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Webinar Wrap-Up: Where in the Warehouse?

Blog published by CW (Cambridge Wireless), under Healthcare Applications, Location / Positioning, Manufacturing

In March 2021 the CW Location SIG were joined online by two industrial IoT experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges of indoor positioning services. If you missed the event, you can access the video through CW's resources, or continue with this blog for a quick summary!

Watch the webinar

This blog is based on the two talks:

  • Helena Lisachuk, Partner and IoT Global Lead, Deloitte, “Bringing choreography into future of operations via location based technologies”
  • Andy Ward,CTO Ubisense, “Indoor Positioning for industry – so much more than dots on maps”

Changes in the landscape

Location based technology, tracking, tagging and GPS were not invented yesterday, but there are a few trends that Helena has observed on the landscape that are accelerating the time to market for indoor location services and lowering up front costs.  Many customers of indoor location services don’t need just one solution, they need to track many different sorts of objects in multiple environments. Hybrid solutions and greater interoperability are giving industry adopters flexibility to wrap the available technology into their specific use cases.   These solutions are increasingly able to integrate seamlessly with existing operative and business systems, releasing new value from location data through appropriate contextualization. The unlimited computing and storage capabilities of cloud computing is enabling “networks of factories” to emerge, where asset tracking can take place across more than one site.  And advancements in data analytics are unlocking new insights from raw data, providing better information to decision makers.

The technology behind location services


The first step, according to Andy, is to create a complete digital twin of the process with a sensor layer that tracks the location, interaction and flow of items or people in order to capture exactly what is happening in the real world in real-time. A software layer then analyses the data from the sensor layer and extracts important events. An artificial intelligence layer applies rules to these events to detect activity which may require intermediation, and a final layer puts into action the change requests concluded by the system.  It is worth noting that the more automated the system, the more reliable the sensor platform needs to be because there are fewer opportunities for human a person to apply common sense.

Sensor technology

“There’s no single best sensor, there’s just the single best sensor for the job – and it might be more than one sensor as well.” Andy

  • Ultra wide band location sensors, such as those produced by Ubisense, deliver great accuracy to within a few centimetres three dimensionally. But they are expensive and only work locally (indoors in a factory) – they are not suitable for use in a yard or between sites.
  • GPS sensors, such as those produced by Teltonika, would not be suitable for tracking thousands of small items but can track larger items over a large area.
  • For high density sensor networks, Passive RFID sensors are right for the job, for example those produced by Impinj, as they offer the lowest per device cost and no battery maintenance.
  • For millimetre accuracy and high update rates on critical applications, optical sensors are the answer, such as those produced by ART.

Deployments of location services in manufacturing

As part of the Industry 4.0 revolution, manufacturers are bringing digitalization, automation and intelligence to their shop floors. The team at Deloitte have categorised typical manufacturing use cases for indoor positioning systems into four areas: production, logistics, safety and efficiency monitoring.  These use cases in turn address four value pillars: improved asset efficiency, improved process efficiency, optimised costs, and increased safety and sustainability (a pillar of growing importance given the national focus on Net Zero).

Andy has been involved in various deployments of location technology in factories:

  • A visibility application: locating cars in the Aston Martin factory in Warwickshire and Wales. The system was useful for when cars are taken off the production line and not returned. This was a common occurrence and needed for, for example, quality control checks. But if the car wasn’t returned to the production line immediately, resource was wasted locating AWOL vehicles.
  • A safety application: toxic waste management at SMDK Kolliken. The facility’s toxic waste dump was being moved to protect the water table. During the move, all workers and equipment had to be tracked so they could be easily found and rescued by emergency services in the case of an accident.
  • An equipment management application: streamlining the testing of the LockheedMartin F-35 jets. The testing of these planes is rigorous and on tight schedules. All the correct equipment needs to be at the right place at the right time for a test to proceed. Equipment tracking enabled the LockheedMartin team to improve the efficiency of test preparations.
  • A control application: tool set-up on car assembly lines, first deployed in 2008 and now rolled out widely. Any time a tool is used on a car, it needs to be reset for that exact model of car. By establishing moving virtual zones around the cars on the factory floor, a digital control application can remotely reset a tool when it detects an entry into one of these virtual zones (i.e. when a tool approaches a car), ensuring that the right tool is always used on the right car. Customers of these control applications are looking for one in a million error rates – very reliable systems indeed.

“People are talking about building new factories and they’re putting this technology in right at the start, so before the factory is even built, this technology is in consideration and people are designing their factories around it, so that’s a real change.” Andy

Healthcare – similar to manufacturing?

The number of parallels between manufacturing and healthcare is surprising. More than ever, hospitals are becoming fast-paced shop floors running at full capacity around the clock where response time and resource availability are as important as quality of care. But it is important to not forget the people within the process: both staff and patients are under huge amounts of stress. And sometimes this stress is due to inefficient processes – prominent examples from the coronavirus era include PPE sourcing and test tracking. This is where indoor positioning systems can help.  Typical applications of IPS in healthcare include wayfinding in complex hospital environments, asset and staff management, safety and equipment tracking. Imagine the efficiencies gained from knowing exactly where the portable ultrasound machine is at any given time, whether a test has made it to the lab yet, or whether there is a bottleneck at MRI.

When location services are combined with cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other sensor networks in a hospital environment, it can transform the experiences of patients, visitors and staff.  And of course, with most of the hospitals in Europe funded by the public purse, optimising costs is extremely important.

“At the end of the day, it is driving better clinical outcomes.” Helena

Bringing your workforce on the journey

While factory floors are in the process of digitising, it is important to remember that they are still human-centric environments. Certain processes, for example the delivery of goods just in time to key areas, may have been automated but significant proportions of a shop floor involve people wielding tools to assemble parts. The BMW Regensburg facility employs 10,000 workers to produce 1,100 cars per day.

“It’s a human mediated, fairly chaotic environment. It’s definitely not on rails.”  Andy

The set of disruptive technologies that make up Industry 4.0 will transform the way in which these people work. It has the potential to add value to a working day, removing frustrations and releasing more time for employees to add value. But this is also a worrying time for those reluctant to embrace and prepare for change. It is not just an investment on the infrastructure of the factory floor that is needed, but investment in the people that will be bringing the automated factory to life. These employees need to be prepared and Helena’s team at Deloitte has developed a four-point plan for successfully navigating change management.

  1. Reduce scepticism towards digitalisation
  2. Improve the digital mindset
  3. Reduce resistance to change
  4. Up and reskill your staff

“Technology adoption change management is one of the biggest barriers in implementing new technologies whether it's a hospital or it’s a manufacturing facility.” Helena

CW would like to thank our speakers and SIG champions for helping to make this event happen.

If you enjoyed this topic, check out CW's Automotive and Transport SIG webinar: Supply Chain 4.0

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