When most people think about virtual or augmented reality, they picture interactive video games and entertainment in general. However, the truth is that VR and AR are finding an application across many different industries, including manufacturing.
It turns out that AR has a wide area of application in the manufacturing industry, as it's able to improve various processes, especially product design.
However, it's also used to help guide engineers through maintenance routines or provide employees with contextual information such as documents, pictures, and even 3D visualization. Let's see how AR helps improve manufacturing in more detail.
The Role of AR in Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry was always among the first ones to adopt new technologies. With Industry 4.0 at our door, every manufacturing business today is at the forefront of adopting digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, Digital Twins, and others to improve productivity and reduce costs in production.
It shouldn't surprise that AR is quickly finding a widespread application across many manufacturing practices. For example, construction crews use AR to identify hazardous working conditions and visualize built structures.
Operators who need extra instructions and access to operational data such as machinery temperature, etc. AR and VR devices are becoming more popular by the day, and their use will soon find an application in most industries everywhere.
The bottom line is that AR is an exciting technology that can be leveraged in the manufacturing industry. So let's see in which ways AR is used in the manufacturing business, and explore some more about the technology's potential.
One of the first uses of AR in the manufacturing industry was providing employees with extra training. Considering the high impact of automation on employee training, manufacturing businesses began using AR to train employees to use the equipment properly and simulate procedures and protocols.
It turned out that this approach has a positive effect on overall workplace safety, and the interactive training sessions showed better results than traditional methods.
However, AR can also provide employees with detailed manuals, additional resources, documentation, step-by-step guides, and other essential information. Moreover, some companies use it for technical training without risking expensive machines. Augmented reality training allows employees to develop their skills and improve over time, but it can also help them navigate the shop floor and find all physical assets immediately.
Maintenance is an essential part of manufacturing. However, it can be tough to perform, especially if the maintenance crew is not that experienced.
AR can help streamline maintenance by providing technicians with a detailed instructional manual while performing the repairs, thus ensuring proper maintenance optimization in production.
For example, until recently, technicians had to look at their laptops while repairing components, which resulted in more errors and other issues down the road.
Moreover, when connected to a smartphone app, the technician can load repair instructions as they go, ensuring that all repairs are completed without errors.
They can also access all essential information about the device they are working on, including the date of the last service, operation times, potential problems, etc.
As a result, engineers and technicians can complete maintenance much faster, reducing downtime and saving companies a lot of money. It simply takes all of the guesswork out of the process.
Product design is traditionally a very lengthy and complicated process. The slightest mistake can result in catastrophic failure and increased amounts of defects and waste. Traditionally, product design involves multiple parties that revise the design numerous times until the final product is chosen. When AR is applied to this area, it helps reduce product design time by improving communication between departments.
For example, manufacturing business directors and executives can follow the entire product design process in real-time. That allows them to provide feedback instantly to speed up the process. For example, let's say that your company makes custom steel staircases. AR glasses can help speed up the process by allowing your salesperson to measure the stairs and send the instructions to the production plant in real-time.
The manufacturing team can start working on the project immediately, and customers can see the end product before the production begins. The approach can speed up product design and delivery by four times.
As products become more complex, manufacturers have to assemble them before reaching the consumers. Many products are assembled using thousands of different parts. This makes logistics and assembly very complicated. AR can help make things simpler by providing technicians with detailed assembly instructions for them to follow.
For example, Boing technicians have to assemble over 130 miles of wiring for a single 747-8 freighter. They use AR glasses to ensure that the assembly is performed correctly, and they can use voice commands to locate parts at any time.
As a result, the company reduced the assembly time by 25% and decreased the number of errors to almost zero. The same approach can be applied to any manufacturing business, delivering the same benefits.
Expert Customer Support
AR offers many more applications than simply providing on-screen instructions for machine assembly. It can also improve existing customer service efforts and increase customer satisfaction. For example, manufacturers can create AR apps for their customers to understand better how a product looks and behaves.
A customer can download the app and use the AR feature to explore the visual aspect of the product and see how it will look once it arrives. Live service agents can also use AR to identify product issues remotely. These are just some areas where AR can help improve the overall customer experience.
Logistics and product shipping can be a massive hassle for an international manufacturing business. Some product parts are made across factories located in different countries worldwide. Keeping track of many parts, factories, and physical assets can be complicated and time-consuming.
Even if it's only ordered management, employees working in the warehouse have to check every order, locate the products in stock, scan them, provide reports, deliver them to the loading docks, and sign the order.
As you can imagine, there's plenty of room for error and other problems that reduce efficiency and lead to longer shipping times. AR can help streamline the entire logistics process by allowing managers to track every product in real-time.
Moreover, they can access all product information and ensure that it gets packaged and shipped much sooner.
AR technology is still in its early stages. However, it will keep improving and finding new applications in the near future. The most prominent manufacturers in the world are already investing billions into AR development, so we expect to see more new and exciting applications for it in the future.
If you own a manufacturing business and want to create an immersive experience for your employees, AR technology is worth checking out.