About the UL company
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is the largest and best-known independent non-profit laboratory based in Northwoods, Illinois, Chicago, dealing with a wide range of safety issues, from the safety of consumer products, industrial products, medical equipment, renewable energy sources, batteries, computer software, Internet transactions, banking transactions, to the safety of materials used in the manufacture of furniture, clothing, food storage or drinking water purity. The company has a 125-year history of direct cooperation with government organizations, as well as key producers on global markets.
UL conducts safety and quality tests and ensures continued product inspection during the entire product life cycle. The laboratory provides a full range of conformity and quality assessment services to manufacturers and other organisations. It also supports jurisdictional and local authorities and offers educational materials to consumers. UL also works to strengthen security systems around the world.
In addition, the company provides comprehensive diagnostic testing services in areas such as: fire tests, medical device testing, EPH services (catering equipment, drinking water certification, hydraulic equipment), audio/video, home electronics, source verification and inspection services, electric vehicle components and systems, EMC testing and certification, IT equipment industry services (ITE), as well as telecommunications industry services. The company carries out tests in these areas in order to verify that the tested products meet the standards set by UL engineers, compared to data from product manufacturers and users. In addition, the company tests its products for compliance with standards set by third parties.
Challenges and needs
The main goal of UL was to improve the work of its specialists in the field of:
- receiving contextual information about audit/inspection requests, project documentation, presentation of contextual information about components, replacements, key parameters of products and their components;
- improvements in component localization, especially in complex, complicated products, by providing diagrams, graphs, pictures with element markings, instructional videos, animated 3D models, showing specific elements under inspection;
- providing support in the form of information necessary for process verification and information about tests to be performed, calibration of test equipment for specific products;
- building a knowledge base: collecting information on what exactly has been checked and how frequently, in order to manage inspection orders more efficiently;
- improving communication with customers, production companies who execute production orders;
- ensuring transparency of operations, including lists of inspected components/processes;
- speeding up the delivery of inspection reports to manufacturing companies;
The pilot project was based on a system consisting of two components:
The ThingWorx platform as an element for:
- creating definitions of product structures, their components, critical parameters;
- creating definitions of inspection processes;
- determining the risk factor, based on the impact on the safe use of products;
- analysing the results and producing reports on the carried out inspections;
- collecting and presenting information about non-conformities concerning the checked products/components and/or processes;
The Vuforia Studio/Vuforia View application as a solution dedicated to mobile devices for specialists performing audits/inspections.
The solution enables:
- downloading and presenting inspectors tasks to be performed during a given inspection;
- presenting parameters of verified components/tests and in augmented reality mode;
- providing additional possibilities for finding the locations of components to be checked;
Achieved results and benefits of the pilot programme
Below you can find a summary of the results and comments of the users participating in the pilot project:
The proposed inspection solution with the new tool is intuitive and easy to use, and does not require dedicated training. In addition, users appreciate having a dedicated step-by-step guide that takes them through the entire inspection. The inspectors have expressed their willingness to visualize the inspected product with augmented reality technology in the future and the use of automatic documentation of inspection results, as well as the creation of a list of nonconformities. They appreciated the possibility of being able to divide the components into safety- critical and non-critical ones.
The following benefits can therefore be mentioned:
- Reducing inspection time with a step-by-step instructions that contain all the necessary data;
- Creating “digital twin” of product as 3D models that allows one to quickly locate components to be inspected during inspections, which significantly reduces inspection time;
- Digitization of results of inspection processes, which makes it quick and easy to create audit reports and lists of detected nonconformities. These reports, in turn, serve as a communication input for the purpose of addressing identified nonconformities in audited entities;
- The possibility of creating a single knowledge base, which allows efficient and effective management of inspection definitions and orders.