PTC Inc. develops and delivers technology solutions, comprised of software and services. The company’s technology is primarily used by discrete manufacturers to design, operate, and maintain complex products. PTC’s technology is also used to connect products to the Internet for purposes of capturing and analyzing information from them.
Here, Kalyan Sridhar, SVP and Country Manager, PTC Inc., tells us more about how the medical equipment suppliers are developing ventilators for Covid-19. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: What challenges are faced by the medical equipment manufacturers in India at the time of Covid-19?
Kalyan Sridhar: Medical equipment manufacturers are struggling to run business because of the coronavirus pandemic impact. Many of them have experienced the impact on their supply chain and operation. They are trying to make balance between keeping employees and their family safe and parallely fulfilling the huge demand from customers.
Work from home can only help to design, but it won’t help the industry to go for production mode since social distancing will be applied with minimum staffing requirements.
Another bottleneck lies with regulatory approvals. Medical device manufacturers operate in a regulated, safety critical environment. All aspects of their product development life-cycle—including contributing to mechanics, electronics, software, and hardware—must be carefully controlled, in accordance with the regulatory standards around the globe. There is simply not enough approved products and manufacturers to add more production capacity to our already strained healthcare supply chain.
Another important aspect is: how to provide the technology support service in the stipulated timeline to help the non-medical equipment manufacturers.
Once the software is deployed, an expert service is provided to enhance their knowledge and capture the knowledge, as it is.
DQ: How is technology, AR and VR specifically, is playing a major role to manufacture ventilators for patients?
Kalyan Sridhar: Ventilator manufacturing is not an easy task. It requires the manufacturers to have to knowledge about developing good quality ventilator, co-ordination with designers, engineering and manufacturing teams with significant workforce training.
AR will provide major advantages to ventilator manufacturers by following the work instructions. With AR, digitally-enabled workforce can ensure that they have manufacturing knowledge on their fingertips without relying on traditional training methods.
Workers can see digital contents as 3D augmented reality on shop floor / work table and assemble the ventilator in a step-by-step process. Workers can view the AR contents on-hand with devices like smart phones and IPads and tablets without any special setup.
DQ: Do you think our medical device makers are quite skilful to scale up the production of AR- and VR-based ventilators in India?
Kalyan Sridhar: Yes, augmented reality (AR) is a critical technology that will make it possible to meet this unprecedented challenge of ramping up diverse industrial manufacturers to produce medical devices in their factories.
AR can capture the crucial assembly steps and processes involved in building the rapidly manufactured ventilator systems (RMVS). This will be transferred to the factories of consortium partners that traditionally do not make ventilators.
By doing so, the Consortium will reduce lead times and avoid potential transmission of Covid-19 by placing ‘virtual’ medical device experts on to the shop floor.
DQ: Brief us on the AR/VR-based ventialtors offered by PTC in India and the world.
Kalyan Sridhar: The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, called for ventilator manufacturers and suppliers to step up production of ventilators. The government has partnered with a number of the UK’s leading technology and engineering firms with smaller manufacturers to rapidly build existing, modified, or newly-designed ventilators. They are working to improve the speed at which the current UK ventilator manufacturers can produce their devices, with larger companies, pivoting their existing operations to help provide the UK with the equipment and personnel it needs for this effort.
PTC, along with Microsoft, is providing the technology that will capture and transfer the necessary knowledge sharing process from the existing ventilator manufacturers, Smiths Group and Penlon, to Ford, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, GKN, Thales, BAE Systems, McLaren, Meggitt and Renishaw. These manufacturers can quickly switch their lines to help produce the high number of ventilators needed.
This has been already executed with Ventilator consortium in UK. The consortium will be using PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture AR technology and Microsoft’s HoloLens to capture the crucial assembly steps and processes involved in building the RMVS.
DQ: How are digital technologies, such as AR, have become an essential part of the operating framework for manufacturers today?
Kalyan Sridhar: These days, most of manufacturers are working on limited manpower with less expert knowledge. Now, manufacturers started the adoption of AR technologies to capture expert knowledge, which can be a ready reference for new joinees and semi-skilled employees.
Manufacturers are also exploring possibilities for AR for various use case at the enterprise level, manufacturing: reduce machine downtime, service: increase first time fix rate ( FTFR), reduce prototype, speedup design review and collaborative discussions with augmented reality.
DQ: Brief us on PTC’s remote assistance product, Vuforia Chalk. How does it leverage AR to enable offsite and on-site employees for collaborative operation, maintenance and repair products of all kinds?
Kalyan Sridhar: Adapting to a new ways of working remotely can be challenging for industrial companies, many of which have globally-distributed employee
populations, supply chains, and customer bases. The challenge can be acute when special expertise is needed to carry out specific on-site tasks – such
as operating or repairing complex machinery.
Considering the current environment, PTC’s remote assistance product, Vuforia Chalk, enables the offsite and on-site employees for collaborative operation, maintenance, and repair products of all kinds. It’s like a more powerful live stream of industrial settings. It’s as easy to set up and use.
Onsite and offsite employees: Both expert and technician can accurately mark up live views to highlight details or guide multi-step solutions. Chalk Marks stick where drawn, reducing potentially costly mistakes.
Reduce downtime: By empowering your people with instant “over the shoulder” field support to finish every job without delay.
Increase first time fix rate ( FTFR) : Vuforia Chalk makes it easy when troubleshooting or expert guidance is needed for situations not covered in training or service manuals. Hence Chalk, reduces the travel burden and gives frontline workers access to info and guidance from concerned expert person immediately. There is a need to increase the service quality, while reducing repeat visits.
DQ: How can AR enable manufacturing companies to go productive in the ongoing Covid-19 crisis?
Kalyan Sridhar: The visual nature of AR remote assistance makes it immensely easier – and now ‘safer’ – for procedural experts to scale their knowledge to a global audience without physically being there. With the outbreak of coronavirus, currently disrupting operations, production and other economies potentially at risk, collaborative remote working solutions are revealing their value in entirely new ways.
Enabling more flexible work arrangements can help industrial companies lessen the economic impact of the global crises, and keep employees who travel frequently out of the harm’s way.
In service situations: AR lets the technician to be present without having to travel on-site. This opens the door to self-service opportunities for customers that require advanced, guided troubleshooting, use AR teleconferencing to connect their first line of defense with a remote subject matter expert who can speed resolution time without the delays associated with travel. As a result, technicians can cycle through service backlogs faster while avoiding burn out and industrial organizations can retain a greater number of their high value employees.
In training situations: This segment of employees values (and in some cases, requires) hands-on support from more experienced colleagues, but they may not always have access to a subject matter expert who can physically walk them through a procedure or task. Instead, they must wait until that person is present or refer to printed service information or work instructions, which are oftentimes inaccurate, outdated, and/or difficult to interpret.
AR remote assistance eases collaboration and on-the-job learning by making accessibility to on-demand subject matter experts more widely available. Industrial companies are improving overall metrics like first-time-fix-rates and mean-time-to-repair with PTC AR applications like Vuforia Chalk and Vuforia studio.