Augmented Reality is now intractably part of the modern manufacturing landscape. While not every manufacturing operation has implemented an AR solution, the days where AR hardware and software development platforms were seen as exotic or prohibitively expensive are quickly becoming history. With this shift in thinking and technology, the impact of augmented reality (AR) is starting to be felt in heavy industry and commercial enterprise as real-world technology and theoretical applications are shaping different facets of manufacturing.
But like any emerging technology, it can be a difficult task to convince leadership in your organization to consider AR adoption as a business strategy. If you see AR as an important step for your business, then consider the following talking points when approaching decision-makers in your organization.
AR Technology is Spreading Everywhere
Competition breeds innovation and drives costs down. Right now, fortunately, there is a healthy and competitive AR software and hardware market that seems poised for continued growth into the next few decades.
Some new AR technologies have created a big splash (if not a concrete impact). But the current boom of new technologies attempting to harness the potential of augmented reality creates a space for continued development and investment into AR applications targeting real-world contexts in manufacturing, logistics, and data modeling.
Following this, the actual technologies that people would use with an augmented reality platform are more accessible now than ever. Some of the most ubiquitous uses of AR involve tablets and smartphones that nearly everyone has, and new companies like HoloLens and Magic Leap are providing the development platforms and hardware to implement real-world AR systems.
Make no mistake about it–adopting AR as a business solution has never been more viable than right now.
Training in the Field
With data visualization and simulation, the next obvious innovation emerging in industrial AR applications is in training and education. AR provides manufacturing operations to train new employees with immersive and interactive situations that engage the spatial and physical awareness of the individual, rather than parking them behind a desk or computer.
With AR, your business can break down the gap between “training” in a classroom and training in the field by making information readily available, and providing that information to the individual as they work. If a trainee is hooked up to AR glasses or a Heads-Up Display (HUD), then a trainer could feasibly “see what they see” and walk them through their training with all the same data and intelligence. Data collected with AR technology can be stored and used later as well, providing actual, practical information for an individual performing a common task.
AR can obviously impact manufacturing. But Ar, properly applied, can move complex manufacturing processes towards “lean” models. Lean manufacturing is simply a method of manufacturing in which waste and cost are minimized without impacting performance or efficiency.
Implementing AR in your manufacturing process can provide employees and planners with the information they need to develop better, more efficient, and less wasteful practices. With localized data gathering and intelligence display, engineers can other manufacturing employees can implement new processes that cut costs and waste from your manufacturing.
AR is Breaking Ground in Data Visualization
With the growth of AR, Virtual Reality (VR) systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more enterprises are moving to data-driven solutions to address their specific problems regarding efficiency and adaptability. And not without good reason–business intelligence gathered from data gathered near pain points in a manufacturing process can provide a wealth of information for decision makers. However, data is no good without context to give it meaning. So, they key to good, actionable intelligence is visualization.
What’s great about this is that when you talk about data visualization like this, you aren’t just talking about graphs and charts on a monitor. With AR, you are distributing visual data throughout your company… in fact, you can use AR to deliver localized data to anyone with a tablet and an internet connection. ANd you are giving it to your experts at the place they need it. Imagine an engineer tasked with fixing a machine walking up to a section of that machine, holding up a tablet or putting on smart glasses, and beholding a litany of operating data, reports, and internal communications all within an eye movement.
AR Technology provides data visualization tools that staff and employees can use on the floor or in the field by overlaying key data over a real life object or process. And, coupled with something like an IoT framework, this data can be up-to-the-second accurate. Then, everyone works faster, works more accurately, and saves time and money.
But let’s take that one step further. Not only does AR technology allow you to overlay data over a real-world situation; it allows you to overlay simulations over a real world objects. This “partial” immersion merges virtual objects with actual objects to create a 3-dimensional space that individuals can interact within.
AR simulation has already found great purchase in the medical industry and teaching the hard sciences. In automobile and aerospace manufacturing, the convergence of data visualization and AR simulation provides workers ways to get information in their peripheral vision, and to view 3D objects that assist them during complex assembly processes.
This differs significantly from VR simulation in that it combines a view of the real world with digital objects relevant to that world. In manufacturing contexts, this can help engineers model complex systems in planes or other machines in a digital space, export portions of that simulation into an AR context, and use both to provide data towards more efficient building and maintenance practices.
Convince Your Boss About AR
All the above-listed aspects of AR innovation are fantastic… and any one of them could, and should, get their attention if they are all interested in optimization.
But most importantly, be excited about it. AR is an exploding field, and it is part of a larger shift into smart and adaptive manufacturing and logistics. Getting on board with AR isn’t just about tweaking your organization’s infrastructure: it can be a fundamental shift that takes your operation to a new level. And that’s exciting! Communicate that excitement, and have real information about the technologies that are shaping training, manufacturing, and data analysis.
If you are excited and knowledge, and can talk the talk about these aspects of AR innovation, then you have a great shot of getting your boss interested.