On-the-job training is a popular choice for manufacturers. It doesn’t require a significant outlay, and employees can be at least partially productive from day one. But it’s not without its drawbacks. It’s disruptive to other employees, and in busy plants, there’s a real risk of incomplete training–not ideal especially when coupled with complex machinery and potentially expensive materials. With technology revolutionizing manufacturing and production techniques, it’s not surprising that manufacturers are also looking to Industry 4.0 solutions like augmented reality (AR) to maximize on-the-job training advantages.
On-the-job training–essentially any training employees receive while they’re in the workplace–can include coaching, being involved in special projects for development, work shadowing and demos. It’s an obvious choice for industrial organizations, lending itself to manual roles. Employees learn as they go along, and–depending on the complexity of the task–can be productive almost immediately.
With no need for specialist trainers, equipment, or facilities, on-the-job training also doesn’t require any up-front financial layout. In today’s challenging marketplace, that can make it particularly attractive to smaller and medium-sized manufacturers. But it can also be a distraction to other staff. The flip side to employees learning alongside colleagues is that it has the potential to disrupt production, particularly if the most experienced employees are tasked with looking after novices.
The completeness of training also depends on the ability and engagement of the trainer, and the amount of time they have available. For manufacturers with complex, costly machinery, and materials, incomplete training poses a real risk, with the potential to increase accidents and errors. The worst-case scenario is that on-the-job training ends up costing significantly more than outsourced training because productivity drops and errors increase.
Augmented reality is an immersive learning experience which mixes the real world with interactive digital content. It is increasingly being used as an alternative delivery format for the traditional training curriculum—and it can be used to enhance both classroom-based training and on-the-job learning.
Users interact with on-screen ‘virtual objects’ which are overlaid onto a live camera of the physical world to help understand how those objects would look or operate in real life. It puts learning materials into context and has been proven to make training more engaging and effective.
The reason so many industrial organizations are turning to augmented reality-based training is that it allows them to maximize on-the-job training advantages without the disruption to other employees. Training can also be made safer—simulated situations mean trainees can practice real-life skills in the classroom, and once they hit the factory floor, they benefit from additional contextual information. AR also allows training to be made safer. The situations employees will find themselves in can be replicated to fully prepare them for when they arrive on the factory floor. And as newly-trained employees, they can benefit from additional contextual information and step-by-step visual instructions.
Augmented reality guarantees a consistent training experience for all employees and means manufacturers can monitor how effectively employees are picking up new skills. There’s no risk of incomplete training if on-the-job trainers are distracted or busy, and reduces the chance of new employees picking up bad habits.
Modern industrial machinery and techniques mean that for most manufacturers, training is an ongoing task. Traditional work instructions and printed guidance can become out-of-date quickly and are time consuming for employees to keep up with. Stopping and starting work to refer to manuals can seriously impact productivity and production schedules.
Augmenting instructions with real-world visual context makes keeping up-to-date much easier. AR headsets allow employees to follow visual instructions while they carry out tasks, providing a more efficient method of upskilling on-the-job. Visual overlay, step-by-step instructions, and remote expertise where it’s needed all make complex machinery and workflows simpler to understand.
AR-based training means employees hit the factory floor having perfected the tasks they’ll be doing in real life. Learners retain significantly more information than they would through traditional training formats–up to 300% more–and a consistent standard of training is guaranteed. AR reduces the time to train and makes training more effective, creating factories that are more productive as well as safer while cutting the cost of training. AR can replace the role of the on-the-job mentor, or make mentors more easily accessible via on-demand remote assistance. With no disruption to other employees or expensive impact on productivity, it delivers all the on-the-job training advantages without any of the downsides.