By Gregory Hale
While safety isn’t the key element of Emerson’s augmented reality (AR) technology to its Plantweb Optics asset performance platform, it ends up being a solid byproduct of the technology.

While the technology delivers enhanced access to real-time diagnostics and analytics and live remote assistance to industrial plant workers responsible for maintaining and optimizing plant equipment, it also can make sure the worker is performing his or her tasks in a safe manner.

With AR technology integrated into Plantweb Optics, companies can improve productivity, collaboration and operational performance, despite shortages of skilled workers or travel restrictions.

“A lot of experience is leaving the industry and having tools to collaborate with the expertise is a big deal,” said Peter Zornio, chief technology officer at Emerson during a virtual press conference Thursday. “There are fewer experts available and having the tools to collaborate with experience is important. Getting the most out of the knowledge; that is the key.”

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And that is where Emerson’s Augmented Reality comes in.

It is a part of Plantweb Optics, which applies artificial intelligence, machine learning analytics and data contextualization to provide real-time visibility into plant reliability and operational performance.

Users are able to garner real-time access to data and be able to apply fixes if need be in a much quicker time frame.

The augmented reality program falls in line with the five essential competencies of digital transformation:
1. Automated workflow
2. Decision support
3. Workforce upskilling
4. Mobility
5. Change management

Zornio went on to define what a plant asset truly is.

“An asset can be the actual instrumentation valves itself, it can be the automation software, the control loops that keep the plant running safely,” he said. “It can be rotating equipment, which can be one of the higher maintenance items in a plant because it has a lot of moving parts. In addition, all the other littles assets can come together in what we call a complex asset.

Asset Health Score
“When we pull all the information together on all the assets, plant web optics generates an automatic asset health score. It lets you know, based on all the data collected, what that asset’s health is and if it is not in peak health it can provide recommended actions. It also provides a collaboration environment to help get that asset back to peak health.”

While showing a demonstration on the product, that is where a built in safety feature came into play.

Anna Velena, product manager for augmented reality for Plantweb Optics, went on to show three user situations using AR:

  • Improved situational awareness
  • Relevant IoT data
  • Live remote assistance

“We are able to use AR to find where the asset is, understand the current status of the asset, and if there is a problem, how to fix it,” she said.

With an app, the technology is able to recognize the environment and show the name and health score of various assets.

Plantweb Optics Augmented Reality app on a iPhone can visualize an asset’s health.

When she found the asset, a valve, it showed it was operating at 50 percent. She clicked on the valve and it showed it was experiencing a supply pressure alert. She clicked on her smartphone app and it gave more details on the valve and on the problem.

The app was able to also show historical data and was able to compare the values of the valve when it is working in top shape and when it was not.

Remote Expert Assistance
She was then able to determine she needed help in fixing the problem, so she started a ticket and began a chat with a remote expert. After a starting a chat session, they started a talk via smartphone. They decided they could troubleshoot the problem and most likely fix it, but first, they needed to start a safety procedure to provide a lockout/tagout to ensure a safe working environment before conducting the actual work.

Putting the camera up close the valve, it showed zero supply pressure, he was able to safely send the filed operator to the supply line, then was able to find the valve was actually in the off position.

Problem fixed.

They were able to document this as a procedure and it would add into the library to help troubleshoot the issue in the future with this knowledge article.

Time Savings
“AR can transform how we do work,” Velena said. “If I was doing this the old way, it would take hours to find what valve to open. With AR, we were able to go through the process quickly.

AR can change the way field operators accomplish complex tasks through enhanced situational awareness, live remote assistance and analytics delivered in context of the plant.

“We are able to connect, collect and contextualize the data,” Zornio said.


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