Augmented Reality in the Manufacturing Organization

The manufacturing industry is undergoing changes, and operations, manufacturing and service pressures facing product companies continue to intensify.

These dynamics contribute to an omnipresent knowledge gap and are forcing manufacturing organizations to improve organizational learning and disseminating best practices:

Increased Product and Operational Complexity

Practically all industrial equipment and machinery manufacturers are compelled to undertake business transformation and product redesign efforts to enhance their product desirability and utility in narrower market segments. They introduce new business models that tightly couple products and services offerings and new and ways of doing business that are foreign to many product companies and challenge the traditional operations, engineering, and supply chain and functions.

Proliferation of Product Variants and Configurations

As product manufacturers are introducing new designs, they create a portfolio consisting of many unique products that are sold in small volumes for narrow markets and in separate geographies. The result: product and market knowledge is accumulated in pockets that are scattered across organizational functions and locations.

Growing Shortage of Skilled Workforce

As the aging workforce is exiting the workplace and younger and less experienced workers are slow to replace them, most of the industrial world is facing a widening gap in the availability of an experienced and qualified workforce.

To be sure, most manufacturing and service organizations, possess enormous amount of manufacturing and operations knowledge. They just don’t use it objectively, consistently and effectively.

Augmented Reality and Organizational Learning

Typical organizational learning and decision-making processes needs to overcome numerous challenges, such as:

  • Synthesizing complex and rich multidisciplinary information
  • Making this information available when and where it is needed
  • Making this information usable for learners and decision makers of different cultures, disciplines, and experience levels

Augmented reality (AR) technology is an effective technology solution to help close the knowledge gap and minimize its impact by organizing and delivering information when and where it is needed. AR technology can be used to annotate an image of a physical objects by superimposing, in real-time, information from documents, databases, and training materials to assist in making key decisions.

Unlike virtual reality, which attempts to alter and replace the physical world, AR adds information to real objects that augments and enhances the real-world experience. For example, the AR annotation layer could highlight a machine part and annotate it with supplier information, inventory level, reliability statistics, and pending design changes.

This approach is well aligned with constructive learning methods with diverse learning types as participants control their own learning and acquire understanding and knowledge that represent the organization’s best approved practices.

Furthermore, AR and simulation offer a safe environment where people can practice their skills without the fear of doing any harm to the physical object. AR takes this concept to a whole new level by creating practice environments in the real world.

Learning, Collaboration and Decision-Making

The manufacturing industry offers numerous opportunities to exploit AR for better dissemination of critical knowledge, both in formal training and in just-in-time situations. It delivers just the right amount of task-specific information.

AR is also about sharing an experience, allowing people to see what you can see at the same time and interacting in the same space. It’s this collaborative quality that could have the most potential when it comes to learning. AR enables us to use data more deeply and has the potential to help us communicate more meaningfully with each other.

Becoming an effective learning organization is a difficult process that involves deep cultural and functional undertakings. But as AR hardware is becoming affordable and accessible, and better capable of delivering diverse types of rich content, product companies should reconsider its role in improving universal access to organizational knowledge. They should evaluate areas where AR technology can be implemented to support learning, collaboration, and decision-making by utilizing the organization’s cumulative experience and best practices.

Want to learn more about AR? Join us in Boston on June 17-20, 2018, at LiveWorx!

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