It’s been a tough few years for the manufacturing sector. Challenges have come from all sides: an aging workforce, the emerging skills crisis, and of course, the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These three threats have profoundly impacted the global manufacturing industry:
- In the U.S., factory employment is 4% below pre-pandemic levels, with a total shortfall of 8.4 million positions since February 2020.
- An estimated quarter of all manufacturing workers in the U.S. are above the age of 55—meaning they’re close to retirement. When they do retire, they’ll take valuable skills with them.
- And replacing these skills isn’t as easy as it might seem. 79% of producers in the EU are currently reporting skills shortages, while British manufacturers are facing their largest skills crisis since 1989.
Staff numbers are dwindling—and more are set to leave in just a few years. Those that remain require the skills needed to maintain productivity, as well as improve it.
This is far from an ideal situation at the best of times, let alone when machinery malfunctions. Technicians will find themselves looking around for someone to help or find the resources to solve the problem themselves, but in many cases, they won’t find what they need in a good timeframe for the business.
Lengthy maintenance and repair processes are a thorn in the side for many manufacturing organizations. The longer a machine is out of action, the bigger the impact on productivity and a company's bottom line. It’s essential that manufacturing staff can access crucial technical knowledge anytime and anywhere. This is the only way to ensure that machines are repaired as quickly as possible and that downtime is kept to a minimum.
So is there an answer? Fortunately, there is Augmented Reality (AR).
This blog will outline the 3 ways in which augmented reality in manufacturing saves time and effort in maintenance and repair, eliminating unnecessary downtime and increasing productivity.
The 3 Ways Augmented Reality Saves Time and Effort in Maintenance and Repair
Machines won’t fix themselves. If manufacturers want to save time and effort in maintenance and repair, they’re going to have to ACT.
But wait—this doesn’t mean running around like headless chickens or hammering away at a machine until something happens (sometimes formally called "percussive maintenance," which, frustratingly, does work sometimes).
ACT refers to the three distinct steps that manufacturing organizations (and their technicians) can take to keep downtime to a minimum:
A - Access specialist knowledge via remote experts
C - Communicate the issue in front of them before receiving instant solutions
T - Train technicians to handle increasingly complex problems thanks to real-time guidance
Let’s dive into each of these areas in a little more detail, highlighting the role that AR plays in enabling manufacturers to ACT quickly and effectively.Unplanned downtime is the most pervasive and damaging type. Make sure you have a strategy in place to deal with it effectively.
1. Access to specialist knowledge, resulting in faster incident resolution
AR solutions like REFLEKT Remote enable technicians to remotely connect with specialists. So how does remote assistance AR work?
As soon as technicians encounter a problem, they can simply connect with an off-site specialist and stream real-time video to demonstrate the machine they’re working with, show what’s gone wrong, and receive instant troubleshooting advice. They can even use real-time AR annotations to better communicate their issue and receive potential solutions.
No longer will on-site technicians have to wait for a specialist to arrive before they can carry out critical maintenance/repair work. Instead, thanks to AR remote assistance, they can instantly connect with the relevant expert and immediately get to work themselves (following the specialist’s advice and guidance). If you’re curious as to how this works, we offer a free trial of our remote support tool—sign up today and give it a try for yourself.
2. Communicate pressing issues and receive instant solutions
All problems vary in size, nature, and urgency. That’s why effective communication plays such a key role in reducing downtime during maintenance and repair—though this is easier said than done. Not all communication channels are equal. To save time and effort, it’s important that technicians use the most applicable channel for each issue that they’re facing.
Sense-checking a proposed fix might only require that technicians hop on a live text chat with a specialist just to confirm that it’s a sensible strategy. When faced with an unknown problem on a piece of machinery that they’ve never used, however, they might need AR video streaming. This will enable them to demonstrate precisely what they’re up against—and to receive annotated instructions on how to resolve the issue.
REFLEKT Remote is a versatile AR support app that enables technicians to resolve problems in the right way, at the right time, by using the right communication method(s). Remote has AR video streaming, voice-only calls, augmented reality image sharing and screenshots, live text chat, and file sharing. These solutions are applicable across a wide range of industries:
- Industrial manufacturing
- Process & packaging technology
- Robotics, automation, and heavy electronics manufacturing
- Centralized remote support
- Instructor-led digital training for service technicians
3. Train technicians to handle increasingly complex skills
AR-driven training enables service technicians to quickly learn new skills before putting them to good use. This is more important than ever given that upskilling is now required every 2 - 3 years. Learning new skills is no longer a nice perk, it’s an imperative—for both employees and employers alike.
But not all training is equal. 2D technical documentation and training manuals are often not the fastest solution for technicians who need instant access to knowledge. When one hour of downtime in the automotive manufacturing industry can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000 in lost costs, it is clear that every second counts. By substituting traditional technical documentation with interactive, live, AR-based instruction, you will dramatically increase knowledge acquisition, retention, and execution in downtime situations, enabling faster problem resolution.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Invest in technologies that’ll help your employees upskill on an ongoing basis—this is key to safeguarding your organization’s future.
AR for an augmented workforce
AR is a no-brainer for manufacturing organizations—and just as importantly, for their staff. It allows on-site technicians to ACT faster in the event that a machine breaks down or needs servicing.
You can combat widespread skills shortages by instantly connecting technicians with remote experts when necessary. They can then communicate the issue at hand in a variety of forms, whether this is via a simple live chat conversation or AR-enabled video streaming (complete with on-screen annotations). Beyond simply fixing the problem that’s in front of them, AR-driven instructions provide the most effective means of upskilling your workforce—making technicians more valuable to your organization.
Enhanced knowledge sharing.
More skilled, attentive, and engaged staff.
The benefits of AR are clear for all to see—so it’s time to get started. Sign up for a free trial of Remote and see the impact for yourself.