How AR Improves Production Floor Communication in Manufacturing

How AR Improves Production Floor Communication in Manufacturing

There’s a dichotomy present in modern manufacturing.

On the one hand, the industry is increasingly dominated by technology—from artificial intelligence to automation, and everything in between. Yet effective person-to-person communication has arguably never been more important. This is because, despite an explosion of potential contact channels in recent years, poor communication is still a problem for many organizations

And on the production floor, poor communication can be especially damaging—leading to downtime, delays, or even despondency.

  1. Deloitte suggests that unplanned downtime (production halts) costs industrial manufacturers around $50 billion per year;
  2. And its impacts are wide-ranging. A study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit has discovered that poor workplace communication can lead to delayed or failed projects (44% of respondents), low morale (31%), missed performance goals (25%) and even lost sales (18%). 
  3. A mere 10% of manual workers communicate with their employers and colleagues using digital technology. 

Effective communication is crucial for technicians working on the production floor. When problems do occur, they need to be able to access specialist expertise so that they can solve the issue as quickly as possible. On a more general note, they must be able to share—and receive—key knowledge in a digestible, easy-to-understand format. Only then will experienced professionals be able to train juniors to one day take their place. 

So, what’s the answer? To leverage AR-based communication tools. 

This article will explore how AR reduces time spent resolving issues, improves both knowledge sharing and knowledge acquisition, and provides management with live production floor feedback and insights. 

1. Reduces time spent resolving issues

Downtime is the death knell for manufacturing organizations—but these things happen. When something inevitably does go wrong, production floor technicians need to be able to resolve the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

AR-enabled video calls provide just the solution. 

Video calls are a fantastic way to communicate with specialists in real-time, wherever they’re located. But video calls alone aren’t the best way to solve complex problems. If a technician is trying to work their way around a machine that they’ve never before encountered, they’re going to need more hands-on help than simply having someone bark instructions down the line. 

AR-based tools, like REFLEKT Remote, allow specialists to provide hands-on-type help—but in a hands-off format. Live AR annotations in video calls can greatly reduce confusion and ensure nothing gets lost in translation. There’ll be no more “Tap the button—no, not that button”. Instead, specialists can highlight the precise spot that they’re talking about and leave detailed annotations to help guide technicians through the process. 

When you combine this with video call functionality, on-site technicians suddenly have a way to instantly connect with the right person, at the right time, and receive instructions in the right format. That’s why REFLEKT Remote leads to:

  • 65% higher workforce productivity
  • 50% faster support response
  • 70% higher first-time fix-rates

This also enables technicians to resolve issues without impacting production floor-wide productivity. They won’t have to bug their colleagues, asking if they—or anyone else they know—can help. Instead, they can set about fixing the issue themselves (though with the help of a remote expert), and let their colleagues continue their work free from unwanted distraction.

2. Improves knowledge sharing and acquisition

By using AR tools like REFLEKT ONE, manufacturing organizations can better capture, and share, their senior technicians’ knowledge. They can create long-lasting, step-by-step virtual guides that are more task-oriented than traditional paper-based training resources. These virtual guides are also significantly more engaging—leading to 70% faster knowledge transfer. 

With the manufacturing skills gap growing year on year, organizations must prioritize effective knowledge sharing and acquisition. In other words, they need to integrate AR-based tools into their training approach. 

In-person training sessions have typically been considered the gold standard when it comes to knowledge sharing and acquisition. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re the most effective option. Just because somebody’s in the room with you doesn’t mean that they’re actually absorbing what you’re saying—or that they’re even listening. Just ask a university lecturer. 

In fact, in-person training was slightly outed during the pandemic. No longer could organizations conduct typical training sessions, despite the fact that COVID-induced disruption arguably required more staff training than before. So did they halt training entirely? No, of course not—they simply adapted it.

Surprisingly to some, many organizations realized that remote training actually provided learners with a more effective experience. ABB Drives is one such example. By replacing in-person training sessions with remote learning via smart glasses, they reduced training time by a massive 40% while slashing travel and employee utilization costs. 

This means that production floor technicians could learn more material in less time (and at a lower cost to the business). It’s also worth mentioning that remote training also eliminated virtually all health and safety risks through full trainee supervision. 

3. Provides management with live production floor feedback and insight

Real-time AR-based calls are fantastic on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis. Run into an issue? No problem—simply connect with an expert and let them walk you through the process of fixing it. But while this fragmented approach certainly helps technicians solve individual problems, it does little to help managers assess their factory floor as a whole—and to analyze how they can assist their team going forward. 

With AR tools, managers can gain a bird's-eye-level view over their entire factor floor. Admin portals provide them with a complete, up-to-date glimpse into all incidents: resolved, unresolved, who was in charge of each incident, and how many there are in total. They can quickly divert resources where needed and generally monitor their team’s performance. If productivity is down, they can understand why—and can even reallocate resources when necessary. 

The production floor is an ever-changing ecosystem that requires careful management. AR-based tools act as managers’ eyes and ears on the ground at all times, enabling them to better monitor—and communicate with—their team. They’ll always understand precisely which issues their team is dealing with. Better still, they’ll be able to proactively offer suggestions as to where they can find the assistance they require to get back up and running. 

AR: the linchpin behind effective production floor communication

Manufacturing is becoming more complex by the day. Whether it’s working with new tools, producing new products, or following new ways of working, the skills that technicians need to do their job successfully has increased beyond belief. 

It’s therefore crucial that communication strategies evolve alongside the industry itself. AR-based video calls keep downtime to a minimum and help organizations plug any skills gaps that might exist. Remote AR-powered training helps workers more effectively upskill while requiring a lower time and financial investment. AR monitoring tools give managers the visibility they need to oversee fast-paced production floors with ease. 

The time is now to implement AR. Ready to get started? Sign up for a free trial of REFLEKT Remote today.