How to start with Augmented Reality in Industry – An Inter­view with Carl Brock­meyer

In the last five years, more and more compa­nies have built proto­types with Augmented Reality to see if the new tech­no­logy can improve exis­ting work­flows and how it can be imple­mented. Today, it is no longer a ques­tion of whether or not AR is a meaningful tool to empower the work­force with visual guid­ance that can grant instant access to know­ledge. The right ques­tion is where and how: where can Augmented Reality deliver the biggest benefit in terms of redu­cing time and errors, how can it increase revenue or impro­ving quality levels. So far AR has made its biggest steps in the area of main­ten­ance, trai­ning, and opera­tions. What’s more, it has already proven that it is ready to inte­grate into digi­ta­li­za­tion stra­te­gies. In 2015, Leybold discussed exactly these topics. Leybold is one of the leading vacuum manu­fac­tu­rers world­wide. We talked to Carl Brock­meyer, General Manager of Leybold North America, about how Leybold started to imple­ment Augmented Reality. Carl accom­pa­nied the AR inte­gra­tion from the first day on.

WeAreAR: How is Leybold using AR in its digi­ta­li­za­tion stra­tegy?

CB: When we first started using AR as a part of our digi­ta­li­za­tion stra­tegy a couple of years ago, we were seeking out new busi­ness models that would gene­rate a direct payback. Our aim was to imple­ment our first use cases that could be directly recir­cu­lated to sell AR as a service. This was part of an elec­tri­fi­ca­tion stra­tegy, which was supposed to expose us to new digital busi­ness models. Today, two years later with several success­fully imple­mented use cases for AR, it became so much more than a mere elec­tri­fier. AR helped to trans­form the way we think about the need for digi­ta­li­za­tion. While origi­nally devised as an addi­tional busi­ness model, AR in the mean­time has trans­formed the way we look at new product design and R&D, more effi­cient and inter­ac­tive product and service trai­ning, digi­ta­li­za­tion of our assembly lines and many more use cases. This is truly trans­for­ma­tional. We have always been a first mover in the indus­tries we play in and today we have taken a leading posi­tion in the field of AR for service and sales appli­ca­tions. Now we are explo­ring many more exci­ting use cases as we speak.

Augmented Reality Maintenance

WeAreAR: Which busi­ness areas of your company would you like to test the usage and bene­fits of AR?

CB: As mentioned above, the fields of AR are limit­less. We are constantly disco­vering new use cases. Origi­nally we thought to use AR as a trai­ning and service appli­ca­tion, with future aspi­ra­tions for remote service capa­bi­li­ties. But our sales team has since disco­vered the power of AR to enhance the sales conver­sa­tion for our complex and deman­ding vacuum systems. Our R&D and product inno­va­tion teams are learning how to put AR into use during new product proto­ty­ping and our manu­fac­tu­ring and assembly teams are disco­vering ways to create more flexible work­places and train our work­force on diffe­rent assembly lines using AR. Every time a new team member expe­ri­ences AR for the first time, we come up with new ideas that we would never have thought about before. This is truly trans­for­ma­tional. Simply talking about AR and expe­ri­en­cing the amazing tech­no­logy first hand is crea­ting new ideas that we would not have been able to devise with such ease in any other way.

WeAreAR: How did the manage­ment react when you first suggested using AR? Where they convinced from the begin­ning or did they have doubts? What were their concerns?

CB: There are often signi­fi­cant doubts when cons­i­de­ring to work with new tech­no­lo­gies and new ways of doing things. Espe­ci­ally when it comes to inves­ting in the tech­no­logy itself. Two years ago AR a new tech­no­logy that was still close to the bottom of the Gartner inno­va­tion cycle. Back then we simply cons­i­dered AR to be too fancy and not suffi­ci­ently suitable for our indus­trial appli­ca­tions. But we did not want to disre­gard it, since we saw huge poten­tial. We, there­fore, decided to take the agile and MVP approach to begin a small, safe and controll­able use case to simply start testing and explo­ring the tech­no­logy. Once we had the first results to show, it became easy to convince all the rele­vant stake­hol­ders to start scaling the tech­no­logy to further use cases.

WeAreAR: Which problems can be solved with AR at Leybold?

CB: I prefer to talk about chal­lenges, not problems. And AR has streng­thened us to tackle many chal­lenges to become the inno­va­tive leaders in our field. But more import­antly, AR has helped us to discover our unknown unknowns – the aspects, use cases and busi­ness models that we didn’t even know existed. This thought process opens up corri­dors of door­ways to new oppor­tu­nities. As an example, before using AR, we knew that we knew little or close to nothing about poten­tial use cases for AR – it was a known unknown. Once however, we started working and explo­ring AR’s possi­bi­li­ties, we disco­vered so many more use cases that we did not even know that we knew nothing about. It sounds weird… but think about it – to be truly inno­va­tional, we need to seek out the unknown unknowns in our industry and markets to become and remain leaders.

Enterprise AR Platform

WeAreAR: How will your custo­mers use AR on their vacuum pumps?

CB: Our first AR appli­ca­tion to come into contact with our custo­mers is a sales tool. It is a simple way that enables us to explain and sell our complex products and appli­ca­tions, giving our custo­mers a quick over­view of our port­folio. The visual presen­ta­tion enabled by AR allows our custo­mers explore all the pump details and supports them to make faster deci­sions. The second customer contact with Augmented Reality is our AR powered inst­ruc­tions. We have already completed our first use cases where custo­mers can perform services on their vacuum pumps on their own, without any addi­tional inst­ruc­tions from us. This is a truly fantastic inno­va­tion for the benefit of our custo­mers and we will continue to devise suitable service plans using AR.

WeAreAR: From your own point-of-view and expe­ri­ence, what you would recom­mend to compa­nies inte­rested in using AR?

CB: Be agile about it, scale your ideas and start with cases that are big (or small) enough so that you would feel comfor­table kick off tomorrow – not in three months or later. And don’t forget the data – you will need this later. Devise a hypo­thesis that you can test and prove. Then just simply start testing and gathe­ring feed­back. You will never know what works and what does not if you never try. AR will shape the work­place of the future where workers can get access to know­ledge and opti­mize their work­flows. In the near future, all workers will use the 3D envi­ron­ments to visua­lize their tasks.

WeAreAR: What is Leybold’s stra­tegy for the work­place of the future?

CB: Machinery and tasks are getting more and more complex, and this requires highly skilled employees. When cons­i­de­ring Industry 4.0 on top of this, most equip­ment is quickly beco­ming connected and auto­mated. In these envi­ron­ments, specia­lists are often required to operate, main­tain or repair our pumps. Today’s manuals and hand­books simply do not fulfill the requi­re­ments of the modern worker to perform these tasks. The infor­ma­tion is not avail­able where it is needed and is often too compli­cated to under­stand – espe­ci­ally in the already complex envi­ron­ment I described. With Augmented Reality, we can provide our tech­ni­cians with a realistic 3D visual guid­ance “on the pump”. Step-by-step inst­ruc­tions allow the tech­ni­cians to focus on their work without wasting time reading through hund­reds of pages.


Leybold Augmented Reality Carl Brockmeyer

Carl Brock­meyer leads an ambi­tious digital trans­for­ma­tion initia­tive to enable new digital busi­ness models and sales chan­nels for the indus­trial global player Leybold (since September 2016 part of the Atlas Copco Group). He has a strong focus on B2B e-commerce as well as brid­ging the online and offline customer journey. Carl has led Leybold to esta­blish strong startup and indus­trial part­nerships with a focus on e-commerce, digi­ta­li­za­tion of B2B busi­ness models, indus­trial tech­no­logy inclu­ding Augmented Reality for service appli­ca­tions and crowd colla­bo­ra­tion.

One of the part­nerships esta­blished involves Leybold in the deve­lop­ment of the Hyper­loop, a new high-speed ground trans­por­ta­tion system, for which Leybold became a key tech­no­logy partner in the deve­lop­ment and supply of required vacuum systems to operate the Hyper­loop.

In May this year, Carl became General Manager for Leybold in North America and is now based in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­vania. Prior to this posi­tion, Carl looks back at a corpo­rate career of 9 years within the Swiss indus­trial group Oerlikon, where as Head of Busi­ness Deve­lop­ment he was respon­sible for Leybold’s global stra­tegy and M&A; CFO and Board Director for Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum in China and Taiwan, Head of Finance and Risk Manage­ment for Oerlikon Textile in Germany and M&A Busi­ness Analyst at Oerlikon Space in Switz­er­land.

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