Augmented Reality , Manufacturing , Digital Transformation , Training

8 Manufacturing Companies showing the way to leverage AR for greater ROI

If you are wondering how you can use AR in your manufacturing industry or want to learn where AR will be helping your company the best, then scroll below as we discuss how the following companies could use different versions of AR in their business processes. 

Manufacturing Industries have been using Augmented Reality in many of their operational stages to either save costs, time or improve efficiencies and optimise the proper use of resources. The technology of AR aids in the training of new employees, quality control, equipment maintenance, troubleshooting, assembly of parts, faster warehousing, and product design. All of this can be achieved in real-time. Your employees can now be in charge of more extensive duties, and you can assign more plants under one manager, train your staff simultaneously with digital modules. You can minimise operational errors as the digital SOPs would be visible to them through their headset. 

Unlike any other technological adoption, implementing AR and training your employees to handle it requires minimum time. The manifold benefits of AR reveal themselves early upon implementation, so you don't have to wait for years to get your ROI. 


Whenever ABB detected any malfunctioning in their processes, machines, or defects in certain parts, the ABB Collaborative Operations Center staff had to arrange for on-site support at the earliest. In case the technicians and support staff present lacked the technical know-how to troubleshoot the issue, they would have had to call in expert support from other location leading to prolonged downtime, increased maintenance cost, and a negative impact on the production. 

 

ABB's joint operations partnered with an AR company to use their Augmented Reality Ecosystem to amalgamate three different processes into one viz. continuous monitoring of plants, gathering and providing data inputs with real-time visualisation, and instant access to knowledge. Thus, the ecosystem would turn data into user-friendly, stepwise instruction to relay live guidance from a remote location. Upon its implementation, any technician would perform the troubleshooting task in a quick and efficient manner.

The AR Ecosystem will be able to provide customer support; they can create their in-house AR-powered user manuals and tutorials at the customer site or their won. 

Thus including Augmented Reality in their processes, they will be able to improve workflows, broaden their operators' capabilities, reduce downtime, ultimately leading to greater customer satisfaction.

 

Covid19 pushed Syntegon to adapt AR

In pharma and food manufacturing industries, downtime results in wastage of products. The malfunction needs to be fixed as soon as possible to minimise the loss of materials and the plant has to run smoothly again. The service engineers of Syntegon Packaging Machines needed to be present on-site to help their food and pharma clients with troubleshooting.

During the lockdown last year, there was a global travel ban resulting in service technicians unable to visit the site undergoing maintenance physically. This impacted the South East Asian hub of Syntegon where engineers required to travel a long distance for the process. They needed a solution to fastening up the repair process without involving travel.

 

Syntegon launched their remote service assistant that would solve all their support issues from a distance. The support was provided through audio-visual instructions, chats, video calls, and document sharing; all happening in real-time. The experts monitored the repair process as if they were on-site.

From April 2020, they significantly sped up their maintenance process saving travel costs for their clients and reducing downtime. They were even able to reach out to the manufacturers who were hitherto unreachable as the on-field visits proved to be cost-intensive for them. They have also expanded the use of this remote to training and commissioning. 

 

Volvo shows the way to train and engage technical workers effectively

Like many automobile workshops, Volvo had their technical trainers use complex 3D graphics to train workshop technicians on display information about components and hidden vehicle parts. The 3D, while proved beneficial in the training process and to impart a better understanding of workshop repairs and maintenance scenarios, they fell behind when it came to engaging trainees and giving them a real-life understanding of workshop repair and maintenance scenarios. The trainer often had to provide additional explanation as a part of the training process.

 

Volvo Group Trucks Central Europe GmbH, Germany, needed a solution to serve the twin purpose of delivering the content of the training visually as well as assist in effectively in the training process. They were, in essence, looking for a system that would enable smooth uploading of the training content and be able to use them beyond training scenarios.

To resolve these issues, the company acquired a gamut of AR applications that allowed them to build their in-house Augmented Reality scenarios. They were able to use those scenarios for training purposes in their Volvo Truck Center. With this, accessing the visually inaccessible truck components too became possible. The staff were now able to see the part specifications onto the vehicle through Augmented Reality, thereby increasing their efficiency at each level of expertise. The new trainees were now able to obtain more realistic training through this novel training solution, preparing them better for the actual job and improving in retention of training information for future use.

Additionally, the trainers were now able to update all training related inputs and publish the scenarios for AR viewing. The AR solution had long term potential to check part specifications, diagnose vehicle errors, and explain technical issues and troubleshoot.

 

Chemical manufacturer BASF uses AR for centralised remote control 

Car painting is a complex process involving applying various layers of coats precisely under predefined conditions until the paint achieves its properties. BASF, the leading supplier of automotive coatings and an expert in their field, offers both comprehensive paint selection and colour formulations and provides remote support for each branch directly to the body shops. They were looking for a remote support solution that fulfilled its four critical criteria primarily for two of its brands, viz. Glasurit and R-M.

The criteria were:

  1. They required an easy-to-use solution that allowed technical experts to relay information to body-shops for high-quality service through one system without delay.
  2. BASF sought to reduce travel time and expenses for customer support while improving responsiveness to customer requests. 
  3. The chemical company wanted to provide a customised user experience to the end-user of their subsidiaries through high brand recall.
  4. They wanted to roll out this solution globally to maximise scalability to reach out to a growing list of brands in the chemical sector – all in one solution.

 

 

To resolve their requirements, BASF used an AR remote solution, through which they were able to simplify the remote support for many of their brands under one umbrella of one business, which had hitherto worked independently. They could now launch unlimited remote support applications for each of their business units. Through Augmented Reality, they centralised remote assistance to support all their brands. 

Through Augmented Reality, they were able to identify the problem, measure the amount and gradients of paints required, and guide the technician is performing the task step by step till it was resolved.

The AR application also helped to scale up and promote support solutions to the end-user and provide customised support to each of them, increasing customer loyalty and brand trust.

Thus BASF got an easy solution for their technicians, reduced travel time for their workers, produce customised solutions based on customer need, and scale up their offerings for various brands.

 

Ford Motor Company designs their best, using AR

Designing a car is a complex and costly process. Imagine getting the drawing, coming up with a prototype, and testing the prototype and the time, workforce, and cost involved in all of the steps. 

Ford Motor Company had similar concerns and wanted to use the Augmented Reality technology to take over their cumbersome design process. 

 

 

They were able to achieve this using AR lenses. These lenses allowed them to see potential designs of a car (or its part) overlaid over a physical prototype on an accurate scale. This has improved Ford's design team's efficiencies by allowing them to improve their decision making after consulting the visual aid provided by the AR lenses. The workers could leave comments for others to follow up. 

Ford Motor Company was able to obtain crucial information about design from different departments, enabling them to manage their data on the spot. They became more creative, collaborate better, and saved much time in the process.

 

Aircraft from Lockheed Martin comes alive with AR

Another example of how using AR to achieve operational efficiencies can be seen in the case of Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin decided to use Augmented Reality in its training process. The aircraft manufacturer lowered down the assembly process of their F-35 aircraft by 30 per cent by training their employees using AR technology.

They use glasses enabled with a camera and depth and motion sensor that overlays images into the workers' physical environment. These glasses enable the workers to see the hologram-like images while working on brakes, cables and other parts. They were able to identify the part numbers, and instructions were present to guide them in their work; they can see where each part fits. 

The time required for training is significantly reduced. They were using AR in aircraft and no longer needed highly trained employees, as someone who is moderately trained would also be able to understand the steps and perform them minimising errors quickly. Their accuracy was 96 per cent using AR. 

Even if there was one F-35 jet that required repair, it couldn't be sold, and the entire cost to produce the craft would be sunk. Improvement in accuracy would then mean significant savings in the cost of production.

 

Mitsubishi Electric maintains machines using AR

Augmented Reality can be used in maintenance along with design and training purposes, and Mitsubishi Electric is telling us how.

The people at Mitsubishi Electric were using a manual to perform the maintenance target. This process was getting time-consuming as the workers had to continuously consult the manual and check with the maintenance target simultaneously. It proved to be tiring the workers.

 

The company developed a maintenance support technology using AR-enabled smart glasses. These glasses generate a 3 D model by scanning objects with a wearable AR camera, and using this image, they verify procedures against the scanned product. Thus, through AR, they were able to see the machine error simply by looking at it. These tech-enabled users (maintenance officers) confirm the inspection order on an Augmented display and enter their results using voice inputs. They felt that AR could be best used in maintenance.

They plan to use the AR system for various maintenance work, not limited to manufacturing, like inspections of water-treatment plants and building electrical systems.

 

Ideal Work improved their service quality using AR

The machine manufacturer Ideal Werk was facing the issue of shortage of labour. They needed well trained, well-experienced staff to provide maintenance and repair services. The rich experienced staff was becoming a rarity, and not every time staff could go to the clients' site for performing the maintenance and repair work.

With the going requirements in service and repair, the workers needed to be trained at a faster rate; the current time needed for completing the training was too long and unaccommodating. 

Adding to their plight was the ageing documentation that was proving inadequate in guiding the service staffs. These hard copies or pdfs were not updated regularly, and the instructions were unclear to the inexperienced workers.

 

 

To resolve their issue, Ideal Werk is using an AR guidance and documentation specialist. It uses an AR content creation platform to shift the documentation and instruction manual into a digital format combining the written instructions with 3D animations to give service engineers a look and feel of the target and provide simplified and precise guidance.

These guides can be used on a tablet; the relevant information would thus be accessible throughout the company to anyone at any time. The mobile application shows each step of the service or repair process by animation overlaying digitally over the physical machine.

AR provided them with a more visual guide than documented one, thereby making the guidance more precise and easier to understand. This made the process independent of any language, thus expanding the scope of the people who'd be able to do the job. 

Using Augmented Reality, the process of service and maintenance became faster, minimised errors allowing Ideal Werk to use their workforce more efficiently and reduce downtime.

 

Conclusion

You have seen how different manufacturing companies reap the different benefits of Augmented Reality in their industry. Having shown the way by the leading companies globally, the manufacturing industries would soon adopt AR and VR technology into their activities at the earliest for their necessity and usefulness been proven with tangible results.

Augmented Reality is becoming the Reality of the manufacturing industry, with each industry like yours coming forward and adopting it. AR, which is now a business decision, would soon become a tool for making business decisions. That's the true potential of Augmented Reality.

Share this blog with your company or people in the manufacturing sector. Update them on what their industry is talking about and what they are missing out on. If you have any success stories with AR in your company, we would be happy to know about them. Do comment about them.

 

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Sources

 

  1. ABB https://www.re-flekt.com/portfolio-item/abb-industrial-automation 
  2. Syntegon https://www.re-flekt.com/syntegon-remote-support-app-for-field-service
  3. Volvo https://www.re-flekt.com/portfolio-item/volvo-automotive-tech-training
  4. BASF https://www.re-flekt.com/portfolio-item/basf-centralized-remote-support
  5. IDEAL WERK https://www.re-flekt.com/portfolio-item/ideal-werk-ar-guides-for-service
  6. Lockheed https://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/a13967/lockheed-martin-augmented-reality-f-35/
  7. Ford Motor Company https://www.intellectsoft.net/blog/how-brands-use-augmented-reality-in-manufacturing/
  8. Mitsubishi https://www.engineering.com/story/what-can-augmented-reality-do-for-manufacturing




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