There is a skills gap in the manufacturing industry that is only increasing over time. Over a quarter of the manufacturing workforce is over the age of 55, and with fewer new recruits, analysts are predicting that by 2025, 2 million skilled manufacturing jobs will go unfilled. In an increasingly complex manufacturing world, rigorous and effective training is more important than ever before.
Augmented reality (AR) is changing the way that new recruits within manufacturing can be trained, helping to close the skills gap.
There a few ways that manufacturers fight the looming skills gap: slowing down the skills drain, maximizing current skills, and refilling the skills reservoir.
With such a large portion of the manufacturing workforce approaching retirement, some manufacturers are trying to delay worker retirement by offering boosted salaries and retirement funds to their most-valued employees. Although helpful in the short-term, it still doesn’t solve the problem, which is why other options need to be pursued simultaneously.
In order to tap into the wealth of skills and knowledge of experienced workers before they leave the workforce, manufacturers are exploring new technology and processes to capture and retain this knowledge so that it can be passed down to newer employees. By doing so, they are aiming to continually refill the skills reservoir.
AR is the merging of the physical and digital world and can be used to overlay a user’s field of vision with useful data about the world around them. Using AR, experts can share their knowledge in real-time with new recruits. Whether talking a new recruit through a new procedure or how to operate a specific tool from anywhere, this approach provides a more immersive learning experience for the recruit. Known as ‘remote assistance’, it allows for new recruits to safely get on the job training from experts and is especially valuable in that it allows knowledge transfer from experts to new recruits on a global scale, regardless of where individuals are based.
In the past, new recruits had to train using textbooks, manuals, and slide decks. Unfortunately, those training methods were not particularly easy to learn from, requiring a great deal of effort and energy to visualize 3D parts from abstract information. AR, however, places much less cognitive strain on new recruits, as they do not have to imagine what machines look like and how they operate, and instead, can see the parts in front of them. New employees can build their skills faster with step-by-step depictions of particular processes, reducing the likelihood of novice errors. AR is also helpful in retraining current and experienced workers on new processes and tools.
On the job training has been revolutionary for many manufacturers. At a time when the industry is facing a serious skills shortage, leading companies such as BAE Systems have found great success with AR. Utilizing PTC’s Vuforia studio, they reported a 10 times reduction in the cost of training, a 30% more effective training program, and a 50% reduction in battery assembly time.