SIBUR, one of the world leaders in the petrochemical industry, has launched a universal AR service for remotely maintaining and repairing industrial equipment that will help save millions of dollars per year. Based on a unique IT platform of their own design, the service will replace face-to-face visits of service company specialists and internal holding experts with video consultations using augmented reality glasses. This project was implemented in partnership with G-Core Labs, an international provider of cloud and edge solutions.
SIBUR specialists first tested remote servicing technology with the help of AR glasses in 2018 by using several solutions available on the market. That’s when basic scenarios for applying such technology were identified and the economic effect of its implementation was predicted. Once they were sure that such a project was feasible and implementable from a technical standpoint, the specialists began preparations for implementation at holding enterprises, which included the development of their own IT platform. SIBUR production facilities in the city of Tobolsk became the testing grounds.
“Our AR service is easy to use and includes two large key components: RealWear and Epson augmented reality glasses with pre-installed Android applications developed in collaboration with G-Core Labs and integrated with SIBUR’s own mobile media platform. This platform allows you to fully digitize the entire maintenance and repair process by organizing HD broadcasts in WebRTC format and creating a full-fledged communication platform for effective on-site specialist interactions with a remote expert. Everything is voice-controlled, freeing the hands of the person to work with the equipment”, - says Alexander Leus, Head of SIBUR Industry 4.0 practice.
A representative of the industrial equipment supplier or SIBUR internal expert stays in contact with the factory specialist. The expert simply receives a link to their personal email and starts a video conference in any browser (Chrome, Edge, Mozilla, Safari, etc.) on any device, including tablets and smartphones, upon identity verification using their mobile phone number. They don’t need to install any special applications.
“With the help of a virtual pointer displayed on the glasses micro-display, an employee of the
equipment supplier company can direct the actions of the specialist, draw attention to certain elements, and indicate what to turn and where to monitor. A chat and stickers were implemented into the functionality of the AR platform as well. Stickers are needed, for example, if there are connection issues. In that case, the remote expert sends signal stickers, such as a “checkmark” sticker if everything is done correctly or a “stop” sticker if you need to stop what you’re doing”, - explains Dmitry Samoshkin, VP of Products at G-Core Labs.
The main features that distinguish the SIBUR solution from its analogues on the market are the depth of its integration into real production tasks and enterprise processes, the comprehensive digitalization of the repair process, and versatility allowing it to be deployed to a wide variety of production sites.
The SIBUR solution offers a full-fledged role model focused on business customers, such as production managers, site managers, mechanics, heads of customer technical control services, and so on. The AR service has a ticket system, which means that not only video communication is possible, but also the complete digitization of the remote consulting business process. With the ticket system, the customer is guided along the entire path towards resolving the issue, from checking the presence of all necessary information to assessing the cost of work, the necessary competencies, and the qualifications of external or internal experts. Information security is ensured and unequivocal answers are given to questions of who, at what time, and from whom the glasses are taken, how the system is supported, and how exactly the interaction takes place until the maintenance or repair is successfully completed. At this moment, more than 300 business cases of the AR service have been documented by the SIBUR team.
Of course, there are other systems that facilitate video connection with augmented reality glasses in Europe, America and Asia. “However, today I can say with confidence that the success of the implementation of such projects in industrial enterprises largely depends on the quality of integration into internal processes, as well as on the IT platform being customized for industrial processes and tasks. It’s no exaggeration to say that SIBUR was one of the first in the European and global markets to develop and implement a comprehensive system of remote maintenance and repair that really works and brings tangible savings. Even though during the first stages of the project, several industrial AR solution suppliers sometimes looked at us with surprise, doubting our vision and needs, but today they are already consulting with us and asking to send the functional and technical requirements”, - says the SIBUR Industry 4.0 Head.
Cases and Savings
“One session of operational communication through our AR platform helps save several tens of thousands of dollars. These savings result from the reduction in travel expenses, hourly billing instead of full-day billing for experts, and the timely resumption of work”, - says Igor Klimov, member of the board, CEO of SIBUR Tobolsk enterprises.
Prior to launching its own AR platform, SIBUR used a temporary partner solution for the Remote Expert AR tool, conducting more than 300 video communication sessions with it. “In July 2019, the company’s mechanics set up magnetic suspensions for the TK-901/1 compressor at the Yuzhno-Balyksky gas processing plant with the help of remote consulting. Previously, the manufacturer (SKF international company) used to configure the equipment in person. Remote configuration took two days, and without the use of the AR platform, one would have had to wait several days for the specialists to arrive. The video communication session helped us complete the task quickly and significantly, saving on the cost of travel and expert fees”, - says Rishat Asfandiyarov, Digital Technology Manager at SiburTyumenGaz.
“In spring 2020, the Remote AR Expert solution was used to provide consultation on replacing reactor screens at the propane dehydrogenation plant in Tobolsk. It was necessary to correctly calibrate the device and deal with the software. Together with the vendor in online mode, we were able to obtain the practical skills and knowledge for setting up and calibrating the device. The work was carried out faster despite the absence of external experts on-site, and also cost us less”, - said Ilmir Murzakaev, Remote Expert Manager of SIBUR Tobolsk.
During the pandemic and quarantine restrictions, the demand for the tool grew significantly. “External experts are not always available for operational business trips to our sites. Business trips of foreign representatives can take from one week to a whole month. Due to quarantine restrictions and shifted working hours, their presence at the enterprise was completely impossible. And right at that time, turnaround maintenance that usually require the presence of vendors were taking place. With the help of the Remote AR Expert, we contacted three global suppliers of cooling towers and examined a pyrolysis plant’s huge cooling tower with a capacity of 72 500 m3 per hour. We showed our colleagues the whole picture online”, - says Timur Zalimov, Chief Expert for the Director Service of Technology Development at ZapSibNeftekhim.