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Selangor, Malaysia.


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Augmented Reality and the Smart Factory

Augmented Reality and the Smart Factory
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Characterized by a blend of technologies that blur the lines between the physical and digital, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is spreading all-around the manufacturing world. As a component of this revolution, an expanding number of suppliers are using augmented reality (AR) to improve operations in workforce training and equipment maintenance. AR is a technologically enhanced version of reality created by using technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device, such as smart goggles or a smartphone camera. The goggles are usually voice-controlled, leaving wearers with both hands free.
Statista estimates the AR market was worth $5.91 billion in 2018 and that it will go to more than $198.7 billion by 2025. The technology naturally has a stronghold in the video games and entertainment sector, but a growing number of manufacturing suppliers, including large automated equipment manufacturers, are using the technology to provide their employees and customers with virtual hands-on instruction for operating machinery, troubleshooting and conducting repairs. As a matter of fact, 10 percent of the Fortune 500 companies already have begun exploring shopping and operation applications for AR. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20 percent of large enterprises will evaluate and adopt augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality solutions as part of their digital transformation strategy.
Training and Maintenance
The “model-based digital twin” is tremendously popular use for AR technology in manufacturing. The digital twin is a duplicate of the physical asset, providing a dynamic, self-teaching model to optimize performance in conjunction with an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform. The mixture of machine learning and physics-based modeling enables engineers to create entire AR experiences that show technicians how to service factory floor machines. Using the digital twin, a technician can repair a faulty tool in record time and with greater accuracy.
In-person training might be expensive and needs that the equipment be readily available for student training. Companies can use AR tools to provide real-time visual guidance and can join students with teachers without the cost and logistics of getting everyone in the same room. For example, Bosch Rexroth, an international provider of power units and controls used in manufacturing, uses an AR-enhanced visualization known as Hägglunds InSight Live to demonstrate the design and capabilities of its smart, connected CytroPac hydraulic power unit. The AR application enables customers to see 3-D representations of the unit’s internal pump and cooling options in multiple configurations and how the subsystems fit together.
Technicians could also make use of smart goggles’ video and photo recording abilities to monitor of progress and keep tabs on errors. Goggles can capture hands-free photos in seconds, and those images can be submitted to off-site teams for troubleshooting help.
Improving Productivity
Incorporating AR into industrial processes has confirmed to boost worker productivity. For example, GE healthcare warehouse workers use Skylight, an industrial augmented reality application platform from Upskill, to kit and completely pick list orders up to 46 percent faster. Upskill gives augmented reality software for the industrial workforce, and it boasts an regular worker performance boost of 32 percent for Skylight customers.
In GE’s application, Skylight links to warehouse systems to have real-time information on an item location by connecting to smart warehouse systems. It then gives workers easy-to-read guidelines for where to find items throughout the building. The formerly paper-based process, where workers flipped through printed orders to look for parts and waded through depleted stock locations, is now efficient and digitized.
In another use case, Lockheed Martin used Microsoft HoloLens headsets to view holographic renderings of an aircraft’s parts and the instructions on how exactly to set up them. Microsoft HoloLens offers mixed reality solutions to maximize communication and improve efficiency. The AR technology reduced assembly time by 30 percent, and digitizing the work-flow helped Lockheed Martin enhance engineering efficiency to 96 percent.
Evaluating the Investment
These case studies make a substantial argument for AR’s ability to improve manufacturing operations, but manufacturers still may wonder if augmented reality is worth the investment. Companies considering investing in AR have got to be strategic, approaching the opportunity by establishing the bottom-line value first. Approaching digital with a clear vision and a phased roadmap, and with a focused ecosystem of technology partners will help maximize the return on investment in new technology. Workforce training and equipment maintenance applications for AR have the potential to enable companies get ahead of the capabilities gap and build the culture to sustain that lead.
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