STEP Talks Webinar: Seagate – using AR & VR in Manufacturing
Good afternoon everyone. For those that don't know me, my name is Stephen Kelly. I'm Chief Executive of Manufacturing Northern Ireland and I'm delighted to chair this STEP talk today. For those that don't know, STEP is Smart Technology Empowering People and it's a partnership between Invest Northern Ireland, Enterprise Northern Ireland and ourselves. It's really about trying to create awareness and to accelerate engagement in terms of digital transformation across Northern Ireland, in particular in our manufacturing communities. These are short, sharp engagements and there's an opportunity for you to ask some questions if you use the chat function on your screen. Everybody's camera is off and everyone's mic is off so please use that chat function as we go through. The format of the sessions are, we're going to have a very short video. Just
about four minutes, four and a half minutes long, that acts as an introduction to the experience of local manufacturers in terms of their deployment of digital technology to improve productivity in their businesses. Then we'll follow with the Q and A where you'll get the chance to ask those questions that you may have been inspired as watching the video and listening to our speakers. I'm delighted to say that Fergus O'Donnell who's the site lead for Seagate Technologies in Springtown in Derry has agreed to be the first manufacturer to actually tell their experience about deploying digital technology within their production facilities. Seagate will share their experience about using augmented reality and virtual reality in their manufacturing environment and particularly during the most difficult Covid pandemic experience that we've all had over the last year or so. Having had a chance to preview the video already I think you'll be impressed by just the level of technological engagement that Seagate have managed to bring into their production. For those that don't know, Seagate Technology
are a large manufacturer based in the Northwest. They are a world leader in data storage and data management solutions and has a proven track record over the last 40 years of industry firsts and the use of technology in terms of their production facilities. Fergus is the Director of Operations and the site lead for Seagate in Northern Ireland and as part of the global team he is responsible for business performance targets, supporting people, quality, costs, output, customer and innovation. We will begin with the video. Do feel free to ask questions in the chat box and then we'll kick off with Fergus, thanks. Hi my name is Lester Kelly. I'm a Senior Staff Engineer here at Seagate Technology.
I work in the innovation, automation and control group and my role is basically to try and help engineers solve their problems using technology. 2020 was shaped by a global pandemic and had a profound impact on all our lives. At Seagate we operate under an abundance of caution with our priority being the health and well-being of our employees, our contractors, suppliers and our local community. During the pandemic augmented and virtual reality presented us with an opportunity to test new technology to engage and learn with staff, contractors and technologists as Covid-19 restrictions reduced access to the site. As we move along our Industry 4.0 journey we continually review our manufacturing technologies to be more precise and faster in how we do things. Over the past four years we've been watching the development of the hololens technology.
Hololens builds on the concept of augmented reality. Integrated into headset, this technology offers an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated information. We were interested in this product because of the potential it held for connecting people globally, in the real world, in real time but virtually it presented unique opportunities for collaboration and learning.
When Microsoft first released its beta version of the hololens, the hardware was still in development but showed great potential. The timing of Seagate's transition to Microsoft products aligned with the release of the second generation hololens. This gave us an opportunity to explore the potential of integrating it into the business more effectively. The product offered a unique feature of direct spatial mapping technology using small laser scanners. This feature enabled accurate anchoring of virtual objects in the real world while you moved around. We purchased one device to test integration into the business and to verify the ability of the Microsoft device to its specifications. Once the basic concept was tested and value proved,
we worked with Microsoft and our IT teams to integrate it into the business securely. The pandemic created a unique challenge for contractors and technologists to access the site and support teams. We quickly realised the global potential the hololens remote assistant application would provide for the company and contractors worldwide. We now utilise 20 devices all over the world for all types of remote support and this technology is still evolving with more opportunities to come. Engaging the teams is relatively easy as you can imagine when somebody
wearing the hololens for the first time reaches out into thin air to grab things, everyone gets a wee bit curious. From that point on it was a matter of holding several meetings and demonstrating its ability. The great part about the hololens is that the meetings to demo the product are started and arranged just like any other meeting. We simply start up a Microsoft Teams meeting and everyone can automatically see what you're seeing. The bonus with the hololens is that the users are hands-free
to interact with the real world and operate or repair a machine with the guidance of an expert. Any meeting member can share documents that are of importance to the task at hand or even annotating objects that the hololens user is looking at. The true test of any new technology is how quickly people adapt and get comfortable with it. The hololens remote assist app has enabled us to get equipment support from anywhere in the world. Whether it be thousands of miles away or people working from home. We've been able to
repair equipment when our on-site support team needed specialist knowledge to do so. Technicians and engineers were able to fix tools with the support of a vendor and gain critical knowledge as they were guided through the steps virtually but in real time. Going forward as we continue to roll out the hololens we will review new applications developed by Microsoft and industry partners.
We see huge potential in Microsoft guides for augmented on-the-job training where the user can perform a task for the first time with the assistance of inanimate objects and instructions overlaid on real-life objects. With Seagate's goal to help reduce carbon footprint and reduce travel costs, we're also excited to see how Microsoft's new application Mesh develops. The ability to collaborate with colleagues from across the world as if they were in the room with you, this opens up a new world of collaboration and sharing ideas. Augmented and virtual reality are two similar technologies that can be utilised in two very different ways. We use virtual reality for training or awareness of situations that's difficult to convey in 2D, or unsafe to do so in practice. Augmented reality is used to enhance real-world objects with
additional information to make tasks faster by providing information on the go. As a team we constantly review and adapt to new technologies to keep us progressing on our Industry 4.0 journey. I'm sure like me you may have grown up watching Star Wars or Star Trek and seen some of the technologies that were present in those movies and not realising that it would be real world application here in Northern Ireland. I'm sure you were impressed with Seagate and their adoption of that, adaption and adoption of that technology so far. If Fergus is still there with us we could turn on his his camera and his microphone, that would be great. Fergus, great to have you with us all the way from Derry, where I'm also sitting, but in a different part of it. Thank you Stephen, thank you for having me. We're going to be quite
gentle with you today and start off with some questions for you and maybe just begin with Why take this approach? Why did Seagate adopt this approach particularly in a time of such uncertainty over the last 15 months or so. Okay, that's a good question Stephen. As you look back over the last 12, 15 months from the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, we we did apply what we called an abundance of caution and that was all about keeping our people, our families and our community safe. That continues to bear priority as we go forward. So the issue was the global pandemic, it restricted access to the site for contractors and specialist companies and we wanted to consider effective ways to support business continuity of operations. Like a lot of the companies that we, that we talk to, we purchase equipment from OEM's all across the globe and these tools need service and repair. We have a very experienced team of technicians and engineers but sometimes you need the vendor expertise. Typically starts with phone support but the next step can be on-site
as you need eyes and hands on the equipment to the next stage of troubleshooting and training. Suddenly these routes were not available to us, so as Lester showed in the video thankfully we did have some IT 4.0 projects underway. For example, we'd already experienced the benefit of virtual reality. We'd use that in providing training on our product build for our employees and some, for some engagement activities and initiatives with the local community. We'd also started looking at augmented reality and that included the hololens. This challenge ultimately added momentum to the adoption of the hololens technology as Lester explained in the video. So, if the need for remote specialist support the hololens really was
the obvious fit to meet our requirements. It allowed us to complete some critical training and tool support activities without requiring the presence of a vendor on site. Really, without the hololens this would have been a major challenge for us. I'm sure like many businesses that are tuning in the restriction on international travel has had a big impact on your business as well as theirs. Now, in terms of your adoption of that technology and it there to meet the challenge, the very real life, real world challenge that you were facing in terms of keeping the production facility operable but without the ability to bring specialists to you. I mean during that period was there lessons learned for Seagate? Was there
lessons learned that would be applicable for other manufacturers who might be watching in today? Yeah, I think as you mentioned there when we talk about our vendors having good partnership with our vendors was critical on this here but we look at say the main lessons lessons learned, I would say the big one is just embracing new technology and ideas. This whole thing of continuously reviewing technology, challenge the norms that we learn every single day and just keeping that open mind to seek out diverse opinions and listen to new ways of working as these all create the opportunities to ask, what can we do better? The other part would be, take your time. There's a lot of options out there so review the comparable devices that were there. We looked at hololens but we looked at a number of other options as well but finally we selected hololens. So start with reasonable and manageable tasks, to prove the concept and understand the limitations of the options that are there. Then really try and test the capabilities of the system once you
understand it and expand its functions to address some of the complex issues. I think a big part of it and that's really why we're here today Stephen, is share your technology story. At Seagate, innovation - we use the term it's in our DNA but sharing your experience can create all of the connected conversations, ideas and new applications of the technology. We need everyone to become early adopters of new technology as we move forward on our Industry 4.0 journey. It's equally important to share the small wins and the
big successes too. I think why we're here today was from one of the meetings that we had with the makers forum, where we were showing some of the things that we had done and then we were asked to come along and share it with the broader group here today. There's a question in the chat already about other technologies, so there's a company who's asked about, they're currently using Oculus Quest 2 for patent data display and is asking is hololens more practical? Why hololens for you? Why was the decision taken on that technology rather than another? I think for hololens it was really, was the the simplicity of its use on the Microsoft Teams platform and it is, when you look at a lot of options, it's very it's very affordable and it was, the training was relatively straightforward. For when we talked with our other vendors and other sites, it was the one where we felt we could expand most effectively really, that was why we went for it.
I remember the morning when you mentioned the fact that you were adopting this hololens technology and how cost effective it was. Every manufacturer in the room sat up and took notice at that point and all said, can we come and have a look at it? That's what inspired you joining us today, so thanks for that. People think that these things could cost an arm and a leg but not necessarily. Sometimes the best solutions are the most cost effective ones. In terms of that process and the journey that you were on, I mean what were the sort of results or impacts or benefits that Seagate found from that experience? Okay, maybe just to give an overview of our manufacturing process just from a cycle time perspective Stephen, so our process here in Springtown from where we start the product to it actually leaves the site as a finished product, it takes anything from 5 to 6 months depending on the on the product configuration. So we're a critical part of the overall
global Seagate supply chain for our storage device solutions. So a big result was during the whole Covid-19 pandemic, we have been able to manage factory operations with a high degree of certainty. The remote learning and the toolset maintenance and also external audit requirements we were able to continue those as planned with the benefit of using the hololens. This really has kept us on track for the key deliverables for output and quality while maintaining a safe factory environment. That's often overlooked, I mean we were very fortunate in some respects where the executive here decided that manufacturing was critical to not only our economy but in keeping the thing, keeping the place moving. For those who don't know I mean about 1 in 5 digital devices in the world have a little piece of Seagate technology made in the Northwest in those devices. So being connected, continuing to be connected, everyone with a device at home
was critical to making sure that we were able to share information, to keep connected to our families, to continue to work and keeping the facility in Springtown open has been critical, not just for Northern Ireland but for many territories across the world. That's why the work that you and your colleagues have done has been so important. Just keeping the doors open and keeping working has meant that the communities everywhere have been able to continue to to go about their lives as best possible. Can I ask then in terms of, that's a part of a journey that you've been on but what's next for Seagate? I mean what's next in terms for you and your team in relation to Industry 4.0 and particularly that digital transformation in your manufacturing?
Okay, so we all know the Industry 4.0, it's the next generation of manufacturing and I think when I reflect on it, it is how often has history taught us in manufacturing that if you do not continue to evolve, especially with the environment around you you will fall behind. I think the big thing of the fourth industrial revolution, it connects people's machines and data by utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive innovation and productivity. So we have teams established across Seagate globally looking at further potential opportunities within Industry 4.0 and it's based on our major factory priorities. So we're looking at things that new manufacturing execution systems, AGV's, Cobatics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality as we've talked about.
Information Security, 5G and accelerating innovation with data science and data analytics is huge. The thing where we find, we have IT 4.0 the concepts we're creating, it creates massive amounts of data and that in turn, it's fueling enormous opportunities for Seagate products and technologies. If you think about the data generated, in 2021 we estimate data to be about 60 zettabytes. By 2025 we see it growing 175 zettabytes. So all of the things that are going, creating so much data and the big challenge is how you gather that data and how you analyse it. So we want to empower our teams of comprehensive data sources and new digital skills to increase our agility and flexibility in responding to our customers.
We work with Invest NI and academia to try to match our requirements with the technology and the resources that are currently available. I think the increased efficiencies that can be developed within our processes by Industry 4.0 is going to be essential for us to maximize our potential. Great, we have some really, kind of detailed technical questions coming in here, which I won't throw at you Fergus you'll be glad to hear. This is a nice
gentle introduction to you all but I know there's questions there about the importing or use of your own 3D models etc. What we'll do is, we'll take that question and the guys at Seagate will respond directly to the person asking that question. What support would you suggest other companies use Fergus? What would help them on that journey? I think the thing is Stephen that you and I found with all the discussions we have with other companies that we all have the same challenges. It's all about modernisation of our processes. A huge part of it is, collaborating and sharing ideas and skills - that's just so important.
That's why the makers forum is so valuable to allow us to share and support each other. The other thing, success depends on the passion and skill of our people. Things like, as we go forward are really an adaptive workforce. The skill development and training is huge and the concept of lifelong training and learning. I think the
other thing I'd say is, new graduates. Recruit our new graduates and I don't know about you Stephen but I reflect, back when I was a graduate and I compare myself to the new graduates that we've got there is, they're just so confident and smart. I think they're living the technologies that we need to learn and so I think having capturing that expertise in our companies is so important. People have to be active in their own career development as well and take an ownership of your career direction and interest. I think a big part of all of that comes down to collaborating with academia, our universities and our our regional colleges. I think that's a huge part of it and
we recently, Seagate completed the Makers Forum Industry 4.0 Assessment with Invest Northern Ireland and they are helping us to understand some of the industry support initiatives that could help us progress on our journey. I'd also say just collaborating with yourself Stephen and Manufacturing NI is hugely important as well. Well it's great to hear Fergus of course. It's interesting we've just completed some
survey work of our manufacturing community that we do regularly. We do it every six months alongside solicitors and we've added some questions in and around digital technology and digital adoption. Sadly only about 1 in 5 manufacturers actually see it as a priority. Now, obviously Seagate is a technology business. I mean it's one of the most advanced production facilities in the world based here. In terms of those smaller manufacturers
or those that maybe haven't started this journey, I mean is there a cultural change required? Is there a leadership change required? I mean what are the types of small steps that you would do, you would say to inspire others to get on that journey? Yeah I think I would say it would be, it's a cultural change. Within Seagate, we've started the journey over the last few years and we've had a lot of learnings as we try and work with all our various sites across the globe. There was examples where we were doing things in isolation rather than sharing and learning from each other, so I think that has to be what the culture is part of it. It's all about challenging the norm and how do we improve? How do we bring ourselves and our companies forward for this next generation that's so challenging that we have ahead of us. If you were in a smaller manufacturer, obviously every pound's a prisoner, particularly now. I'm sure that that's a very similar environment that Seagate are in where
we need to be productive and every pound needs to work for the business but in terms of return on investment, what are the types of things that you look for when you're taking some of these technologies in? Again, it's what you're driving all the time is, you're trying to drive greater efficiency and so that's a huge part of what you measure as you go forward and you adopt any of these technologies. Then it is your product roadmap. What is your product roadmap? What are the technologies you need to be more effective with your product roadmap? One of the things that we talked a lot about, talked earlier about was the amount of data, the volume of data and there are resources out there to help companies analyse data, so it would be utilising that would be a key aspect as well. Again, part of that is to leverage some of the universities, where having courses and students in on placement to help with certain things is definitely a huge benefit.
I think again, as we all say and it's so true, is the skill set that we have on the island is is huge. Tapping into that and having the effective systems to do that is so critical no matter what your company size is. Before the session ends, there's some guidance about some support that Invest NI have to help people on these journeys as well which is useful and we'll come to that before we finish. Can we just add on to that then, obviously you're a big employer but you're a big spender
here as well. I mean are you taking some of the learning that you have internally and working with your supply chain on those elements? Is there something that in terms of Seagate as a leader here is helping inspire others that are supporting Seagate to do what they do? Yeah, I think again it's being, it's that transparency of the technology that you're using and sharing those with their suppliers. We've worked a lot with our suppliers on the hololens example that we talked about. It has been so effective
when we've worked with some of our vendors that are across the globe. That has made us in partnership with them, challenge the way we've done things historically and when we're in a post-pandemic world again that these, rather than having to have people you know jump on a plane and come over here, there's going to be aspects that we're going to be able to do remotely with the benefit of the hololens technology. Just a final question for me Fergus, what's the future for for Seagate here? Obviously, you've been an enormous contributor to the Northern Ireland economy for a while. You're clearly constantly
in innovation mode and in development mode. What does the future look like in terms of the market that you're in and any other final recommendations for those that might be tuning in? Yeah, well you know again, Seagate's in the business of data storage solutions and when we look at everything that's going on around us, again as we mentioned earlier about the data explosion. Our storage solutions are really the the backbone of what is, what is needed to enable the harnessing of all of this data that's out there. So the future is very strong for us.
Fergus, that's great. I don't have any other Q and A for you which is great, I'm sure you're relieved. I know you're incredibly busy and actually you should be on a a corporate meeting as we speak so the fact that you've taken time out of your day to come and talk to us is very much appreciated Fergus. Congratulations to you and your team, hopefully some of what people have heard this morning, they can take into their own business and begin to see that kind of productivity improvement that we all need, through that driving of digital transformation. Fergus, thanks very much. As I mentioned earlier there are some supports available for businesses, if maybe the slides were available which is great. Thank you Stephen.
Fergus thank you. So this is the first of a series of STEP talks that we're doing. They're meant to be short, sharp introductions. Hopefully as a means to to help inspire others in our manufacturing community to get on that digital journey. Our next one will be on
the 26th of May, again at 2 o'clock and that's with Kieran Kennedy who's the Managing Director of O'Neill's sportswear. If people don't know about O'Neill's they've certainly have heard about them quite a lot over the last year, in terms of their Covid journey, stepping up and supporting the front line in terms of medical scrubs but Kieran really shares some of the challenges that they've had to overcome in their business which is in textiles but it's also in retail and it's also in e-commerce, so I think there's a lot of lessons there for manufacturers in terms of getting direct to the customer. Following Kieran and O'Neill's, we have David Bigger from SAM NI which is a very large aerospace firm. David will share his experience with embedding those digital technologies into their production processes. Then finally
we have Collins Aerospace on the 23rd of June, where Ross Kane from Collins Aerospace who make airplane seats, particularly first and business class seats and they'll talk about the greater efficiencies that they've been able to achieve, both in terms of efficiencies but also improving their quality through the deployment of augmented reality and other assisted operators. Barry can have the next slide please. I mentioned the fact that certainly the vast majority of our businesses out there are small SME manufacturers, the good news is that Invest NI have secured some funding from the Department for the Economy and from the Northern Ireland Executive. There's a new grant, just been launched in the last week if people have not come across it yet. That's a grant to support the process and organisational improvement in your
business. I think from memory it's a grant of between 50 and 200,000 pounds, so it's quite a significant amount of money that will be able to allow you to invest in your business to improve that productivity and that digital transformation. Information is available on the NIbusinessinfo website. I'm sure it's on the Invest NI website as well. Next slide Barry. Then just a couple of other things, so there is a very limited mentoring opportunity. Organsations like Seagate and others have offered to actually work with the rest of our manufacturing community on a mentoring programme. Now we don't want thousands of applications of course because people's times are limited but there is a chance to actually learn on a direct basis from those people who've introduced some of these technologies in their business. If people were interested in that and if you've
been inspired with what Fergus and his colleagues are doing at Seagate as well as other businesses who are taking part in these STEP programmes, if you could email firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com and express your interest in that. Then following on from that as well, if those that are interested in really embarking on that Industry 4.0 journey then Invest NI have again some support. Now it begins with a very useful Industry 4.0 assessment and Fergus mentioned the makers panel that we've established and all the businesses on that makers panel have already undertaken this Industry 4.0. Some of the most complex businesses and some of the
more traditional businesses have started by taking that assessment. What we've discovered so far is that businesses of all size and complexity have actually quite a lot to learn and quite a lot to potentially invest in, in terms of their business. So do embark on that journey but don't embark on that journey alone. Do take part in those 4.0 assessments because they've been found to be incredibly useful so far. Again, if you email firstname.lastname@example.org
that's an opportunity for you to actually hear and get that support that you require. I'd like to thank everybody for joining in. These are intended to be very short, sharp introductions. Hopefully, there's something there that will inspire you. Please do sign up for
the rest of the STEP talks that are taking place over the next number of weeks and hopefully we'll see you in a couple of weeks time with Kieran Kennedy from O'Neills. Thanks very much for joining us.