Manufacturing plants are full of moving parts. The combination of fast-moving machinery, equipment and vehicles mean that manufacturing plants can be dangerous places. Although most manufacturing plants have strict safety regulations, mistakes still happen. With an aging workforce and increasingly complex manufacturing technologies, industrial safety is a growing concern for manufacturing companies. Fortunately, augmented reality is transforming the way that manufacturing employees engage with technology, and not only helping make the industrial workplace more efficient and effective, but also much safer.
The International Labour Organization reports that over 313 million on-the-job accidents occur a year, which costs the global economy an estimated $3 trillion dollars a year. The combination of an ever-aging workforce, a looming skills gap and an increasingly complex manufacturing line mean that industrial safety is more important than ever.
Work-related injuries can halt production, delay cycle times and prevent manufacturers from being able to meet production demands. On top of the human cost, injuries at work can be incredibly expensive. Lawsuits and health insurance can potentially cripple manufacturing businesses. This is why manufacturers are increasingly turning to augmented reality to improve industrial safety and boost productivity.
Augmented reality is the merging of the digital and physical world, adding to the world you experience, instead of replacing it. Augmented reality has the potential to bring a new level of clarity to workers. AR can be used to provide more in-depth training, thorough onboarding procedures, real-time instruction from experts, and instant hazard warnings to workers on the ground.
AR has been shown to be tremendously effective in ramping up the learning curve for new employees in manufacturing plants. This makes them much less likely to make potentially dangerous mistakes. In fact, manufacturers who are using PTC’s Augmented Reality training for new employees are reporting an increase of 30 - 50% in onboarding time for new employees.
AR also helps improve training quality. Studies have shown that training through Augmented Reality helps workers to retain more knowledge. With augmented reality, demonstrably improved training means workers are less likely to make critical mistakes on the floor.
Traditional operation manuals are hard to decipher and learn from. Operators, assemblers, and technicians need to be aware of certain safety risks when working on certain types of machinery. 3D work instructions can help workers to prevent a malfunction occurring in the first place by giving them a better understanding of the parts they are working on.
Through AR, you can map 3D work instructions over a worker’s field of vision. This gives a more immersive illustration of a part, making it easier for the employee to visualize how it would malfunction. A better understanding can be the difference between a calamity occurring, or not.
AR not only makes a malfunction less likely in the first place but can alert an employee to potential dangers much faster. In the past, a worker would have to rely on his or her own understanding when a safety threshold has been surpassed, leading to potential human error. AR headsets can be connected to the vast network of information provided by machines. This information can be relayed through the augmented reality headsets to trigger real-time alerts that will tell a worker when a procedural step could be unsafe. These real-time alerts have the potential to transform the safety of manufacturing workplace safety.
With 22% to 25% of the manufacturing workforce approaching retirement, the skills gap is widening. This loss of experience presents a unique safety risk to the manufacturing industry. In the same way that employees need to have hands-on training and safety alerts, they also need to be able to speak to experts when carrying out unfamiliar, complex procedures. Technologies like Vuforia Chalk allows workers to have a direct call with experienced, tenured workers when they are about to perform a potentially dangerous task. Having a remote expert on hand is the lifeline that workers need in today’s evolving manufacturing world.
Find out how augmented reality can make your manufacturing plant safer with PTC’s Augmented Reality eBook.