Revolutionizing manual work in Europe by using augmented reality and virtual reality technology
The European ManuVAR project has developed a new system with the potential to revolutionize productivity and working environments across Europe. It combines product lifecycle management, ergonomics and virtual and augmented reality technology.
Over a three year period, 18 partners from 8 countries across the EU
collaborated to develop a modular, reconfigurable system that will support
manual work across a range of industries. The ManuVAR project concluded in May
Industries such as spacecraft assembly, maintenance of power plants, operation of complex machinery, and design and manufacturing of highly customized products, rely on the knowledge and skills of manual workers. High knowledge manual work is the core business that cannot be off-shored or automated.
According to Eurostat*, in 2011, 15.7 million people were involved in high knowledge manual work in Europe, mainly as plant and machine assemblers and operators.
ManuVAR’s Project Coordinator, Dr Boris Krassi from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, said: “ManuVAR will bring about improved utilization of the workforce, and as a consequence, better competitiveness on the global scale based on people’s knowledge. This in turn will result in better quality, shorter time to market and better value. By supporting high value manual work that cannot be off-shored and must be performed locally, Europe could protect domestic employment.”
ManuVAR combines product lifecycle management, ergonomics and virtual and augmented reality technology. The ManuVAR system improves all aspects of manual work for all actors involved in the product lifecycle, from engineers and managers, to workers and operators. It enhances communication in the product lifecycle, supports workplace and work procedures design, and facilitates training and the delivery of instructions.
During the demonstration phase of the project in February and March 2012, senior managers and engineers from European industry confirmed the potential of the system in real manufacturing scenarios. Their comments included: “…This is exactly what we need to provide efficient communication”; “…With this system you may design a good workstation first time right, which is as important as the design of a new product”; “…the application would save us a ton of man hours. We would also improve customer service via the application. Also, the quality of our work would clearly be improved”.
Manual work is a crucial and expensive component of manufacturing. Globalization causes companies to reduce manual work costs by off-shoring and global outsourcing. This poses problems such as increased lead times, lower quality products and services, and weaker management. Because of the pressure of globalization and the decline of the working age population in Europe, the situation will get worse in sectors with a large proportion of high value manual work that cannot be automated or outsourced. The aim of the ManuVAR project was to provide a timely and systematic solution to this problem.
ManuVAR was funded by the European Commission under the EU 7th Framework Programme and had a total funding of €9.7 million.
1. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), Finland
2. Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF), Germany
3. Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Netherlands
4. Tecnalia, Spain
5. Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (ICCS), Greece
6. Trinity College, University of Dublin (TCD), Ireland
7. University of Malaga (UMA), Spain
8. University of Nottingham (UNott), UK
9. Tampere University of Technology (TUT), Finland
10. Thales Alenia Space Italy (TAS-I), Italy
11. IPA Total Productivity (IPA TP), Netherlands
12. NEM Solutions, Spain
13. Tecnatom, Spain
14. Carr Communications, Ireland
15. Hermia Business Development (HBD), Finland
16. Association for Advancement of Radical Behavior Analysis (AARBA), Italy
17. cards PLM Solutions, Netherlands
18. Metso Minerals, Finland
Senior Research Scientist, ManuVAR project coordinator
+358 20 722 3066