In the end of 2017, the Institute for Advanced Industrial Management (IFU) at the renowned Braunschweig University of Applied Sciences (TU Braunschweig) commissioned Garamantis with the software engineering of an intuitive multi-touch based factory planning software.
Only a few weeks later a beta version was introduced to the public, and in January 2018, the full version of the software was handed over to TU Braunschweig and has been continually extended ever since.
With this interactive planning software, the IFU has created a worldwide unequaled practical industrial management tool. It facilitates the collaborative execution and evaluation of factory planning, without delay. The software’s interface warrants an immediate and lossless transfer of the results to all connected systems for further processing. At a 65″ Ultra HD multi-touch table, several designers at once can carry out the machinery placement for different factory halls and try out various configuration simulations in real time in order to find the optimal layout. If capacitive markers are placed upon the table’s 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 upon set-down of the marker and hence dynamically configure it.
Once multiple 3D models of machines have been added to the scenario and arranged, the multi-touch software gives helpful hints and suggestions for improvement, for instance on how to comply with regulations concerning the required minimum clearance, fire protection and industrial safety. All regulations and the respective manuals, as well as the entire content of the digital plotting table, are stored in a central web-based CMS. Thus, the software guarantees the correct layout in accordance with all regulations applicable.
The next step of the planning process deals with the machines’ optimal mutual collaboration and the working sequence. With a touch gesture, material flows between separate machines can be simulated and configured. The software helps the designer in realizing the maximum material throughput and visually identifying potential bottlenecks. A considerably reduced material throughput in one machine, for example, inevitably urges the factory designer to place a second machine of the same type and split the material flow among the two, in order to maximize the overall throughput in the processing chain. Only when all the software’s notifications, suggestions and warning messages have been properly dealt with, the factory planning procedure is considered completed.
Further elements of interactive factory planning concern the integration of runways and routes for forklifts, a process step that is also performed with touch gestures. Because Garamantis conceived the entire software as a genuine multi-user application, several people gathered around the table can work simultaneously without getting in each other’s way.
Moreover, the plotting software has an external interface for additional data visualization. For instance, an external screen can display performance data resulting from the current state of planning in real time. These performance data comprise the power consumption, noise emission, overall load as well as the material throughput of the machinery used in the simulation. In order to make the simulated planning procedure as realistic and immersive as possible, the software possesses a VR interface. By means of a VR headset, one of the persons involved in the planning process can enter an VR environment of the factory in planning and, from this perspective, immediately assess any changes to the setting or even influence them. He or she can move freely through the entire 3D model of the factory and actually use simple tools, e. g. at a workbench, via VR controllers.
The collaboration between IFU and Garamantis shows how synergetic effects between the technical knowledge of factory design in the conception and development on the one hand and software know-how in the implementation on the other can create a considerable additional value in the shape of a software tool.