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.
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.
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.
Customers, whether along the supply chain or the end user, expect higher quality products on faster schedules at competitive costs.
Augmented reality can be used to transform the way work instructions are created, shared, and consumed to help improve manufacturing workforce efficiency.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn how other manufacturing leaders are leveraging augmented reality to improve their businesses.
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.
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.
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.
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.