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12.17.18 - The People People


Today’s ever-shifting economic climate is placing increased pressure on the manufacturing industry to become more energy efficient and globally competitive. Many companies are looking toward emerging technologies to help create the next generation of smart, collaborative manufacturing.

Technology breakthroughs in robotics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, cyberphysical systems and fifth-generation wireless technologies(5G) have ushered in a new era that’s being described as the fourth industrial revolution.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy established CESMII (the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute) to explore how these emerging technologies might deliver smart manufacturing solutions.

Last year UC Irvine’s CALIT2 was designated the CESMII Southern California Regional Demonstration Center. CESMII recently awarded $2.1 million to the institute to develop the Smart Connected Workers program.

“The focus on workers is critical to the evolution of U.S. industrial sectors,” says G.P. Li, CALIT2 Irvine director and the project’s PI. “A smart, connected worker will become the ultimate manufacturing asset. Empowering skilled workers to have greater autonomy and decision-making responsibilities will result in not only a more satisfied, masterful workforce, but also factories that are more energy-efficient, productive and safer.”

The program will develop affordable, scalable, accessible and portable smart manufacturing (A.S.A.P. SM) systems that will help companies gain insight into their energy footprints and workflow activities. These data can lead to optimization and dynamic scheduling of equipment to help reduce energy costs.

Sensors and cameras will measure and characterize human activity. “We can capture information about when
people are moving through the facility, where they’re going and what [work] they’re doing,” says Richard Donovan, a UCI research development director who works hand-in-hand with Li on the grant.

Energy meters – upgraded to higher fidelity than standard models – will be located throughout the workspace to capture precise realtime energy consumption and record the equipment’s response to human activity.

Researchers will use data analytics to map the captured workflow activity against real-time energy use.
Capturing, mapping and analyzing this data will allow researchers to build a data-acquisition infrastructure that provides real-time workflow energy assessment

CALIT2 received a $2.1 million grant to develop a program that provides valuable insight into the energy footprint and workflow activities of manufacturing facilities.

The Smart Connected Workers program will gather data about workers’ activity and real-time energy use, and employ data analytics to map the relationship between the captured workflow and energy consumption.

Findings will allow researchers in CALIT2’s Data Engineering ThinkTank to develop software tools that provide real-time workflow energy assessment for small-to-medium enterprises.

Of the more than 250,000 U.S. companies in the manufacturing sector, less than 4,000 have more than 500 employees, and threequarters have fewer than 20 employees. Most of these companies lack financial resources to incorporate sophisticated, advanced automation and control that could give them a competitive edge.

Analytic tools, however, can have an immediate impact on small and mid-size manufacturing firms by translating large quantities of new data into insights that can improve industrial processes. “By looking at the data, we can say, ‘Hey, maybe there is a better workflow. Here’s a better way for you to use your operations technology to be more efficient, use less energy and have less waste,’ ” Donovan says.

The Smart Connected Worker team is made up of nine UCI faculty and staff members who will join with industrial partners, including Atollogy, Aerospace Corp., General Mills, Southern California Edison, CESMII, Google, San Diego Supercomputing Center, and university partners UCLA and California State University Northridge.

Researchers will take advantage of the soon-to-open Data Engineering ThinkTank located on the fourth fl oor of CALIT2. The state-of-the-art, high-performance computer lab will provide access to distributed computing resources (CPU, GPU, TPU and other NvN processors), collaboration tools, visualization software and a brand new class of hardware designed expressly for artificial intelligence and deep machine

The biggest challenge will be scaling up to meet the needs of large manufacturing operations. The team will need to develop effective engineering tools that can be rapidly deployed across various manufacturing sectors. “We want to have engineers use these new methods of data analytics in an efficient way for different types of industry,” Donovan says. “And because we are the ‘people people,’ it’s about putting people in the loop, giving them decision-making capability and helping them design healthy, happy places to work.”

-- Sharon Henry