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03/27/2023|What is Augmented Operations

What is “Augmented Operations” 

Shaping the future of manufacturing interactively with "Augmented Operations" 

Industrial manufacturing is facing enormous challenges. None has such a vehement and direct impact on companies as the shortage of skilled workers. For example, the skills gap in Germany adds up to almost 600,000 sought-after workers 1  – with an upward trend not only in Germany. The reasons for this are manifold. The concern in manufacturing companies is primarily fed by demographic developments. According to Statista, almost 13 million "baby boomers" will reach retirement age in Germany alone between 2021 and 2036 2.

As a direct consequence, around five million more people will retire than enter the labor market by 2030, as calculated by the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA). Focusing on the perspective of the manufacturing industry, this threatens to dramatically reduce mechatronic skills and experience within the workforce, while at the same time equipping the remaining skilled workers with additional qualifications and application skills for industrial digitization. What gives hope: The outlined tension between tradition and modernity can make a decisive contribution to overcoming the skilled worker dilemma. 

Augmented operations
"Augmented operations" describes in a non-binding way the digital addition or extension of real actions and workflows.

Germany will lose between 360,000 and 380,000 people of working age each year as a result of demographic change, and as many as 400,000 to 500,000 by the end of the decade," Prof. Dr. Herbert Brücker, Institute for Employment Research at the Federal Employment Agency IAB3

The importance of work

Regardless of the perspective from which you look at the future of industrial manufacturing, integration, automation and digitization are always the mainstays of any corporate evolution. What often remains unconsidered in the innovative exuberance:

  1. Industrial production will not get along without humans today, tomorrow and probably never.
  2. The way people work on the shop floor in industrial manufacturing will change drastically.

In view of these findings, digital qualification and empowerment of employees as well as their continuous further training are gaining in importance in the double sense of the word "sustainable" – for entrepreneurial and ecological sustainability. The concept of "augmented operations" has been widely discussed as an important pillar in this context for some time.

As integration, automation and digitization continue in the manufacturing industry, human labor is not becoming less valuable, but more so.

«Augmented Operations» for the digital shopfloor

First of all, "augmented operations" does not describe the digital supplementation or expansion of real actions and workflows. This may well be, but does not necessarily have to be, related to the term "augmented reality", where a real environment is enriched or overlaid with additional information via cell phone, tablet or in "smart" glasses. The head-up display in automobiles is also a vivid example of "augmented reality". In direct comparison, the navigation system in the center console is more likely to belong to the field of augmented operations.

Derived from the manufacturing industry, the value proposition of "augmented operations" addresses the way in which supplementary information is visualized to employees on the shop floor, how they receive and follow instructions, and how they can interact extensively with products and processes digitally.

At the same time, this digital interaction makes it possible, almost in reverse, to track strands of action and thus integrate the results of human work into the digital process chain. This in turn closes one of the last (real) data gaps on the way to a holistically transparent store floor and its comprehensive vertical integration into corporate IT and horizontally further into the supply chain.
Possible areas of application can be quickly identified with this basic knowledge alone. Examples for the digital support of employees with augmented operations tools are:

  • Incoming goods inspection
  • Registration and identification of workpieces and tools on processing machines
  • Set-up instructions for tool preparation and fixture construction
  • Set-up instructions for tools, workpieces and pallets
  • Defined specifications for self-monitoring within the framework of quality assurance in production and assembly
  • Feedback of machine status, orders, error messages, etc. (MDE/BDE)
  • Maintenance and servicing of machines up to the replacement of spare parts (also in visual dialog with the manufacturer's service organization
  • Training and further education

At the end of this blog post, the quintessence remains to be generalized: With augmented operations, experiences can be virtually mapped, knowledge can be "artificially" stored and retrieved as needed, and lifelong learning is qualified, supported and promoted.

And wherever this statement could generate value in the manufacturing process chain, the possibilities of augmented operations should be considered self-critically.

Digital interaction
Digital interaction makes it possible to track strands of action and thus integrate the results of human work into the digital process chain.

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