The term “digital thread” is becoming an increasingly common phrase in industry vernacular. Typically, it’s used to refer to a pipeline of standardized, homogenous data that can be accessed across an organization and by its partners. Simply put, a digital thread allows for consistent data to be shared across a product lifecycle from the design stage all the way to frontline maintenance, repair, and operations. As a result, business processes across an enterprise—and even between numerous enterprises—can be synchronized, allowing new efficiencies to be ferreted out.
To date, the digital thread has led to two primary shifts in business practices. First, it has created new, more enduring relationships between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end-users of equipment, with machine-usage data gathered on the frontlines being tapped by OEMs to provide better service, learn how their products are used, and improve the design of future offerings. Secondly, it has proven that Industry 4.0 is not just about the movement of data between machines and systems, but human workers too, as digital insights gathered by operations technology (OT) personnel are made into valuable data to aid in decision-making by upper-level management.
PTC’s Vuforia Instruct recently joined the ranks of software products capitalizing on this kind of end-to-end connectivity. The software reportedly offers end-users the ability to eliminate reliance on paper forms for quality inspections and other types of reporting. According to PTC, 67% of manufacturers still rely on paper reporting for these tasks, which can be inefficient and lead to errors in the transcription and communication of data. By digitizing the process, results can be updated in real-time, delivered consistently to various stakeholders, and tweaked on-the-fly as conditions change.
In addition, Vuforia Instruct can streamline the delivery of field maintenance instructional material to frontline workers. Through the software, interactive, step-by-step instructions can be created from computer-aided design (CAD) models of equipment provided by OEMs and accessed via an augmented reality (AR) headset by workers in the field. The instructional material is overlaid on an end-user’s field of vision, and provides spatially contextualized information regarding the individual components of a piece of equipment and the work processes that must be performed on them.
Finally, a built-in portal enables all usage activity from the plant floor to be viewed. As a result, traceability for audit and compliance purposes is ensured, and opportunities for improvement can be identified.
"We are thrilled to be working with PTC and Rockwell Automation to bring AR to our customers, and see tremendous opportunity to use 3D work instructions to address critical inspection steps within the maintenance, repair, and sanitation processes on our packaging equipment," said Alexander Ouellet, innovation engineer at Harpak-ULMA Packaging, a packaging machinery OEM. "The enhanced work instructions created with Vuforia Instruct enable us to upskill our customers' employees, and even our own technical staff, on intricate procedures in mission critical environments. AR technologies will help our customers reap significant productivity gains by enabling them to improve the accuracy and timeliness of complex, manual processes."
Vuforia Instruct is part of PTC’s broader Vuforia Enterprise AR suite, which also includes Vuforia Expert Capture, Vuforia Studio, Vuforia Engine, Vuforia Chalk, and Vuforia Spatial Toolbox, all of which are available as software-as-a-service (SaaS) via PTC’s Atlas platform.