Falmouth-based Watson-Marlow has signed a new AR deal with PTC

One of the world’s leading manufacturers of peristaltic pumps and associated fluid path technologies is accelerating its digital transformation by signing a major new deal with PTC®.

Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG), which has multiple sites in the UK and more than 1700 employees globally, has invested in Augmented Reality (AR) technology to combat the restraints of the pandemic and bring its business forward.

The company selected the Vuforia® Expert Capture, Vuforia Studio and Vuforia Chalk solutions to achieve several goals set to ensure operations continue seamlessly.

This technology will primarily be used to support the transfer of production and assembly skills to help drive the opening of new manufacturing facilities within the group, as well as provide remote technical support and enable a virtual approach to sales and marketing.

The firm finds itself juggling a softening of its industrial activity with increased demand from the healthcare industry, including exciting contracts to supply specialist pumps for use in feeding the fermentation tanks used to produce potential COVID-19 vaccines. At the same time, management must develop a whole new way of marketing and selling its products.

Martin Johnston, Strategic Business Development Director at Watson-Marlow, explained:

“We have been working with PTC for more than five years now, globally through its product lifecycle management tool Windchill and, in the UK, through Creo, a suite of computer aided design apps.

“The pandemic has changed the way every manufacturing business operates and, in my opinion, has accelerated our need for digital transformation by two to three years. AR is something we had discussed, but it wasn’t until the pandemic struck that we decided to press the button quicker and engage with PTC to explore how to do it.”

He continued: “Skills transfer was our immediate priority and we needed to find a solution that would allow us to take the expertise of our engineers and replicate it at new manufacturing locations without having staff on site.

“Vuforia Expert Capture will enable us to record the processes of an established production line, edit it in the cloud, and then, via wearable tech such as Microsoft HoloLens glasses, impart all of this knowledge through a step-by-step guide for new engineers.

“The benefits will be huge if we can get this right. Speed of set-up will be dramatically improved, we will see significant cost reductions as staff aren’t travelling and we will gain the ability to train employees to perform out-of-core roles for a period of time – all whilst eliminating the risk of spreading the virus among our employees.”

In addition to replicating production lines, Watson-Marlow is also keen to retain the skills of its older staff for the next generation of graduates and apprentices coming through the ranks.

It is expected that PTC’s technology could also be used to produce permanent training manuals that come to life via wearable tech.

Vuforia Chalk will be in place to aid in remote service and maintenance. Using this simple app with a handheld device ensures repairs and service can continue without endangering the health of experts by bringing them onsite.

David Grammer, General Manager for UKI at PTC, added his thoughts: “Industry has had to quickly find new ways to deliver services and AR can be a real game changer when applied in the correct way.

“Watson-Marlow approached us with a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish, and our experts developed an integration plan that will see Vuforia Expert Capture, Vuforia Studio and Vuforia Chalk play an important role in its UK and overseas businesses.

“I have every confidence the firm’s digital transformation plan will deliver a host of operational, cost and safety benefits.”

Martin concluded: “Sales and marketing will be the final focus. In normal times, we would be attending over 100 exhibitions all over the world every year, but this has now been reduced to just a handful, which means we need to find a new way of talking to potential customers.

“This could be through webinars, virtual shows, or even demonstrating our product capability by playing it out in real time through AR. Vuforia Studio will support us with endless opportunities.”

PTC, which has bases in the UK and Ireland, provides a host of technology solutions to help industrial companies create value for themselves and the rest of the world.

This is achieved through a combination of Augmented Reality, Industrial IoT, Product Lifecycle Management and CAD solutions.