If you’ve wondered what applications augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR)—commonly referred to as XR—has for your manufacturing business, you’re not alone. We see more interest from our customers on how it can be used to drive value-added activities within their business. The problem is most manufacturers have little resources for technology research and development exploration—unless its dedicated to the development of new products. Decisions to invest in capital to run the business are not taken lightly.
While XR technology has yet to reach a critical mass with many smaller manufacturing enterprises, the proliferation of consumer grade technology is making it cheaper and easier to purchase, deploy, and connect things. And there are some very promising use cases for XR in manufacturing that you want to look at:
XR for Driving Efficiency
Shop floor operators can be hands free, and access information that’s useable in the moment, right within their view. This means that shop floor employees don’t have to put tools down, pick devices up, or move to different area to get to a computer. They can be more productive in any operation with the right information, presented when they need it. We saw this in with early versions of Google Glass on making it easy to manage machines, material, and people on the shop floor.
XR for Ensuring Quality
Shop floor workers can access quality information instantly, rather than having to go reference a manual or stop work to go locate the manual. One use case we’ve seen is with just-in-time training. In a situation where you’d hire a new employee, supervisors can walk them through operations as they are happening. Also, if problems happen during production, operators can directly contact a manager to ask questions without having to walk away or shut the line down to ensure that the job is being done correctly.
XR for Maintaining Safety
Since information is projected in the line of sight, employees driving a high low forklift could receive a warning if other employees are near or around the machine. Another interesting use case for augmented reality is to map out the plant layout to determine the best position for workstations, tooling, forklifts, machines, and other equipment from a safety and efficiency stand point.
If you’re looking at XR technology, your best strategy is to identify a single, specific use case where you can see potential ROI. While the technology is not expensive, it is an investment so it’s a good idea to really think through a use case.