AR and VR
The benefits of AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and XR (extended reality) technologies have long been known in the gaming industry and community. But did you know these technologies are also utilized within the supply chains and the manufacturing industries? Moreover, the aerospace and defense industries were among the first sectors to adopt AR and VR for training.
Eventually, energy, manufacturing, and construction sectors also began integrating VR and AR into their training programs. AR and VR have become more affordable and user-friendly, so their usage within industrial training has become more standard across various sectors.
AR and VR have been used within the recent decade to train manufacturing employees to optimize training and operations. Since 2011, (extended reality) technologies have been used within the supply chain and have steadily gained traction within manufacturing employee training programs. Do you know the difference between AR and VR technology?
AR is an interactive experience enhanced with computer visuals and sounds that are used to augment a real-world environment. VR, on the other hand, is an entirely computer-generated simulation. The simulation is of a 3D image or specific environment that can be interacted with using special equipment.
With AR, digital content and analytics are overlaid into the real world. For example, 2-D and 3-D eyewear and other technologies, such as tablets and smartphones, can view operational data, documentation, blueprints, etc., on the manufacturing machinery and plant floor.
AR can provide procedural guidance, step-by-step operator instructions, change-over instructions, workflow, and processes. VR is fully immersive and creates a simulated environment. VR allows employees to “visit” remote sites or those plants under construction without being sent on-site.
While using AR and VR technologies for Industrial and Manufacturing training has proven benefits, it will still be a decade or more before companies massively adopt this technology. Less than 10% of companies are estimated to use any extended reality technology for employee training.
It will still take several years before this technology is widely adopted in training outside industrial sectors and into the mainstream training methodology. While the costs of extended reality technology have lowered, it is still quite expensive unless companies are working on a volume deal. Some experts believe that rental availability services will eventually increase the usage of this technology in various businesses.
The ultimate goal of using extended reality technology in the supply chain is to increase efficiency, lower costs, and increase worker competency in the supply chain. While the widespread adoption of extended reality technology will take time, it has already proven effective within many industry training programs.
AR and VR Applications
Extended reality equipment manufactures spacecraft parts, automobile components, and airplane wings. AR and VR have been critical in repairing and maintaining these sectors. The technology allows for more efficient and cost-effective prototyping and design by allowing engineers to visualize, test, and modify the concepts without using physical models and expensive equipment. AR and VR simulate product performance, aesthetics, and functionality.
This technology can also show the effects the products experience under certain conditions, such as specific temperatures, stress, and user feedback. These extended reality technologies can optimize the facility or production line’s floor layouts, workflows, and ergonomics. AR and VR can guide workers in performing complex or repetitive tasks through real-time instructions, feedback, and guidance through various sensory cues, including visual, auditory, or haptic. As a result, errors are reduced, and productivity is increased.
One of the most valuable aspects of these technologies is their effectiveness in safety training. Control engineers must always be prepared for emergencies, regardless of their training level. However, traditional training methods have not always adequately covered these emergency scenarios. Workers in process industries must be prepared for an emergency chemical leak, runaway reaction, or explosion. This extended reality technology allows employees in training to walk through a digital twin of the facility, allowing them to identify emergency exits, potential hazards, and safety procedures.
Control engineers can role-play and practice emergency response situations using immersive digital twins.VR allows them to practice responding and see how their responses impact operations. It will enable the opportunity to train with operators even when a physical environment is unavailable. Workers gain critical experience and an understanding of potential hazards without actually being in danger.
AR can even demonstrate proper safety procedures by overlaying the instructions digitally over the real-world view. This training method is more intuitive and context-specific. When workers practice hands-on skills in a simulated environment, they are more likely to retain and apply the information they learn more accurately on the job.
Workers can practice using equipment before it has even been installed or manufactured. Advanced AR/VR training helps assure employers that workers can operate machines upon arrival and reduces the time-to-productivity. And the training scenario opportunities do not stop there! Techs can practice maintenance procedures on difficult-to-train-with or impractical equipment, such as undersea structures. Training on digital mock-up equipment keeps productivity and profits up while avoiding a plant shutdown.
Extended reality technologies are beneficial across a wide range of sectors. It is used for health, safety, & environment training, as well as for field maintenance and operations, assembly & virtual build, and product knowledge training.
Benefits of AR and VR
AR and VR technologies benefit those training in the industrial and manufacturing sectors; instead of limiting the training to one style of learning, AR and VR accommodates many different learning styles, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. These technologies allow for real-time learning, using step-by-step oral and visual instructions. AR also alerts and corrects trainees’ missteps with feedback in real time.
As a result, workers can more efficiently navigate the factory, with and without the help of AR. This technology can help employees identify the proper tools and parts for each task. If employees are curious about how the factory responds to changes, key performance metrics and operational data overlaid onto equipment can illustrate this crucial factory information.
The extended reality technology helps simplify machine repair and maintenance in real-life and training applications. Step-by-step instructions and vital information can be overlaid using AR, sidestepping the need for considerable manual referencing. VR can also be used in these scenarios to simulate complex repair procedures. This waives the need to dismantle machinery for training, consequently saving the company time and money.
Extended reality allows control engineers to be better equipped to handle less typical emergencies they may never encounter. These immersive digital experiences support manufacturing processes and training by enhancing various tasks’ efficiency, quality, and safety. For example, a large aerospace and defense company using AR in the UK saw incredible worker productivity benefits.
Guided work instructions were created at a 10th of the cost, workers were trained 30-40% more efficiently, and the assembly time was reduced by half. Meanwhile, a US business technology manufacturing company using AR found first-time fix rates increased by 67%, while engineer efficiency increased by 20%. Even the average time to resolve problems was reduced by over two hours!
The benefits above merely scratch the surface of the lengthy list of perks AR and VR offer. One of the greatest business benefits of using this technology is reducing the required training times while increasing employee competence and skill levels, particularly in the aerospace and defense industries. In some cases, employees can complete eight-week training programs in a week.
Other examples mention workers with one year of experience using extended reality technology that can outperform those with five years of experience within the same industry. Some warehouse workers have been trained in as few as fifteen minutes, demonstrating a 3% increase in worker effectiveness.
AR combines the best of traditional evaluation methods with a hands-on examination. AR allows essential data points to be captured in real-time, such as when a wrong part is used, steps are completed out of order, and when specific tasks take too long or cause a safety risk. Traditionally, certifications and standard hands-on assessments have drawbacks, including capturing human error and overall performance measures critical to improving future training programs.
Bridging the Skills Gap
For years, manufacturers have been facing a skilled labor shortage, even before record levels of unemployment. Factors contributing to this shortage include retiring workers, widening skills gap, and economic expansion. It is estimated that over the next ten years, 2.7 million baby boomers will be retiring from manufacturing jobs, taking their knowledge and skills with them. Effective offboarding by retaining and passing this knowledge on to the next generation has become an essential priority for employers. This is where AR comes into the picture.
Manufacturers have been forced to rethink their internal training methods to attract and develop new talent. In today’s training environment, training manuals, job shadowing, evaluations, and certifications are considered outdated, time-consuming, and less effective, especially in comparison to training with AR/VR. Another con of traditional methods is that they do not cater to various learning styles. AR and VR technology helps bridge the skills gap by effectively transforming existing training methods and offboarding retiring workers.
Creating and documenting work procedures for employee training using AR has shown a 37% reduction in training time and a 75% reduction in the time required to write these instructions. Another benefit of using this technology is that it helps keep information current. Traditional training materials need to be updated more quickly and have to be reprinted, creating an extensive and expensive annual expense. Meanwhile, AR enables capturing this information quickly and efficiently, making updates even more effortless.
Control engineers no longer need to spend hours performing and documenting a process and can instead create these experiences passively. This technology even enhances flexibility for remote workers eligible for retirement but who want to keep working remotely or part-time.
AR can capture audio and visual cues by leveraging advanced sensors and computer vision. These cues can help document the factory location and the work processes. Engineers wear headsets and explain the steps as if they are training someone; simultaneously, AR documents and translates the information into training materials. This information can be published in AR experiences, videos, images, or text documents.
AR even creates opportunities for remote experts by connecting them to manufacturing facilities. The remote experts can wear AR devices displaying identical information the person in the factory sees, including factory surroundings. By allowing the remote expert to train the employee through conversation, AR continues to help bridge the skills gap. Remote experts can draw using their hands and create markings in the digital world. This helps communicate instructions and ideas to workers in the factory.
In addition, if workers encounter unfamiliar or challenging tasks, they can troubleshoot the problem using expert guidance. They are guided with detailed instructions, cues, and warnings to minimize errors and enhance operational efficiency. This allows workers to learn effectively, make mistakes, and learn in a safe and controlled environment. Training is risk-free in simulated environments, reducing the probability of accidents.
Industrial sector and Manufacturing Businesses have a lot to gain when it comes to utilizing the benefits of AR and VR technology in their companies. AR and VR training offers generous cost savings and can make all the difference in closing the skills gap and the high turnover rates typical in this workforce.
This type of training eliminates the need for physical materials and logistics while allowing employees to prepare effectively for a new product line by practicing assembly operations. Interactive and immersive technology like AR and VR can improve employee retention by strengthening competency, skill level, learner engagement, and productivity. While AR and VR each have their strengths, uses, and benefits, the one a company chooses should be based on their specific needs, budget, and availability of physical space and equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What challenges face the widespread adoption of AR and VR technologies?
A: Some of the challenges facing the implementation of and widespread adoption of these technologies include hardware costs, health concerns, content development, and the need for a more reliable internet.
Q: Are there any health risks associated with AR and VR?
A: Adopting AR and VR can pose health risks and concerns. Some of these include motion sickness, which results when visual cues do not match movements; eye strain and fatigue; “cyber sickness,” neck and posture issues; emotional effects; privacy concerns; depersonalization and isolation; addiction; and physical hazards.
Q: What is XR?
A: XR stands for “Extended Reality.” It encompasses AR, VR, MR, and the entire spectrum of all other immersive technologies.
Q: What are some common uses for AR?
A: Some common uses include smartphone apps for navigation, gaming, and educational applications. Other industries utilizing AR include medical training and visualization for healthcare and even the retail industry for virtual try-ons and product visualization.