The assembly line is often cited as a major innovation in the history of manufacturing. And with good reason. It revolutionized the process of creating goods by improving efficiency by orders of magnitude. Henry Ford famously said the integration of the assembly line into Model T manufacturing reduced the time of making one car from 12 hours down to 1½ hours. This trend continued with the introduction of robotics into the assembly line to perform highly repetitive tasks. Even today, Ford is improving more with the use of artificial intelligence to boost robot ability.
All the changes over the years have the same ultimate goal: increase output. With all the talk around automation, it’s easy to forget there are other ways to improve productivity. In this post, we will look at ways augmented reality (AR) is being used to the benefit of manufacturers.
The first place AR is being used isn’t even on the floor itself; it’s in training. When an employee or service professional needs training, the frequent starting point is printed material. This is especially true when training for dangerous or complex tasks. You don’t want a trainee jumping straight into a situation where they could be injured. Augmented reality provides you with entirely virtual setups. With AR, trainees can try putting their training into practice on virtual life-size equipment.
This type of training can also occur in virtual reality. VR grants you much more customization of the experience. In VR, you also have control over the environment and surroundings in which the training occurs. This is especially useful for situations where a trainee must perform a task while also reacting to changing conditions around them.
Augmented reality and virtual reality training fall under “learn-by-doing” education. Studies have shown this type, including AR and VR, to have much better retention than other teaching methods. The retention rate is as high as 75% compared to only 10% for reading material. And because the training is virtual, the increased retention is achieved without the dangers or expenses associated with live training.
Training and education are necessary for individuals to succeed, but they can not continue forever. At some point, people need to begin the actual work. Augmented reality can assist here as well. AR headsets and tablets are capable of providing information overlays directly on top of your equipment. This offers several benefits over written material.
By providing information spatially, workers can focus on performing the task at hand instead of translating from written material. How many times do people go back and forth from a book to a piece of equipment? With AR, you can take that same information and put it directly on top of the equipment. Infrequently performed tasks will greatly benefit from the integration of a manual. Each step of a process can have its own overlay with relevant information. Instead of flipping through pages of a manual, a worker can look at something to get information about it.
Everybody working on an assembly line or floor can take advantage of AR information. Operators can learn new procedures and processes. Engineers can virtually layout new setups. Technicians can review service steps and hazards. And these are only a few of the many examples of AR used directly on the floor. In one instance, a technician was able to complete a service procedure without prior training. Significantly, he was able to complete it faster than experienced senior technicians.
Remote Spatial Support
Even the best manuals don’t have all the answers. Sometimes you have to ask somebody a question. When that time comes, bring in a subject matter expert, even if they are on the other side of the world.
Standing with an expert, walking you through a procedure is ideal. But that’s not always possible. A phone call can sometimes resolve those questions. Other times, a video call is needed to show the topic visually. These still have limitations compared to in-person explanations. Augmented reality addresses those limits. It does this primarily by providing spatial interactions across video calls.
Video calls enhanced with augmented reality enable the call receiver to highlight points of interest directly through the video feed. This isn’t just some overlay on the screen of the caller. It tracks the surroundings of the caller to remain correct even when they change their view. These highlights can show more than simple arrows. They can include text, images, drawings, links, or even full immersive apps to convey what is needed.
Augmented reality is still a relatively young technology in the manufacturing field. Despite this, companies that deploy it to their workforce see improvements to their output. Training is a major application of AR across many verticals but is especially useful in manufacturing. Digital manuals using AR provide more information with more accessibility than printed counterparts. Lastly, AR-enhanced video calls facilitate better communication between SMEs and those requiring support.
Frame Push builds augmented and virtual reality apps, web apps, and experiences to help your business succeed. Contact us to integrate our expertise into your plan.