The Bold New Future of AR Manufacturing
Is Your Manufacturing Business Ready for the Challenges, and the Opportunities, of Augmented Reality?
By now, you’ve probably heard that AR in manufacturing is the next big thing. For many, AR represents the Internet-of-things (IoT) enabled future—one where workers in Augmented Reality (AR) goggles get instructions, monitor equipment and communicate with experts, all through their headgear. An AR factory is alive with information and immersive experiences that make manufacturing fast and efficient. But is AR a good investment for your business?
With the right tech support, we believe the answer is yes for most manufacturing companies, no matter what their size. Let’s talk about what the technology can do for your factory.
What Is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality allows information—tech specs, temperature readings, 3-D renderings—to be overlaid onto the real-world environment through devices a user wears, such as a mobile phone, tablet, headset or glasses. The technology takes the information you might find in a training course or an operational manual, and overlays it directly onto the part of process where it’s used. The implications are huge for manufacturers, who have used AR successfully for training, maintenance and repair, as well as more complicated process and product design functions.
As manufacturers around the world cope with staffing shortages, work stoppages, and supply chain woes from the Covid pandemic, AR has helped them find new ways to boost productivity. Adoption of AR has sped up considerably. In fact, Statista predicts global sales of AR headsets will swell from 5.5 million in 2020 to 26 million in 2023.
Wondering what that could look like in action? Check out this video from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. How could it work for you? Let’s get down to the specifics of what AR in manufacturing can do for your shop floor.
The Benefits of AR in Manufacturing
AR revolutionizes how information moves through an organization, making it available at the source where it’s most needed. It unlocks the information from your laptops or terminal workstations, and makes it accessible anywhere. Here’s how factories are putting this tech to use.
Would you rather learn how to fix a machine from a 300-page operational manual, or from video step-by- step instructions, overlaid directly over the parts that need to be fixed? Most people pick option two, because it’s easier to learn on the job, in three dimensions. Companies who’ve adopted AR in manufacturing have realized number of other training benefits they didn’t initially expect, such as:
- Workers who learn new tasks far more quickly than with traditional training methods
- Older workers gaining confidence in new technologies with less effort
- Days or weeks shaved off new hire onboarding
- Easy transfer of knowledge from retiring workers to newer workers, when their years of experience are programmed into the systems
This kind of focused, effective training also had another side benefit: improved recruitment. Today’s Millenial and Gen Z workforce finds the AR tech exciting and easy to use. It’s a sign that manufacturing is a good career choice for people who want to advance their skills. Best of all, that training leads to better safety outcomes on the floor, too.
AR in manufacturing has done great things for safety and accident prevention. How? Because it it puts the safety information right where your staff needs it most. An employee who puts their hand too close to dangerous machinery will get a warning through their AR glasses. Someone learning to repair can avoid mistakes with a “cut this wire, not that one” message. And if something is broken, AR can tell workers where the part needed to fix it is inventoried.
While AR is terrific at small scale information, it’s good factory wide, too. Sensors can be placed around the factory monitoring temperature levels and emissions. If settings are starting to go awry, workers can get notified right away before more widespread problems occur.
Faster Production and Time to Market
Now that AR in manufacturing is being embraced all over the world, companies are boosting production speed. Why? Because more employees are being trained and retained. With more people on the floor, and routine maintenance up to date, far fewer problems and accidents occur.
AR has also had a positive effect on innovation. When engineers overlay their designs in real world environments, they can make better iterations, faster. The technology is a win-win, making the job easier for everyone from the maintenance man to your highest level engineers.
Ready to Pursue AR for Your Facility? A Good MSP Can Help.
Sure, all this technology is exciting. But for a small to medium-sized manufacturing facility, figuring out what to invest in can be a daunting process. While most managed service IT providers don’t directly sell AR manufacturing equipment, they can ensure your network supports them. Iconic IT regularly works with clients to ensure their security is up to date, their networks can handle the load. Your IT department or a reputable MSP should be a critical partner in any AR installation.
Iconic can also offer some free resources that will help you on your journey to increase AR in manufacturing. Check out our comprehensive blog on what manufacturing technology will look like in the future, and our discussion of how to use anti-virus systems for AI. We’d love to talk to you about the IT strategy and support services we offer for manufacturers. And in the meantime, download our free DIY IT Security Audit Checklist, and assess your readiness to expand your operations!