Rika claims to always deliver the best quality. The new Smartdesk from Ivii combines classic image processing with AI for this purpose. This combination allows rapid qualification of applicants without specialized training and therefore combats oppressive shortages of skilled workers at the same time.
The successful path from a locksmith’s shop to a market leader has been achieved by Rika with its claim to always deliver only the highest quality. The company produces complex sheet metal forming and construction parts, as single pieces or large series, from aluminum, stainless steel and steel sheet. Its approximately 212 employees process about 13,500 tons of material per year, and the trend is upward. Without relying on the latest technologies and operating equipment, this would not be possible with the chosen quality standards, especially when assembling complex sheet metal components.
Conventionally, the quality inspection of the products is done by visual inspection. But for humans, monotonous tasks quickly cause concentration to wane, and ultimately even a small error rate can lead to expensive complaints and the loss of supplier status. The trend towards small batch sizes and rapidly changing product variants is making the situation even more difficult. No employee can check this with 100 percent certainty.
High performance thanks to AI
The new Ivii Smartdesk provides active help here by checking manual assembly steps in seconds by comparing stored, item-specific properties and thus preventing possible assembly errors. 2021 assembly assistance and testing system was awarded as the best product at LogiMat.
Iriis, the eye of the smartdesk, uses AI algorithms in pre-trained neural networks. The customer can easily expand the range of articles and also add new error variants are no problem. The system knows what the final product must look like. Every crack, crack, hole, surface damage, deformation or wrong part number is registered and documented.
But the system can do even more. It allows to trace the order processing along an entire logistics chain or production line, to localize and eliminate sources of error and thus to optimize the entire production.
A prerequisite for performance is that the system operates in real time. “State-of-the-art sensor technology with ‘AI on the edge’ makes this possible,” Peter Stelzer, CEO at Ivii is proud to say.
The system analyzes images and provides feedback to people. However, it also communicates with higher-level systems and can be adapted to customer requirements within wide limits. Thanks to the deep-learning networks trained in advance, the user only has to show the system the appropriate assemblies and the system is ready to go, even without an IT specialist. The teaching-in of new parts is quick and uncomplicated. You only need a small number of images of the target state and various defects. In a short time the image processing learns the differences between the images. After that, it is ready for use. The system thus learns from experience, finds errors that have never occurred before, and it can be adapted to products that do not yet exist.
Smartdesk for rapid qualification
However, the Ivii smartdesk also monitors manual assembly tasks. Since no spoken language is required, this allows international use. The operator feels supported, not controlled, because he controls the device, not the device controls him. The real-time feedback system monitors every step of the process for a zero-defect strategy and end-to-end traceability.
In order to be able to offer competitive prices with increasing production, Rika needs employees as well as automation. “The labor market in the region is empty, we can’t find skilled workers here,” notes Rika Managing Director Reinhard Trippacher. On the other hand, many well-rehearsed colleagues will retire in the next few years and take their knowledge and experience with them.
The Smartdesk can be used to counteract this: On the one hand, a knowledgeable user is required who learns and thus creates the basis on which the not-so-knowledgeable employee can rework. Unfortunately, since even knowledgeable humans cannot describe all processes in a way that a programmer can understand, the system has AI and that closes that gap because AI learns by watching. This is also a way to keep knowledge within the company. The system is easy to use. Documentation, key figure generation for process optimization, etc. happen automatically along the way. In this way, the system not only helps overcome the shortage of skilled workers, but also helps with digitization.
During the assembly processes, the operator is guided step by step and each step is checked to ensure that it has been carried out correctly. Only then is the next work step released. In this way, quality can be raised in the existing process and the employee learns. In addition, the enrollment is extremely short and intuitive, like an app on your phone.
“With our tool, it is possible for anyone to master complex aspects of contract manufacturing without errors in a very short time and with little effort,” Peter Stelzer is convinced. This means that production peaks, vacation bottlenecks and absences due to illness can be covered at short notice with temporary workers or temps.
At the same time, the system collects statistical data in case an error does occur and to generate key figures. In this way, specialist qualification takes place during the work process without downtime for expensive training, and the operator does not need any prior knowledge. This also guarantees the RoI.
Digitization as a side effect
The Ivii Smartdesk enables 100 percent quality control instead of random sampling. And it handles the dreaded digitization virtually on the side. Reinhard Trippacher, Business Manager Rika Blechkomponenten, Austria: “I bought the Ivii Smartdesk not because of its AI capabilities, but simply because we were looking for a new and better way to perform assembly work without errors. With this system, knowledge can be easily digitized and made available to employees. With real-time guidance and immediate quality checks, we make employees successful – regardless of their training. Innovation is so important to us that sometimes we are not only one step ahead of our market competitors, but also one step ahead of ourselves. That drives us to remain attractive to our employees and flexible for our customers.”