Augmented Reality for Manufacturing

Leverage industrial AR to improve workforce efficiency, reduce operational costs, and combat the effects of the growing skills gap.


Manufacturers operate in a competitive, complex, and global market in which traditional paper-based work instructions can’t keep up. To alleviate the impact of a growing skills gap and worker shortage, organizations are turning to solutions like augmented reality. Whether used during quality inspection, assembly, or machine maintenance, frontline workers can leverage AR for in-context instructions or remote assistance to help improve workforce efficiency.

State of augmented reality in manufacturing

Manufacturing is a fast-growing sector within the exploding general augmented reality market. By some estimates, augmented reality manufacturing software alone will be worth over $700 million by 2026, with a rapidly growing market for enterprise-grade AR hardware. Some AR hardware manufacturers are already catering exclusively to heavy industry, further increasing workforce efficiency.

The State of AR

Challenges in manufacturing

Increased product and process complexity

As technology advances, the products produced, and the machines used to make them become more complex. This results in a greater need for expertise that puts pressure on frontline workers to learn new skills quickly.

Growing skills gap

As experienced workers retire, mid-career employees move on, and new hires become harder to come by, many companies are struggling to transfer expert knowledge to keep operations up and running.

Evolving customer demands

Customers, whether along the supply chain or the end user, expect higher quality products on faster schedules at competitive costs.

Benefits of AR in manufacturing

Augmented reality can be used to transform the way work instructions are created, shared, and consumed to help improve manufacturing workforce efficiency.

Augmented reality can be used to transform the way work instructions are created, shared, and consumed to help improve manufacturing workforce efficiency.

Increase access to critical information

Augmented reality makes it easier for workers to access information when and where they need it. This improves the onboarding process for new team members and helps experienced team members navigate new products and processes.

Enhance safety and efficiency

Augmented reality solutions that replace physical guides and references make navigating tasks easier and safer. In cases that utilize a head-worn device, many tasks can be done completely hands-free while maintaining complete situational awareness.

Leverage advanced integrations

Existing data within CAD, PLM, and IoT solutions can be leveraged within a digital thread to speed up the creation of AR work instructions and provide context. This data can also be used alongside remote collaboration tools and enterprise software.

Accelerate on-boarding

Augmented reality can offer new hires in-context instructions authored by a company’s expert in the form of a digital mentor. This can decrease the time needed to train employees and let your seasoned experts focus on their own jobs.

Improve operational processes

AR solutions can do more than just provide information—they can capture it as well. Companies can easily analyze the critical data and insights gathered at the front line to identify patterns and opportunities for improvement.

Reduce waste and material costs

The clarity of AR instructions prevents errors when assembling, inspecting, and maintaining products and machines, reducing scrap and rework. AR remote support solutions enable experts to be available anywhere they’re needed, cutting travel costs.

How is augmented reality used in manufacturing?

Work instructions

AR work instructions help workers to navigate complex processes and products safely and efficiently in easy-to-understand visual workflows.

Vuforia Work Instructions

Training and upskilling

Realistic AR models and instructions can help familiarize new workers with products and processes, or help experienced workers adapt to updated tasks and new roles.

Read the E-book

Quality control and inspection

AI-enhanced visual inspection paired with clear AR guidance helps reduce human error and improve product quality. AR Quality Control

Remote assistance and collaboration

Watch a video call with your eyes on the job, share your viewpoint, and draw on someone else’s field of view with AR remote assistance tools. Vuforia Chalk

Maintenance and repair

AR solutions can enable your internal teams to maintain and repair critical machines more effectively, improving uptime and resolving issues faster.

Customer support and self-service

Customers can use tools like those used by service and inspection technicians, reducing the need for costly field service.

Case studies

Learn how other manufacturing leaders are leveraging augmented reality to improve their businesses.

magna logo
howden logo
henkel logo

Magna International

Nascote Industries, a division of Magna, utilized Vuforia Expert Capture AR work instructions to train new hires, improve productivity, and refine inspections. Read Their Story

Howden

Howden leveraged Vuforia Studio to help scale product expertise to global, internal teams and improve the training of new hires. Read Their Story

Henkel

Henkel embraced AR remote assistance with Vuforia Chalk to support their production teams and reduce the need for travel between dozens of facilities. Read Their Story

Augmented reality in manufacturing: Frequently asked questions

What are the steps for implementing AR in an existing manufacturing business?

  1. Identify an opportunity: Experimenting with AR is great, but using AR to solve a problem with a specific use case in mind will offer much more value to an organization.
  2. Talk to your team: Any AR solution that you employ will best serve your company if your company and its end users are involved in its adoption from the earliest stages.
  3. Identify KPIs: Understanding what you want from an AR solution early will help you track the success of your deployment and where there may be opportunities for improvement.
  4. Identify a solution provider: Talk to companies that provide or build industrial AR solutions, let them know your needs, and what you want from the solution.
  5. Implement the solution: Work with members of your organization and the solution provider to introduce augmented reality to your workforce. Have a plan in place for hardware, software, and user support.
  6. Monitor: Continually reference the KPIs you identified earlier to ensure the solution is providing the intended value.

What are types of augmented reality in manufacturing?

  • Tablet / Smartphone AR: Most AR solutions work on handheld tablets or smartphones that are affordable, accessible, and familiar to your workforce. In many cases, employees already have a tablet they use for their job. Depending on the use case within your company, tablet AR technology may be sufficient – or even preferable to wearable solutions. Consider the tasks that the technology will help with, and the environments in which it will be used.
  • Wearables: Some AR solutions only work, or work best, on a head-worn device. Even those solutions that work on tablets or phones might provide a better experience when used with an AR headset or smart glasses. While wearable devices can come with a steeper price and adoption time, their intuitive displays and hands-free designs make them the ideal tool for some jobs. Many hardware providers specially craft their devices and accessories to meet safety requirements for rugged work environments.

Is AR safe to use in the workplace?

Because AR overlays digital elements over the user's natural field of view, employees never have to look away from the job they're performing, allowing them to maintain situational awareness. AR can also be used to improve safety, with clear digital warnings overlaid on machines to help inform workers of dangerous parts or tasks.

Consider a situation where a service technician is troubleshooting a problem using a tablet-based AR application instead of physical instructions and illustrations. Instead of looking back and forth from the system to the guide, the engineer can look through the AR feed to see the digital information and the physical system at the same time.

If that same engineer is doing the same job with a wearable AR solution, he or she can access the same information in a hands-free format, with all input in the form of voice control.

Wearable AR devices can even be incorporated into personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats and safety glasses.

Can AR connect to other enterprise solutions?

That depends on the AR software used, the existing business systems, and how those systems are structured.

In a connected workplace, AR software, like Vuforia Studio, can connect to IIoT devices to display real-time performance data, inventory numbers and delivery updates, material safety data sheets, campus navigation aids, and more. Vuforia Studio can also leverage existing CAD or PLM data to help accelerate the creation of AR experiences, or enrich those experiences with the most updated, relevant information for the worker.

Can augmented reality and artificial intelligence work together?

Technically, every AR solution is powered by AI that specializes in visual tasks such as image, object, or environment recognition. This is also known as computer vision.

As AI and machine learning advance, there is a growing desire to integrate AR with industrial AI tools that do things like help engineers troubleshoot problems, search for defects during visual inspections, and even automatically file reports. Vuforia Expert Capture offers Step Check, an AI-enhanced visual inspection tool that can quickly determine if a part passes or fails inspection and will alert a worker with clear AR visuals.

AR also promises to make AI and other big data applications more accessible to the average worker, providing them with more intuitive interfaces and graphical layouts.

Is AR expensive to implement?

The initial cost of an AR deployment depends heavily on the AR technology being implemented, the devices required, and the use case.

Beyond the initial cost of the software, data from your existing systems like CAD, PLM, and IoT can be used to create and enhance content. If you decide to implement AR-as-a-service, then there is no need for physical databases or software management.

Hardware costs are highly flexible, as most AR solutions run on hardware that businesses already have in use like tablets and even smartphones. While some solutions will require a head-worn device, these applications can be gradually rolled out through a company as it scales its AR adoption strategy.

Some companies go all-in from the start, while others take a more gradual approach to investing in AR, building up their hardware and software investments over time.