In this age of automation, there are still some tasks that require the special talents of an artisan, one who has a special talent or skill and has perfected it through years of hands on experience. One thinks of the sushi chief that has studied for years under the guidance of a master.
One such skill in the manufacturing of machinery is that of brazing. Brazing joins two metals by heating and melting a filler (alloy) that flows through capillary action and bonds to the two pieces of metal and joins them. The process of brazing entails applying a gas torch to an alloy (wire feeding) with a lower melting point than the metal pieces that are to be joined. The wire feeding bonds with the base material without melting it. A worker applies the wire feeding with one hand to the work piece, applying torch heat with the other hand. Here, it is important to maintain consistent joint and wire feeding temperatures. Workers must therefore move both hands simultaneously to carefully position the torch and wire feeding. While these actions may be instinctive for expert workers, it is very hard to convey skills that can only come from experience. Unlike welding, brazing can join dissimilar metals such as aluminum, silver, copper, gold, and nickel. Properly brazed joints can be stronger than the pieces being joined and has a minimal effect on the two metal parts it is joining.
Daikin Industries, Ltd. developed Japan's first packaged air conditioner in 1951. The company now operates in more than 150 countries. The skills of its plant workers underpin its high quality. A looming shortage of workers is a concern today as the working population shrinks, talented individuals age, and globalization increases the number of production sites offshore. So, it is essential to train people faster and more efficiently. This is especially difficult when it comes to training special skills such as brazing.
Brazing skills are critical since brazing accounts for around 30% of air conditioner production processes. Around 2,000 workers companywide are involved in brazing. But they only had a few expert workers who are named Meister, to provide the training. It was really hard to pass on these skills because know-how of brazing had to be passed on through close supervision by the Meister. Air conditioners have also become more compact and sophisticated in recent years. The piping inside this equipment has become more complex, requiring more precise brazing. Daikin had to standardize brazing expertise and deploy a framework so workers could quickly master the process. Training documents were not sufficient.
Daikin decided to leveraged information technology in a new initiative to tackle this human resource challenge, building a training support system in co-creation with Hitachi. This system used sensors, Hitachi's IoT platform “Lumada”, and other resources to visualize skills and create a more efficient learning environment.
Hitachi had integrated operational technology and information technology (OT and IT) amassed over the years through its IoT platform “Lumada”. Hitachi’s project members undertook brazing themselves to clarify issues for digitization and evaluate the sensors needed to measure changes in movements, distances, and temperatures. Hitachi communicated extensively with Daikin employees and analyzed the brazing processes and combined digital perspectives with the analog perspectives of expert workers and trainees.
After extensive modeling and verification over just under a year, Hitachi completed the Brazing Training Support System and deployed it at a training facility at Daikin’s Shiga Plant for setting up advanced production models. The system collects time-series data to digitally capture expert hand motions, angular speeds of torches, supply angles, and wire feeding distances, and work piece temperature differences. Huge volumes of data go to Lumada for evaluations and analysis. Visualizing the motions of experts enable trainees to compare their own motions with that of experts to quickly master skills.
Multidirectional visualization made it possible to standardize basic motions. Even expert workers who were guided by intuition were able to see their motions and understand why they did certain things. It is easier for trainees to learn because they can see clearly how their motions differ from those of experts. This new setup also overcome the language barrier since it uses images and numeral values. Previously, training took a lot of time when instructors visited overseas plants because they could not teach directly in local languages.
By deploying this system overseas Daikin did not have to send expert workers abroad to teach trainees one by one.
Daikin plans to gradually roll out the system at manufacturing sites in Japan and abroad. It also plans to use this system for training in other skills, enabling the company to sustainably enhance its human resources worldwide.
Daikin is also thinking of further developing the system to manage employee health and analyze behavioral psychologies. Lumada can measure heat value so you can identify whether workers have fevers or are otherwise unwell. This can help to ensure our worker’s safety as we go back to work after the COVID 19 lock down.
Lumada is a key tool in capturing and operationalizing your most valuable assets, your people and your data. Learn how Lumada and Pentaho can unlock your DataOps Advantage at our Virtual Conference, DataOps.NEXT on May 14, 2020. You can sign up for this event at this link https://hitachivantara.bemyapp.com/dataops.next.