Siemens Solution Helps Manage Next-Normal Manufacturing
EP Editorial Staff | June 10, 2020
RFID badges enable plant managers to adjust workflows that protect worker health.
Manufacturers are facing new challenges as they look to restart or maintain operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As preparations are made for the “next normal,” manufacturers must consider additional dimensions of employee safety, including establishing production environments and workflows that address physical distancing requirements. Combining proven hardware and software, Siemens, Washington, has created a solution that enables companies to quickly and efficiently model how employees interact with each other, the production line, and plant design. The solution also enables organizations to build an end-to-end digital twin to simulate worker safety, optimize workspace layouts, and validate safety and efficiency measures to help future-proof production lines.
With Siemens SIMATIC Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS), companies can continuously measure distances between workers, provide real-time visual feedback to employees regarding their spacing from others, and create a log of all movements and interactions over time.
Combining SIMATIC RTLS with a digital twin of the actual manufacturing environment permits companies to model and simulate how employees interact with the equipment and each other, enabling them to iterate and optimize safety and productivity in the short term, and validate a redesign of the entire operation before more costly physical changes are made.
To implement this solution, transponders are embedded in badges that are worn as personal protective equipment by all employees. RTLS receivers placed throughout the operation can then continuously track and record workforce movement. When two employees are in a risk scenario, their badges will display a warning. The data collected over time can be analyzed to identify hot spots.
Manufacturers can also add traceability to the solution through on-premise solutions or an application such as Siemens Trusted Traceability Application on MindSphere, the cloud-based, open IoT operating system that helps enable rapid, comprehensive contact analysis in the unfortunate event of an actual workplace illness. All movement and contact with the affected employee can be visualized, enabling rapid notification of those who came into close contact and selective (rather than site-wide) deep cleaning of exposed physical environments.
“We are helping our customers create a safe work environment, which is extremely important as they look to produce efficiently and reliably under unprecedented circumstances,” said Tony Hemmelgarn, President and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software. “The combination of real time distancing management and digital simulations will help companies maintain safe work environments today and make educated decisions about ongoing and long-term optimization.”