equipment manufacturers worldwide and many more working for companies providing vehicle components, this promises to be a huge challenge.
One of the new solutions helping to manage this transformation is mixed reality, which is giving automotive companies a range of new capabilities to deliver greater efficiency.
Mercedes-Benz United States has chosen Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to help speed up its ability to diagnose and fix problems in vehicles at dealer service centres. Frontline workers can be connected to experts through their HoloLens headset, enabling them to see what they see and provide remote assistance, inspection and collaboration.
“We save so much time not having to go back and forth, uploading information, asking questions, waiting for a response,” said Marias Scolnik, shop foreman for the Mercedes of Coral Gables dealership. “A remote expert can draw on the holograms around the car to any spot where they want to pull our attention. They can show us in no time. To get cars back to the owners in a fraction of the time it used to take – diagnosed, fixed, washed and ready to roll – has a huge impact on our ability to provide excellent customer service.”
Learning and performance experts CraneMorley worked with Mercedes-Benz to develop a training course that helped to familiarise technicians with the technology and its capabilities.
“CraneMorley has worked closely with the Mercedes-Benz USA Academy team to provide training on their use of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides authoring tool and we also developed a discovery learning course as part of the new model launch training for the GLE vehicle,” said Thomas Pratt, president of CraneMorley. “HoloLens supported the introduction of complex new technology by giving Superman-style X-ray vision to technicians to see how the components in the new suspension system work together to support a variety of ride modes, ranging from off road to giving highway driving the feel of a sport bike.”
Training can also be enabled by HoloLens itself, providing support to employees as they learn the complex systems and processes that goes in to producing a vehicle. Enklu, an automated platform for distributing mixed reality applications, enables auto manufacturers to rapidly onboard factory workers with instructor-led training in augmented reality. Technicians learn through augmented reality simulations of real-life scenarios created by subject-matter experts, which the Enklu says results in fewer technical errors and a reduction in workplace injuries.
“Augmented reality evolves the way people learn, innovate and collaborate, but the tools and infrastructure required to create content are prohibitively expensive,” says Leila Amirsadeghi, a member of Enklu’s board of advisors. “Enklu allows organisations to leverage immersive learning to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness in a lower cost, scalable way.”
HoloLens is being deployed earlier on in the production process during the design of new vehicles. Thousands of decisions must be made by designers in close collaboration with engineering and management teams, with a lot of this work traditionally being done on expensive clay models. Ford is using HoloLens to blend these models with physical production vehicles via 3D holograms.
“Microsoft HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and look at ideas together,” said Elizabeth Baron, virtual reality and advanced visualisation technical specialist for Ford. “It is exciting because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see the future earlier in the process by mixing virtual and physical models. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”
Microsoft partner Theorem Solutions is helping organisations extend the value of their 3D computer aided design assets by enabling them to be used in Microsoft HoloLens 2.
“Theorem’s experience is that HoloLens drives major improvements in automotive design, factory layouts and the visual digital twin by closing the cognitive gap between CAD and the real world,” said Kevin Levy, marketing manager for Theorem Solutions. “In delivering a full scale, in-context and visceral visualisation experience, it improves the design review process and delivers cost reductions in manufacturing assembly as well as improving parts inspection and product quality”.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.