While AR/VR technology has come to be associated mostly with gaming and infotainment, it’s gradually finding application in a wide array of industries. Specifically, in manufacturing, AR/VR is currently creating positive disruption for a vast number of operational processes: from design and prototyping to the final production and assembly.
In manufacturing, the transformative potential of the extended reality technology (an umbrella term for AR/VR) is inherently tied to the demand for continuous production and non-disruptive performance: in a competitive business environment, every second of downtime spells revenue loss. With AR and VR potential to create a virtual simulation of just about every facet of manufacturing process, the effect of its use could be truly revolutionary.
So let’s now examine some of the most prominent use cases for augmented and virtual reality in manufacturing and discover how it can add value to business.
Design and Prototyping
At this initial stage, VR can actually demonstrate how a product would look like without creating a physical prototype. In the automotive industry, Ford Motors has been using its own FIVE (Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment) virtual reality technology long before consumer Oculus and HTC headsets had hit the market, to create virtual representations of yet non-existent vehicles in the tiniest detail. Designs are transmitted into virtual car environments, enabling engineers to see what it’s like to be inside of the future car.
Needless to say, VR technology has also enabled Ford Motors to leverage remote design teams and attract the best global talent: when you work in a virtual environment, your physical location is no longer a problem.
While AI algorithms can streamline the complex process of managing inventory databases, the task of picking a product from a warehouse shelf still involves manual labor. AR technology helps eliminate confusion and make this process quick and precise. A warehouse worker holding an iPad or wearing Microsoft HoloLens (or any other headset, for that matter) gets instructions about the exact location of a particular item and is guided to the very aisle and shelf where it is stored. No more guesswork and getting lost amidst the similarly looking shelves – anyone who has ever been inside an industrial warehouse can understand the value of this solution.
Preventing Accidents and Disruptions
VR is helping predict, and thus potentially evade the hazards and disruption risks associated with the use of an assembly line. By simulating production environment, manufacturing companies can indicate potential threats and eliminate them long before they even arise. The value of this solution is difficult to overlook, since it helps reduce downtime as well as repair and maintenance expenses, and enhances employee security.
For example, industrial equipment manufacturer Gabler has integrated VR into its manufacturing processes. Assisted by VR technology, the company inspects production lines for potential hazards and thus helps ensure safety and quality.
Real-Time Employee Instruction
AR and VR are widely used for employee instruction and education as it can simulate every possible process and environment.
At Smart Tek we have expertise in making custom solutions that guide assembly line workers through every complex detail of the production process in real-time. A worker gets virtual instructions projected into his iPad or AR glasses as he proceeds with his work. This helps the organization save weeks of even months of lengthy training and accounts for eliminating the notorious human factor and avoiding mistakes.
Benefits of AR/VR in Manufacturing
Needless to say, increased predictability of production processes also implies increased security. AR/VR technology helps detect and eliminate threats, instruct employees and thus reduce the number of onsite accidents.
AR/VR brings increased precision to every aspect of the industrial manufacturing process, ensuring not only fast time-to-market, but also better quality of manufactured goods.
From a business perspective, implementing AR/VR will ultimately account for reduced expenses: by eliminating the costly trial and error phase, they help organizations ensure bottom line growth.
By providing guidance and instructions in real-time, VR solutions help reduce training and coaching expenses; they also help organizations reallocate resources by letting their most experienced workers focus on areas which need expertise and attention.
Surely, implementing AR/VR in industrial manufacturing will require time and investment. It also involves meeting challenges like indicating areas for its implementation, integration with legacy equipment, support on employee level, etc. The best practices for enterprise scale AR/VR implementation involve launching a pilot project and moving on according to its outcome.
Need an expert advice on AR/VR implementation? Request a free consultation now from our expert team!