What was science fiction mere decades ago is a very real thing today. During these challenging times when physical visits are out of the question, the virtual world offers endless possibilities. Who could have guessed that virtual factory tours, originally used for internal safety training or to replace shuttle buses to factories at technology fairs, would now, in 2020, become a whole other story? And there is more to come.
Covid-19 has forced us to find new methods to replace traditional factory visits, site visits and live meetings with our customers. Virtual tools are here to help us explore new ways of working – and the sky is the limit when it comes to how to utilize them. One of the noteworthy digital highlights is our new virtual factory visit that we have been developing since last year in collaboration with eSite. With this new tool our customers and experts across the globe can enter our Vantaa technology center virtually, with any device and from any location in the world. This tool brings new freedom of space and time.
Virtual tour offers an informative, high-quality experience
The virtual Neles factory consists of 360° photos, merged with a lidar scanned point cloud. It enables us to take measurements in 3D, make routings and mark various points of interest, such as HSE equipment locations and emergency exits. We can also add videos, photos, pdfs, IoT data – and the list goes on.
What do we aim to achieve with the new virtual factory? The global situation in 2020 has shown that going virtual is sometimes the one and only way to verify the high-quality pledge of Neles “on site”. We want to show how we care for our customers and can adapt to changing global environments by developing new ways of working – not only during the current pandemic, but also keeping future requirements in mind.
The comprehensive virtual model reinforces our image as a modern, high-technology manufacturer. Visitors can easily and virtually “walk” step-by-step through the whole technology center, including the factory’s special functions (e.g. flow lab, fire safe testing, emission production testing etc.) for critical process industry. They can look around as if they were inside the factory and learn more information about each spot during the virtual tour. Going virtual also makes the tours more standardized – in other words, better – since the virtual factory includes specified points of interest with introductions to a specific field.
Virtual visits – increased efficiency and safety
The virtual factory model offers multiple benefits. Above all, it has reduced the need to physically visit the actual factory. For example: One can virtually walk to a certain door, take a picture of it, and then email the picture to the construction company to guide them to install a window on the door. There are often situations where it is necessary to describe an object or a location to an external party in more detail in order to help them find the destination or to get a better understanding of the work. By using the virtual model, information sharing is now very easy and fast. Additionally, measurements can be made by using the model integrated point cloud; the zooming accuracy is at a very high level, and comments and pictures can even be added to the model space.
The system also provides opportunities for safety-related observations. For example, if a risk observation without an image is received from the factory, you can now go back virtually and check out the spot to determine what further actions are needed. To sum it up, in cases where more detailed information is needed, the virtual factory model saves several miles of walking, which again saves time. In addition, it enhances the safety of our employees, thanks to more efficient safety reporting and by eliminating most of the physical visits by extra people inside the factory.
Continuous, remote access to the site
The Neles virtual factory model (or a part of it) can be used in remote cooperation with customers and partners worldwide.
The Neles virtual factory model (or a part of it) can be used in remote cooperation with customers and partners worldwide. Less traveling is needed – and that, of course, is a big advantage during the pandemic. Taking the new virtual tour is an easy, fast and safe way to complete a factory visit. Our focus is always on the customer, and we want to be able to serve clients also during Covid-19. How about a visit to a cryo testing lab? No problem! That, too, can be arranged virtually; in the virtual world, we can go places where it normally would be difficult to arrange a visit to. What’s special about this virtual factory model is the accessibility, we have continuous access to the site – even outside working hours, if needed.
A future full of virtual ideas – customer first
The future brings endless opportunities for the use of virtual tools, point cloud data, 360° videos and photos, to name a few. Our experts are constantly developing new ideas for a better customer experience and service. This year, we piloted the virtual tour to our Valve Technology Center in online customer seminars. We have also introduced a unique new solution to save our customers time in determining the right service for valves: mobile 3D measurement. In addition, we have started offering our customers remote Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT).
Next year we are planning to create an improved and more comprehensive version of the virtual factory model. Many more creative and useful ideas are in the works. Who knows, maybe we will be using the virtual plant models in maintenance planning – especially in shutdowns?
Have you ever been worried about the reliability of your valves during an extended operating period? Can you be sure that off-the-shelf spare parts can meet the targeted life cycle? Did you know there are new unique measurement methods to cut maintenance costs and to increase the availability of your production? Let us explain.
How has COVID-19 affected customer inspections? We talked briefly with project engineer Jing Cao, to find out more about Factory Acceptance Tests, and what is going on in the factory. In addition, we asked a few things about her career at Neles.
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