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Social Distancing for “Next Normal” Manufacturing

Siemens’ Simatic real-time locating systems (RTLS) combine wireless communications with digital twinning software to simulate and manage employee exposure risks while promoting productivity. Most manufacturers see results in one to two weeks.

Posted: September 23, 2020

Siemens’ Simatic real-time locating systems (RTLS) use data collected by transponders embedded in employee badges to identify locations where maintaining 6 feet of separation is difficult. Tecnomatix Process Simulate and Plant Simulation software creates a digital twin manufacturers can use to reconfigure the plant floor to maintain safe physical distancing.

Manufacturers are facing new challenges as they look to restart or maintain operations during the pandemic. As preparations are made for the “next normal,” companies must establish production environments and workflows that address physical distancing requirements.

Combining proven hardware and software, Siemens Digital Industries (DI) (Nuremberg, Germany) has created a solution that enables manufacturers to quickly and efficiently model how employees interact with each other, the production line, and the entire plant. The solution also enables them to build an end-to-end digital twin to simulate worker safety, iterate on and optimize workspace layouts, and validate safety and efficiency measures to help future-proof production lines.

With Simatic real-time locating systems (RTLS), companies can continuously measure distances between workers, provide real-time visual feedback to employees regarding their spacing from coworkers, and create a log of all movements and interactions over time. Combining RTLS with a digital twin of the plant enables manufacturers to model and simulate how employees interact with equipment and each other, enabling them to optimize safety and productivity in the short term and validate a redesign of the entire operation before physical changes are made.

Simatic RTLS transponders are embedded in employees’ badges, which are worn as personal protective equipment (PPE). RTLS receivers placed throughout the plant continuously track and record employees’ movement. When two employees are in a risk scenario – for example, less than 6 feet apart – their  badges alert them by displaying a warning.

Data collected over time can be analyzed to identify hot spots where risk scenarios occur frequently. Siemens’ Tecnomatix Process Simulate and Plant Simulation software creates a digital twin manufacturers can use to design safe manufacturing layouts and work flows.

Manufacturers can add traceability to the solution through Siemens’ on-premise solutions or an application such as Siemens’ Trusted Traceability Application on the cloud-based, open-IoT MindSphere operating system. This helps enable rapid, comprehensive contact analysis in the event of a workplace illness. All movement and contact with the affected employee can be quickly visualized to notify those who came into close contact and implement selective rather than site-wide deep cleaning of exposed areas.

“Siemens is providing a powerful, rapidly deployable solution that helps manufacturers take control of their operations and achieve better safety, productivity, and cost outcomes,” says Raj Batra, president of Digital Industries for Siemens USA. “Our solution consists of proven technologies that can begin delivering results for most manufacturers in one to two weeks.”

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