By John Bradshaw, business development manager for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.
Maintenance and inspection (M&I) tasks undertaken for plant and equipment within a diverse range of sectors have developed a series of well-established steps over the years with the aim of improving the process by which engineers and technicians capture and share information.
In maintenance, repair and overhaul operations (MROs) such as aerospace, truck fleet, automotive, process control, utilities and rail, these tasks have traditionally been conducted using tried-and-tested paper-based instructions and check lists.
Similarly, in the warehouse and DC environment, the workforce traditionally picked and replenished goods to a well-defined set of rules involving paper pick lists. In the last 10 years, however, many warehouse operations have discovered the benefits of Voice-directed solutions for picking and replenishment tasks.
Solutions consisting of Voice-directed processes offer substantial proven benefits over the conventional paper pick-list methodology. Particularly for end-to-end DC Voice solutions using trained voice recognition, these advantages include substantial time saving and far greater picking and replenishment accuracy than paper, together with the added convenience and flexibility of hands- and eyes-free operation. The safety benefits are also clear: operators are not obliged to spend time looking down at a pick list, searching for the next location whilst driving, or juggle clipboards and devices whilst picking heavy items. With the hands- and eyes-free benefits of Voice-directed picking, operators are more aware of their surroundings.
With over 20 years of experience in Voice-directed solutions for the DC, Honeywell's Vocollect Voice solution has proven to be a game-changer within the warehouse. As a natural progression, the core benefits offered by Vocollect Voice-directed solutions are now being recognised increasingly as a major benefit for activities in other industry sectors – M&I/MRO being an excellent case in point.
Honeywell has developed a solution specifically designed for the requirements of processes outside of the DC: Vocollect Voice for M&I. For example, one Vocollect Voice M&I client is using the solution to capture information for the purpose of engine maintenance on an auxiliary power unit (APU), the engine that sits at the back of an aircraft and which provides critical auxiliary power. Vocollect Voice guides the engineer through a series of steps as part of a visual M&I process.
Vocollect Voice is used both to capture information and also to direct the engineer's working practices in a speedy and accurate manner. By using Voice, the M&I process is optimised in such a way that some highly significant productivity and efficiency savings can be gained. From a time-saving perspective, using a Vocollect Voice solution for M&I tasks on this type of engine typically takes around 45 minutes, compared with around 2.5 hours when using conventional pen and paper methodologies. Comparably impressive savings are achievable on other types of plant and equipment.
There are three primary advantages in employing Vocollect Voice technology to an M&I/MRO process. The first concerns the use of Voice commands and responses to optimise process and workflow steps. The second advantage relates to ergonomics; because Vocollect Voice is a worker-focused wearable solution, maintenance personnel are able to use tools more conveniently and safely, without the need for carrying paper check lists etc. Technicians also benefit from the ability to capture critical M&I information on a tablet PC and check the information for accuracy on the screen before submitting the data to the host system.
The third – and increasingly the most valuable – advantage concerns compliance and information. Many organisations must conform to various regulatory and standard requirements, and with Vocollect Voice this information can be captured and used in real time. It can also be used for historical purposes; one case in point within the aerospace industry is the requirement to keep detailed data for a number of years for retrieval in the event of an incident, for example an air crash investigation.
Voice-directed solutions offer a highly compelling value proposition for maintenance, repair and overhaul tasks in terms of time saving, greater accuracy, improved health & safety and better compliance. Vocollect Voice has evolved into a strong solution for MRO since first being embraced within the warehouse environment.
Philip Jarrett, director of sales & marketing at BEC, comments: "We are really excited to be working so closely with Honeywell to uncover prospective sites where Voice-directed technology can be used within M&I tasks and processes. "Having enjoyed a successful partnership with Honeywell for a number of years, we are delighted to be one of only two partners selected to work with their Vocollect Voice M&I team." We are very much looking forward to building upon our already established reputation of expertise in implementing Voice-directed data capture solutions into a variety of vertical markets and applications."
The above article is based on the author's presentation on M&I given at this year's M3 User Association UK Conference (M3UA UK), held at the Best Western Plus Meriden Manor Hotel in Solihull on 1 and 2 March.
Honeywell works in partnership with BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd., the UK-based supplier of data capture solutions for supply chain logistics and manufacturing. BEC was the event's Diamond Sponsor, together with Honeywell.