Hands-on Inspect AR at Rexel Germany: From paper to digital using HoloLens 2
With the implementation of Mixed Reality, industrial enterprises are now boosting workforce efficiency and improving operational performance, while lowering costs across the factory and the whole business.
But how can the logistics sector benefit from augmented reality?
As a leading electrical wholesaler, Rexel Germany GmbH & Co. KG supplies electrotechnical products and services to customers from industry, trade, and crafts worldwide. Their business model requires that processes in the logistics centers run smoothly and all the workflows are constantly improved. The digitization of processes is therefore very important. For Rexel, it was crucial to find new solutions to support their workforce operating in the warehouses.
In this article, we will introduce to you Rexel’s road to success with Inspect AR and Microsoft HoloLens 2. We’ll answer some of the most common questions: How to start with Augmented Reality and digital inspection processes? What is the procedure and how can it be introduced step by step into the company? How do I measure the added value and if AR is profitable for my business?
Before we dive deep into our case study, we’ll give you a brief overview of HoloLens 2 and our solution for digital workflows – Inspect AR.
What is HoloLens 2?
The HoloLens 2 is a pair of augmented reality glasses, the second generation of AR glasses from market leader Microsoft. With these glasses, the 3D graphics, texts, and other information via transparent, holographic lenses, so-called waveguides, are brought to the user’s reality. Virtual Objects can be placed as an overlay on real objects. For example, circuit or maintenance information from a car can be placed digitally on the real car, in exactly the right position. Like an X-ray, you can view the engine through the hood while working or look at the structure of the brake system through the tire.
More information about the HoloLens 2.
What is Inspect AR?
Inspect AR is a digital checklist solution that makes expert know-how on-site available for maintenance, inspection, servicing, and training. With Inspect AR, existing checklists can be digitized within a few minutes by feeding them directly into the web management tool. After the setup, working tasks can be created and assigned directly to the workers. They can use Inspect AR on a smartphone (Android/iOS) or a headset, like the HoloLens 2 or HMT-1 RealWear.
With the mobile app recorder, checkpoints are quickly recorded and can be modified individually. Thanks to the web-based user interface, you can further enrich the content with additional information. CAD data is not necessarily due to spatial allocation but can be used for the automated creation of checklists.
Details of the inspection object, the customer, and the checklists are stored in each order. The worker in the warehouse is guided to the checkpoints via arrows and images. Status is set for each checkpoint and acknowledged, for example, with OK, NOT OK, or SKIP. Documentation is provided in the form of photos, definable categorizations of the statuses, or free comments.
View the progress of jobs in real-time! All completion reports including photos, timestamps, and info on the processing technician are centrally networked. Inspection is traceable and securely documented. Analyze the data series over time and gain new insights! An export via Excel, API, or via integration in SAP or the Microsoft Power Platform provides you with even more flexibility for further processing.
Azure Spatial Anchors – 100% correct navigation in the warehouse
In warehouses, the distances between certain checkpoints can be very long. With Azure Spatial Anchors Technology from Microsoft, checkpoints are not only saved into the cloud but also whole scenes are automatically recognized during an operation. This means ASA geographically locates each inspection point in the building.
Slight displacement effects of checkpoints, which may occur in single cases, are being automatically corrected. With our revolutionary approach to combine ASA with Inspect AR, workers can now rely on virtual guidance that is stable and safe even over long distances.
How to get started?
Prior to our collaboration, work instructions and checklists at Rexel Germany were carried out on paper with printed Excel lists. For any company with big warehouses and technical systems, safety measures are of big importance. Considering the fact, that workers use paper-based checklists and manuals in a complex environment, the potential for human error is huge.
In the following paragraphs, we want to show you, how process optimization with augmented reality and digital checklists can be achieved in 4 steps:
Step 1: Select the right use case
Rexel regularly executes inspections about fire protection and other safety-relevant topics (e.g., correct placement of the fire extinguisher). By using digital solutions like Inspect AR on HoloLens 2 instead of paper-based checklists, the overall accuracy with which safety tours are conducted increases. In addition, the mixed reality solution also simplifies the onboarding of new employees who are not yet familiar with the warehouse.
Another challenge in the logistics center is to equip all workstations with the necessary materials (e.g., cutter knife, dispenser for adhesive film, printing device, etc.) and that these items are also placed in the same position. In the previous work process, Rexel Germany employees noted such steps with manually kept Excel lists. With Inspect AR, workers have virtual guidance on where to place the materials and can easily document their audits.
Step 2: Define your KPIs
Once the use cases are selected, it’s important to define measurable goals that should be achieved with the use of this new technology:
Time savings: Inspect AR on HL2 reduces the time needed for orientation/walking in the warehouse or reading documents (paper documents, Excel lists). Employees put on the headset and start the checklists immediately. Because of the virtual guidance, footpaths can be optimized. In addition, workers have their hands free and can execute tasks while having all the information in their field of view.
Increased quality: Thanks to Augmented Reality, employees are guided to the right places and make fewer mistakes during the inspection. No inspection points are mixed up on a paper list, but each inspection point is geographically located, confirmed individually, and contains images, videos, and text.
Transparency: Users document the state of their work with photos, text, categories, and prioritization of the state. The documentation can be viewed in real-time on the web management system and very quickly provides a supervisor with a good overview of the work performed and errors reported. In addition, the process can be exported as an inspection report.
Sustainability: Digitized web-based auditing of processes and safety standards significantly reduces travel between logistics centers at Rexel. The auditor no longer needs to travel on-site; instead, employees can conduct guided audits using HoloLens 2.
Step 3: Testing: Hands-on Inspect AR
Once the Use Case and KPIs are defined, it’s all about testing, testing, and testing!
To make the first benefits visible, we usually set up a testing phase for 1- 3 months max. During this phase, the constant use of the newly introduced tool is crucial. In addition, it is also important that the employees who test have sufficient time resources.
A particular hurdle is often the critical attitude towards new technologies. This basic skepticism usually disappears as soon as the added value becomes apparent. For example: As soon as a worker realizes that he/she doesn’t need to carry around paper-based checklists anymore during inspections and has access to all information through the HoloLens 2, that moment is reached.
Furthermore, we also clarify how the data flow and integration work in the existing system landscape, which interfaces are needed, and which specific additional requirements can be implemented by our client with reasonable effort.
Step 4: Scale big with Augmented Reality
After the test phase, the concrete feasibility of the application and the added value in the environment are validated. The so-called “ROI-Analysis” (Return of Invest) plays also a crucial role in this context, as the profitability of Augmented Reality and the use of HoloLens 2 must be verified.
Based on the first use cases and the experience gained with AR, the technology can now be rolled out to other areas of the company and be integrated into the existing IT infrastructure. Augment-IT by Netcetera offers full support on the following topics:
From cloud to on-premise software
With hosting on Azure Cloud, Inspect AR is immediately ready for use – no infrastructure or installation required. To meet increased security requirements, an on-premise installation is certainly also possible at any time.
Out-of-the-box integration for SAP or Dataverse
Use our out-of-the-box interfaces or enterprise connectors to your IT landscape, e.g. SAP integration or Microsoft Dataverse. This allows you to create one-off and periodic orders or have them automatically set up by the ERP-System.
Go international with our multilanguage-feature
With a multilingual user interface, you can customize Inspect AR to use it internationally between multiple sites. Your employees choose their preferred languages themselves and are able to use the app immediately.
We adapt Inspect AR to your individual needs
As already mentioned above, Inspect AR comes out of the box with a predefined set of features. However, we do also develop feature extensions based on your specific requirements.
We can help you augment your business. Schedule your free demo call: firstname.lastname@example.org