The manufacturing industry is currently in the midst of a drastic evolution. But it’s not just manufacturing—across the world, the pace of innovation has reached a breakneck speed. It took until 1886 for the first car to be invented. Now, just 125 years later, there are cars that can drive themselves. The wheel of change is turning at a frenetic pace, and it’s going to continue accelerating for some time yet.
Welcome to Industrie 4.0.
“Industrie 4.0 refers to the intelligent networking of machines and processes for industry with the help of information and communication technology” (Plattform Industrie 4.0)
Endless innovation might be the enemy of octogenarians, but for the rest of us, it’s a breath of fresh air. This is especially true in manufacturing—an industry that’s currently in the midst of a skills crisis:
- Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 38% of manufacturers struggled to find candidates with the right skills. Today, that number has leaped to 54%, and 63% of manufacturers are currently struggling to fill critical labor gaps.
- “... technical skills used to last a decade. Then they lasted five years. Now they are about two or three years.”
- The answer? Innovative technology. In fact, the World Economic Forum suggests that by 2025, humans and machines will spend an equal amount of time on work-related tasks.
Innovation, such as Augmented Reality (AR), bridges the gap between what employees don’t know and what they need to know to succeed. Rather than replacing humans outright, innovative solutions instead augment their capabilities. This shouldn’t be a scary or novel thought—anyone that uses a calculator, a laptop, or a GPS knows that innovation can enhance our lives.
This blog post will delve into 5 of the most exciting ways that AR, an innovation poster child, is transforming the manufacturing sector for the better.
5 Augmented Reality Examples in Manufacturing
From training and troubleshooting to assembly and augmented inspections, AR is having a wide-ranging and profound impact on manufacturing. If you’re wondering “How is AR used today?”, then you’ve come to the right place.
1. AR as a Training Aid
Back in 2014, IBM reported that it took around four days of training to close the skills gap. After just four years, in 2018, this figure had jumped 800% to 36 days.
We’re living in the Knowledge Era. Employees need to quickly get up to speed with new technologies and new procedures on an ongoing basis. Training is ever-present in modern manufacturing for both new employees and old hands alike.
With AR, organizations can:
- More effectively onboard new hires: Medtronic used RE’FLEKT ONE, an AR solution, to reduce onboarding time by 50%.
- Train their existing workforce: Kothes virtually enhanced their paper-based manual, leveraging ONE to project technical content onto the SIG Combibloc machine. ONE acts as a no-code content tool—allowing companies to build scalable AR content by simply re-using existing 2D and 3D content. By using the tool’s AR content creation capabilities, employees could now see what they were looking at and what they needed to do.
- Knowledge transfer between teams or locations: You might have the right expertise in-house, just at the wrong location. No problem. With ONE, you can enable 70% faster knowledge transfer between teams.
2. Live Service Support and Troubleshooting
An old machine breaks down—but your in-house service technicians don’t know how to fix it. You could call an expert in, but you’re located in a remote site far away from civilization.
What would you do next? (Hint: The solution is AR-based).
Okay, okay, we’ll spell it out for you. The key is to leverage a solution like Remote. As the name suggests, this is a remote support tool that enables companies to solve problems quicker with live support—instead of waiting for an expert to arrive.
- Live support for problem-solving: BASF uses Remote to guide body-shops through the process of repainting cars using the right coats under the correct conditions.
- Live guidance for assembly, maintenance, and repair: ABB relies on Remote to provide field personnel with real-time, remote, AR-enhanced live support.
- Team collaboration and knowledge transfer between locations and teams: Leverage video-based collaboration to quickly share knowledge between teams or seek guidance from experts.
3. Maintenance, calibration, augmented inspections
Technical documentation experts can use ONE to produce their own internal AR documentation rather than continuing to rely on text-based instructions. As a result, AR solutions like ONE can provide service technicians with step-by-step, easy-to-understand instructions, simplifying the maintenance and service processes. The outcome of all this? Higher first-time fix rates and lower downtimes.
There are three main applications:
- AR guidance for maintenance and service: Thanks to ONE, Leybold service technicians reduced downtimes through preventative maintenance and taking immediate action.
- AR guidance for repair: Their inexperienced personnel could be guided through the precise set of steps needed to repair broken pumps.
- Knowledge transfer between teams: Imagine a senior technician has just retired—meaning nobody within your organization knows how to operate a particular machine. During maintenance or repair, you can simply use ONE to guide you through the process without needing to enlist anybody’s help.
4. Augmented Assembly
Innovative technologies (like 3D printers) are complex to set up. This is to be expected—but it’s an issue nonetheless. Unless you use AR-based solutions like ONE. EOS relies on ONE to provide commissioning, training, and enhanced remote support.
Users can use ONE when assembling EOS 3D printers, ensuring the end-to-end process is as swift, seamless, and simple to understand as possible.
5. Training Support
In-person training sessions can be expensive, long, and potentially even dangerous (depending on the machines you’re working with). That’s why ABB Drives decided to use Remote to provide remote, smart glasses-enabled, instructor-led digital training for service technicians.
- They used smart glasses to run group training sessions led by an instructor who provided ongoing, immediate feedback.
- Total training time was reduced by 40%.
- They eliminated all health and safety risks, as well as travel expenses and employee utilization costs.
Welcome Innovation With Open Arms
Modern manufacturers can’t escape innovation. They can’t simply bury their heads in the sand while muttering “what was wrong with steam power?”. To keep up with an ever-changing world, manufacturers must embrace everything that innovation has to offer.
AR is one such example.
It’s already being used to more effectively train employees, reduce downtime, provide ongoing assistance during complex maintenance or assembly procedures, and share knowledge. Its possibilities are limitless. Companies that recognize this—and implement AR-based solutions— will meet everything the future holds in store head-on.