Sometimes even a ten-centimetre movement matters. This can be the case for example when a factory aims to reduce idle time and streamline their operations.
Monitoring movements this small is possible with Ultra-Wideband, i.e., UWB technology. It is a wireless data transfer technique that enables a more accurate tracking of products moving on a production line, for example.
A good example is a factory assembled product that moves short distances in the assembly line to the next phase. Using UWB technology, a company can, for example, automate the process of marking steps completed and find out how much time each step takes.
UWB is a significant stage in the development of Internet of Things (IoT). Now DNA and Noccela are co-developing UWB solutions for Finnish businesses, helping to lift IoT development to the next level. Through this collaboration, the clients of DNA and Noccela can, for example, integrate separate production related systems under a shared operations system.
“UWB’s absolute benefit is its accuracy. Another benefit is that UWB tags can communicate with each other. In practise, this enables for instance that an autonomous vehicle moving in a factory can recognize an employee carrying a tag. UWB is very data secure. Its radio communication cannot be listened to, as the signal level is close to static noise. The technology was originally designed for military use,” says Ville Kantola from DNA.
“The biggest advantages of UWB are achieved in industrial environments. It helps in adding visibility to different work phases and reporting to the management,” says Lauri Poikela, Head of Customer Success at Noccela.
For example, in terminal operations, UWB can be utilised in monitoring the departing and arriving traffic. In fact, the technology has also been piloted as an access control solution at the DNA's office premises in Helsinki. The guests were given a UWB tag that alerted the reception staff whenever a guest left the area meant for guests.
“We also equipped the visitor tags with a button that the guests could press if they needed help. The reception personnel received the location of the person in need of assistance and could come over to help them in person”, Kantola says.
Accuracy and scalability convinced Hiab
One of the clients of DNA and Noccela is Hiab, a provider of load handling equipment solutions. Their production includes various phases, and Hiab wanted to find out about the production bottlenecks and idle times.
“We were interested specifically in the accuracy benefit of UWB technology. The indoor positioning with UWB is accurate and cost-efficient,” says Joni Rajala, Lean Facilitator at Hiab.
The aim is to recognize and eliminate work that does not add value. This is the case when, for example, an item is statically waiting its turn in production. UWB helps scanning each phase of the whole production process. This used to require a person timing each work phase with a clock. Hiab is already envisioning the next use cases for the technology.
“We have received some good ideas from Noccela on how to use positioning. One example is to build triggers in warehouses that will alert you when a certain number of tags have arrived in a certain area. This can provide important information for the management. We are also working on other new solutions for internal logistics to locate components and materials inside and outside the factory. The best thing about the cooperation has been the versatility of the solution offered and Noccela's can-do attitude," says Rajala.
The work runs smoothly when the employees know the goals. In addition to too slow a production pace, the problem can be too fast production, as that may cause quality issues.
“For me, lean thinking is a synonym for well-being at work. None of us wants to do useless work,” Rajala says.
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