At the end of 2017, the Institute for Advanced Industrial Management (IFU) at the renowned Technical University of Braunschweig (TU Braunschweig) commissioned Garamantis with the software engineering of an intuitive, multi-touch-based factory planning software.
A beta version was released to the public just a few weeks later. In January 2018, the full version of the software was handed over to the TU Braunschweig and has been continuously enhanced since then.
Collaborative and hands-on factory planning at multi-touch table
With this interactive planning software, the IFU has created a practical industrial management tool that is unique in the world. It facilitates the collaborative execution and evaluation of factory planning without delay. The software’s interface ensures immediate and lossless transfer of results to all connected systems for further processing. Using a 65″ Ultra HD multi-touch table, several designers can simultaneously place machines in different factory halls and try out different configuration simulations in real time to find the optimal layout. By placing capacitive markers on the table surface, images of the different machines appear in the virtual 3D planner. The configuration of the capacitive markers is not fixed; instead, the designer can select the desired model from a list that pops up when the marker is placed, thus dynamically configuring it.
Interactive planning table supports and optimizes
Once several 3D machine models have been added to the scenario and arranged, the multi-touch software provides helpful hints and suggestions for improvement, such as how to comply with regulations on minimum clearances, fire protection and industrial safety. All regulations and associated manuals, as well as the entire content of the digital plotting table, are stored in a central web-based CMS. In this way, the software ensures that the correct layout is created in accordance with all applicable regulations.
The next step in the planning process is to optimise the interaction between the machines and the sequence of operations. At the touch of a finger, material flows between individual machines can be simulated and configured. The software helps the designer realise maximum material throughput and visually identify potential bottlenecks. For example, if the throughput of one machine is significantly reduced, the factory designer will be forced to add a second machine of the same type and split the material flow between the two machines to maximise the total throughput in the processing chain. Only when all of the software’s notifications, suggestions and warnings have been properly addressed is the factory design process considered complete.
Other elements of interactive factory planning include the integration of forklift aisles and routes, a process step that is also performed using touch gestures. Because Garamantis has designed the entire software as a true multi-user application, several people can work at the same time without getting in each other’s way.
Interactive multitouch planning software
The plotting software also has an external interface for additional data visualisation. For example, an external screen can display real-time performance data resulting from the current state of the design. This performance data includes the power consumption, noise emission, total load and material throughput of the machines used in the simulation.
Real-time virtual reality connection to the multitouch table
To make the simulated planning process as realistic and immersive as possible, the software has a VR interface. Wearing a VR headset, one of the people involved in the planning process can enter a VR environment of the factory being planned and, from this perspective, immediately assess or even influence any changes to the settings. He or she can move freely around the entire 3D model of the factory and even use simple tools, such as a workbench, using VR controllers.
The collaboration between IFU and Garamantis shows how the synergy between the technical knowledge of factory design in conception and development on the one hand, and the software know-how in implementation on the other, can create significant added value in the form of a software tool.