Most causes for manufacturing scrap can be traced to human error, with inexperienced or unprepared employees being the most likely to make costly missteps. As skilled senior employees retire from the workforce, these types of novice errors are becoming more acute. Compounding this challenge is a shift toward producing highly-customized and personalized products—often requiring variations in setup, production, and assembly. As manufacturing operations continue the trend of globalization, the potential negative impact of insufficient, outdated, and non-localized instructions is also increasing.
In the face of these challenges, manufacturers are increasingly turning to industrial augmented reality (AR) to train and guide workers more effectively, and to reduce the potential and scope for human error.
There are three different applications of industrial AR that can affect scrap reduction in manufacturing. AR work instructions, AR expert guidance, and AR remote assistance are all valuable solutions to consider when implementing an AR-based scrap reduction program.
Work instructions have historically been distributed on paper. That leaves considerable space for misinterpretation, misplacement, or having an out-of-date version on hand—all sure paths to scrap. There’s also the considerable cost to localize and ship updates out to global manufacturing facilities.
Fortunately, AR work instructions provide an effective alternative, using smartphones, tablets, or AR headwear in place of printed instructions. The devices use AR to target physical assets and overlay step-by-step digital instructions and information. Precise and spatially aware, industrial AR solutions like PTC’s Vuforia use intelligent object targeting to place instructions exactly where the user needs them to work. Vuforia Studio uses CAD and 3D renderings to visually instruct the employee. Robust industrial AR solutions store and manage these experiences centrally; which means they are easy to update, localize, and publish, ensuring that users will always have the most up-to-date version.
It is also possible to use IIoT data to further augment a user’s view of assets with real-time production data, or to visually perceive a hidden problem that resides inside of physical enclosures or is otherwise out of view.
If your skilled veterans are in short supply, one option for leveraging their expertise is through training and one-on-one guidance. This solution does have drawbacks, however. It may result in promoting the veteran to the role of trainer; the expert may not find this fulfilling, and reduces their ability to contribute as active, skilled experts out on the floor. Furthermore, direct one-on-one support is not the most scalable, efficient approach.
Consider instead AR-based expert guidance like Vuforia Expert Capture. In this solution, experts use AR-headwear to record a first-person perspective of tasks being correctly executed. That footage, complete with video, narration, and annotation can used to create step-by-step training and guidance experiences. This resource can be experienced on-demand by a limitless number of users. In this way, a seasoned veteran, with little effort, can make a tremendous impact on the competency, efficiency, and safety of less-experienced employees, enabling significant manufacturing scrap reduction costs.
When adverse situations occur, expert technicians aren’t always immediately available. Without expert attention, these conditions can result in accidents, downtime, or scrap. AR remote assistance solutions, like Vuforia Chalk, can enable an expert to assist a local technician—whether that expert is on the opposite side of a factory floor, or in another country.
AR remote assistance enables the remote expert to share a worker’s view to first troubleshoot, and then talk them through the fix. In these solutions, the remote expert and local technician use a smartphone or tablet to combine video chat with AR annotation capabilities. This class of industrial AR solutions allows experts to provide their skills to assist newer technicians in preventing issues or resolving them faster. This type of prevention is easy to implement, with a small technology footprint, while making a significant impact on manufacturing scrap reduction.
Introducing new technology to your business can be a huge undertaking, and many IT and business executives fear a drain on short-term resources. These reservations can cloud the clear longer-term benefits associated with manufacturing scrap reduction. One of the advantages of AR is that it is much easier to implement that other technology solutions, and almost never requires changes to existing physical, IT, or OT systems.
AR also is less disruptive on your employees. Because these solutions are designed to promote efficiency in the execution of setup, operation, and maintenance, the focus isn’t on changing behavior. Instead, AR provides an engaging, immersive, and (most importantly) effective way to assist workers—both in their initial training, and in the ongoing guidance of tasks. It’s a resource-light approach for implementing a scrap reduction program, by focusing on optimizing employee skills, that can have a dramatic impact on reducing scrap and waste, and preventing rework.
Here are some tips for ensuring an AR approach to implementing a scrap reduction program.
Rather than attempting to roll AR workforce optimization across the organization, pick a small pilot. This may be setup instructions for a specific part of a production line. This simplifies the pilot and maximizes the odds of success in a number of ways. The project is simpler to plan and roll out, easier to develop and measure success KPIs, depends on few participants, and creates a low-risk environment for demonstrating effectiveness and value.
CAD files, work instructions, and video training materials represent untapped content that can be repurposed by manufacturers as rich content for AR experiences. Market-leading AR solutions, provide intuitive document authoring and easy import of this data. The ability to easily import existing digital assets has helped countless manufacturers substantially reduce their document authoring time—by up to 40%.
AR experiences are only as effective as the content they convey. Enlist your most experienced and skilled workers to author and review content; and to provide augmented remote assistance. Use novices as test beds to gauge and compare your pilot experiences against traditional methods. Building a library of AR assets in this way is also a tremendous way of consolidating, retaining, and passing on knowledge from workers about to retire.
These AR examples are just the tip of the manufacturing scrap reduction iceberg. Another advantage of AR is that it’s often as easy to scale as it is to pilot. To find out more about how market leaders are already using industrial AR to save millions on manufacturing scrap and rework, download our eBook, Reducing Scrap and Rework with Augmented Reality.
As a Content Strategy Manager, I thrive on engaging technology stories. There's no shortage of these stories at PTC; we're helping entire industries use the IoT and AR to transform their business.