Gone are the days of translating complex textbook diagrams into practice. Augmented reality (AR) is changing the way that manufacturers can prepare their workforce for the future. As the manufacturing world becomes more complex, your employee training and development program will have to adapt to remain competitive and AR is the tool for the job.
First off, what is AR? In simplest terms, augmented reality is the experience of having digital data overlaid onto the real world. In the context of manufacturing, an AR headset (or mobile device) can be used by an employee when inspecting a machine. The AR headset could be connected to the sensors attached to your plant. This means that real-time data, such as lubrication levels, the heat of surfaces, and spindle speeds can be displayed to the user.
Employees can also share their field of vision with a remote expert, who would be able to talk them through a complex maintenance check or fix. The remote expert can annotate the user’s field of vision and verbally explain the parts and processes occurring in front of them. This capability is changing the way new workers are onboarded and how existing employees are being upskilled.
AR is proving to be a vital resource for your new and existing employees. Here are some of the key ways AR is revolutionizing training processes.
Using digital work instructions, you can ensure that all of your employees are getting trained in exactly the same way. Digital work instructions can illustrate how and why certain processes are performed in a vivid, easy-to-interpret way. In the past, different workers may teach varying techniques and workflows. These differences can compound across an organization to create inconsistency and ultimately, inefficiency. If a process changes or a new manufacturing line is introduced, 3D work instructions can be instantly updated from the cloud, meaning you don’t have to reorder work manuals. Consistent, up-to-date work instructions ensure that the whole organization is on the same page.
As experienced manufacturing professionals start to approach retirement, it is critical that your organization has onboarding processes that seamlessly incorporate new team members. By boasting these technologies, you can help to attract new talent and retain the younger generation of workers. More importantly, training using AR has been shown to help employees retain more information, meaning they’ll be less likely to make costly and dangerous mistakes as they become acclimated to their job.
With technology constantly evolving, you will have to constantly upskill your existing employees. The drive towards mass customization is leading production lines to be more complex. You need a quick and reliable way to keep up and train your existing workers with the necessary new skills. AR can provide a safe and interactive context for your employees to experiment with new production line procedures. As production line procedures become more complex, a training method that delivers higher knowledge retention rates is required.
The manufacturing industry faces a looming skills gap. The average manufacturing age is 55. As workers retire, they may take their hard-won industry knowledge with them. With remote assistance enabled by AR, your more experienced workers can guide and train the younger generation. For example, Vuforia Chalk enables an industrialized video-chat, whereby an expert can annotate and explain the features within an employee’s field of view. AR also allows experienced workers to record their work procedures with location-specific 3D information. This means centralized experts can spread their knowledge far and wide before they retire.
Training isn’t solely applicable to new employees; upskilling your current workforce is a competitive necessity that improves employee retention and efficiency. AR is a tool that's revolutionizing employee training programs and the way employees learn.