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 increasingly complex manufacturing technologies, industrial safety continues to be a concern for manufacturing companies.
Augmented reality (AR) provides a way for manufacturing employees to engage with technology and machines in ways that are not only more efficient and effective, but also 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. Work-related injuries can cause ripple effects throughout an organization, starting with the employee. From a business perspective, it 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 negatively impact the bottom line. Providing a safe working environment is the responsibility of an organization and every employee and emerging ways to enable a safer workplace, like augmented reality, are being embraced.
Augmented reality is the merging of the digital and physical worlds -- it overlays information onto your field of view. AR can be used to provide 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 a decrease of 30 to 50 percent 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 AR’s demonstrably-improved training, 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 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 and makes it easier for an employee to visualize the task at hand.
AR can be used to alert an employee to potential dangers. In the past, a worker would have to rely on his or her own understanding when a safety threshold had 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 when a procedural step could be unsafe. These real-time alerts have the potential to transform manufacturing workplace safety.
With 22 to 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce approaching retirement age, 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 or complex procedures. Technologies like Vuforia Chalk allow workers to speak directly 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 you can make your manufacturing plant safer with PTC’s augmented reality eBook.