As the manufacturing process becomes more complex, it’s more important than ever to make sure that employees can be trained as quickly and effectively as possible. The manufacturing industry also faces a looming skills gap as older, retired workers are approaching retirement, and are threatening to bring their hard-won knowledge with them. Augmented reality (AR) is proving to be a game-changer for on the job training that will help to overcome these challenges.
Augmented reality is the merging of the physical and the digital world. It can be used to overlay the user’s field of vision with digital information. Augmented reality, or AR, should not be confused with virtual reality (VR). Augmented reality relies on mixing digital information with reality, whereas VR creates an immersive, digital reality of its own. Augmented reality is more suited to on-the-job training, as it allows employees to interact with their real work environment.
On-the-job training is critical for workers in the manufacturing and service industries. Theoretical learning can only stretch so far; your employees need to have hands-on experience in order to complete their tasks competently and efficiently.
It is notoriously difficult to translate information gained from manuals and textbooks into practice. It is much easier to retain information if you’re able to practice first-hand. In order to keep your costs low, it is important that you are able to onboard your employees as quickly as possible. It is also important that your employees are trained in a uniform, standardized way. This ensures that your staff does not fall in dangerous or inefficient practices.
Effective on-the-job training can also ensure that your employees meet all the relevant safety standards. This will mean that your employees are kept safe. It will also minimize the amount of injuries you have, boosting employee well-being. A standardized safety training procedure will also make sure that you don’t violate any OSHA violations.
AR can be used to deliver effective training in a number of ways. A world of new training opportunity is opened up when you can remotely annotate your employee’s field of vision.
Analysts predict that by 2025, 2 million skilled manufacturing jobs will go unfilled. This is because of the looming skills gap. With an aging workforce, you need to make sure that your hard-won knowledge and experience are being distributed throughout your organization. That is why remote assistance is essential in today’s manufacturing workplace.
Remote assistance allows your onsite employees to contact more experienced remote workers. More experienced employee can use AR headsets to annotate the younger employee’s field of vision with notes and diagrams to help them understand a process or part. Remote assistance can be thought of as a form of industrial videochat, enabling industry knowledge to be spread across the globe. This reduces the need for expensive and timely service callouts and can help new employees to receive hands-on training without the need for an expert to be on-site. Through remote assistance training, your most experienced employees can share their experience from anywhere in the world.
Through the use of digital work instructions, employees can gain unprecedented training materials that are superior to the manuals and presentations of the past. For example, through the use of an AR headset, an employee can look at a piece of machinery and visualize the movements and parts behind opaque context. This is so important because it helps a new employee to understand the full operation of a part or process. For example, an employee would be able to visualize how to replace or repair a spindle in an operating machine. This is a novel way of providing hands-on experience to new employees. By augmenting reality in this way, an employee is much more likely to retain the information he or she has learned.
Augmented reality can be used for training your staff on safety protocol. AR can be used to train new recruits to identify and spot potential hazards in the workplace. By allowing employees to effectively visualize and understand risk in the workplace, you can ensure your workplace injuries are low, and your unplanned machine outages are way down.
Augmented reality has presented the manufacturing industry with a whole new way of training employees on-the-job. By harnessing the power of this emerging technology, you can make sure your employees are ready for the manufacturing industry in the 21st century.
Leah Gourley is a Digital Content Marketing Specialist based out of PTC's Boston office. She enjoys creating and sharing content surrounding the latest technologies that are transforming industries, including augmented reality and the industrial internet of things.