The use of augmented reality (AR) technology in the manufacturing industry is steadily increasing as companies learn how AR can increase efficiency, lower production costs, improve employee safety and training, enhance cross-company collaboration and improve diagnostics and reporting.
Innovators in the industry offer full development of AR solutions from concept development to delivery, helping to connect employees with technical experts offsite for real-time support during training, assessment, maintenance and repair of machinery on the factory floor. With the right partner – and the right technology – companies can improve the efficiency of their operations by reducing the downtime of machinery and logistics costs required to bring additional maintenance personnel on-site.
Piqued your interest? Discover how to assess if AR is right for your business and how it can improve business operations.
Simply put, AR is technology that super-imposes computer-generated images and information onto a user’s view of the world. In July 2016, the world was introduced to AR on a global scale through the highly popular mobile game Pokémon GO. Millions of people became instantly enthralled by this geolocation-based AR game, which was created for IOS and Android devices by a software company called Niantic. Still available today, Pokémon Go enables a gamer to use his or her mobile device’s GPS and interface to locate, capture, battle and train characters that virtually “appear” on-screen.1
AR technology overlays computer-generated enhancements on existing realities to make a user’s view of the world more meaningful and engaging.2 AR is commonly used during sports games as holograms or motion activated commands that overlay scores or track movements, such as tracing the path of a golf ball during a tee-off shot.
In the manufacturing industry, AR technology overlays virtual information or images onto employees’ view of real objects. For example, AR could be used to provide real-time, in-view instructions or data to technicians performing tasks on the factory floor. The application of AR has the greatest potential when applied to the business areas of operations, maintenance, training and error prevention. The technology is primarily deployed via mobile devices (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) but is also being deployed via wearable technology, such as Microsoft’s HoloLense. The HoloLense can even enable a user to see, hear and interact with holograms of people superimposed on the factory floor. This enables collaboration and teamwork among employees to facilitate maintenance and repairs without all parties being physically on-site.3
AR is closely related to, and in some cases used in conjunction with, VR and the two are often confused. Unlike AR, VR is an artificial/computergenerated simulation or recreation of real-life environments or situations. It stimulates a person’s vision and hearing to completely immerse him or her in an artificial environment. VR is often used in gaming and simulation training through headsets, glasses and hand-held controllers that allow users to control and navigate the reality in which they are immersed. A common implementation of VR is airlines’ use of flight simulators to train pilots.4
AR and VR are inverse reflections of one another, but they both exist to serve users and enhance experiences. Often, they are combined for a more immersive experience or to add a dimension of interaction between digital devices and the realworld. While both technologies are actively used in the entertainment industry, manufacturing companies are beginning to use them to improve processes in many business areas.
The term “augmented reality” was coined by leading manufacturing company, Boeing, over a quarter of a century ago. Although the term has been around since the 1990s, the technology remains relatively scattered in its use because it remains largely in R&D.6 However, the use of AR technology is expected to increase within the manufacturing, aerospace and medical science sectors with the explosion of mobile device-based communication and wireless data storage. For manufacturing companies, mobile use enables instant access to product documentation, real-time video and audio support from off-site technical experts and the ability to equip employees with AR technology in their hands or on their person.
Manufacturing companies who implement AR technology can expect:
Increased efficiency – Through wearable technology and mobile devices, employees can see renderings of machines and parts in front of their eyes on tablets and smart phones rather than taking time to search through reference guides and instruction manuals. Additionally, when Internet of Things (IoT) technology and AR are combined, employees can scan any item on the factory floor and have instant access to all product information including object specifications, location and inventory from the company’s back-end or resource planning system. Not only can this information be accessed instantly, but in the language of choice. Companies with global production sites can implement a multilingual component into the AR technology.
Better safety – Wearable technology allows for a hands-free environment from instruction manuals to better perform maintenance and repair tasks.
Improved training – AR technology speeds up training time by 30 percent and allows for collaboration with off-site employees to provide a “hands-on” training experience.7 It also makes up for the increasing lack of tenured workers who would pass on their valuable knowledge as AR provides instant, practical access to information to make on-the-job training and execution of tasks more efficient and precise. Employees are often trained through a combination of AR and VR to immerse them in situations to practice assembly tasks before they begin work on the shop floor.
Enhanced collaboration – AR technology enables collaboration with other employees through mobile video so two or more people can work together to resolve a problem without travelling to the site. This immediate collaboration also eliminates the need to create “patches” or “quick fixes” until a technician is available on-site.
Improved diagnostics – AR technology provides users with visual cues to indicate where problems exist or where defects could occur. This reduces diagnostic time, which ultimately diminishes downtime and helps prevents errors. This advanced warning system also allows maintenance and engineering teams to plan and schedule repairs or upgrades when it is least likely to interfere with the production process.
Better reporting and enhanced KPIs – AR technology allows employees to include videos and photos as superimposed images or side-byside comparisons to technical documentation on maintenance reports thus eliminating the need to manually write out detailed descriptions or include additional stand-alone JPEG and GIF files.
AR could benefit your company if it has an operating model that requires many tech savvy workers to complete a multitude of complex tasks. When assessing if AR is right for your business:
Amplexor knows delivering customized, multilingual, digital content via AR formats and devices is becoming increasingly important as AR continues to shape the workplace of the future for maintenance, operations and training. Our scalable solutions enable manufacturers to successfully integrate AR into their enterprise content strategy and existing business processes.
We have helped a number of our large manufacturing customers implement AR solutions that help them
Through the right set of expert translation and localization services and the most advanced linguistic technology, we help you to reach your customers, partners and employees successfully, ensuring meaningful localized messages in any language.