MR, VR, and AR in Manufacturing and Logistics: an Ultimate Way to Increase Productivity
If you love sci-fi movies and watch them from time to time, you must have noticed that it is impossible to visualize the world of the future without AR, VR, and MR.
These technologies fit into the world of the future as naturally as flying cars, androids, and teleportation. Yes, I am talking about superhero movies, such as Iron Man, Avengers, Black Panther or some utopian (or dystopian series, who knows?) like Black Mirror or Altered Carbon.
For tech evangelists, integration of AR and VR into a modern life seems as natural as the growth of the Internet. For Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, using AR in all the countries will be as habitual as “eating 3 meals a day”.VR application methods are numerous and overwhelming: you can use VR in education, medicine, training, architecture, real estate. These technologies are becoming more accessible and companies use them to educate, entertain, and advertise to clients or optimize internal processes.
I believe that the real reason for VR/AR/MR integration into our life is their ability to make human life easier, more comfortable, and dynamic. And I am talking about the utilization of AR/MR/VR in manufacture and logistics. In these spheres, AR/VR/MR are as irreplaceable as Excel in accounting. But how exactly virtual and augmented reality at manufacturing can make a change?
Augmented and Virtual Reality Training in Manufacturing
It may be surprising to you but AR/VR/MR are transforming manufacture from within.
It is applied in the sphere in which it is needed the most – teaching new employees about complex operations with puzzling multistep algorithms. You see, many operations in manufacture require a long period of training and preparation before a new employee is ready to perform his/her tasks and use some complex equipment. Augmented reality in manufacturing can speed up this process and make education more effective.
When you hire a new employee at the office, you can open a computer and show everything you need. In manufacture, it’s much more challenging.
In the manufacture, a trainer has to keep dozens of manuals, schemes, and other documents to be able to explain everything correctly.
For instance, in aircraft, employees are required to do a dozen different tasks and sometimes they even have to walk hundreds of meters to interact with various parts of jet planes. AR is a perfect tool for on-the-spot training: new employees can see the guidelines and the instructions whenever they need them. In such a way training can be applied to real-life situations. There is no need in trainers as well – so the natural operational process of any factory or a plant is not disrupted. Even experienced employees profit from using AR in manufacture during the assembling stage. For example, car manufacture involves collecting hundreds of details at precise sequence very fast. Human errors are inevitable in this process. And it gets even worse when instructions printed in pdf change and its crucial to learn them over again ( yes, it’s the 21st century). Executive Director at HTC Vive claims that “VR and AR help to reduce cognitive load in employees during complex operations. These technologies are intuitive and that is why they are ultimately effective for learning new complex visual information.”
It also simplifies safety training.
Implementing AR/VR in the training process in the manufacture, companies have more effective and more concentrated teams. More than that, it is important to understand that immersive technologies are much more than just hardware: they are a real platform which permits converge modern technologies and tools.
Improving Design with Augmented and Virtual Reality
Joe Guzman, the man who manages VR initiatives at GM claims that “VR offers the ability to very early in the development process make decisions in an accurately represented manner in a life-like representation of the vehicle that in many years past would have required a physical property.”
For car manufacturers, VR is the ultimate solution as it reduces costs and time. For instance, Ford has been using VR to design and improve car prototypes in 1:1 ratio with the help of CAVE ( or Cave Automatic Virtual Environment). Without VR the company would have to spend weeks or even months to create some realistic model and then redesign and improve it. In VR any car can be modified an infinite number of times. AR, MR, and VR let designers and engineers feel free and think outside of the box, experiment, and even make mistakes with no risk.
Can you imagine what designers are capable of is they are not afraid of making mistakes? MR, VR, and AR give them such a possibility of experimenting without internal limits.
Augmented and Virtual Reality in Maintenance and Repair
First of all, VR and AR must be perceived as the means of communication. These technologies give manufacturers a possibility to consult a specialist anywhere in the world if they have some problem. It’s a real headache relief for engineers and mechanics. Sometimes, well, most of the time, the face some unique challenges. The ability to receive help for a qualified specialist with the experience in the same sphere reduces the intensity of the work and improves its quality. Thus, Porsche specialists use AR glasses to solve complex problems together. If a Porsche technician working in the UK is at a loss, he/she can reach a US specialist and they both will take a look at the problem and find a common solution. Aerospace manufacture and maintenance sphere have integrated AR long time ago because it allowed minimizing the quantity of human-made errors. Some companies even create 3D AR platforms to make jets inspection more effective and less time-consuming.
For instance, Lockheed Martin currently uses an interactive AR software developed by Vancouver-based software firm NGRAIN, to inspect F-35 and F-22 fighter jets. All the employees of Lockheed Martin are equipped with front-facing camera glasses that display valuable digital information over the working environment. When a worker needs to install a brake component on the landing gear, for example, he/she can see an accurate scheme and renderings of every bolt and cable and understand where each part fits.
The results of AR usage, in this case, are amazing: engineers work 30% faster and 96% more accurately now.
The statistic is so impressive that the company the company went further and created an AR platform to optimize the work.
Vision Picking as the Way to Optimize Operations
Some companies, such as DHL, have been using AR for years already. Yet, they call it in a bit different way – vision picking. But the essence of vision picking is augmented reality or overlay of digital information on physical space. DHL figured out that 50% of the time at the warehouse is spent on picking the right packages and decided to reduce it to the minimum. Human errors were another serious problem of one of the biggest world logistics company. An employee who got tired and distracted could simply displace the package and send it in the wrong direction.
One small error could cost a fortune to a company.
That’s why DHL equipped its workers with smart glasses turning them into superheroes. DHL workers who have to look through thousands of packages a day are now equipped with smart glasses that provide them with the accurate information about these packages at once. It looks like DHL figured out that AR can save cost, time, and efforts of their employees and minimize the risk of human-made errors. More than that, after vision picking, has become a habitual part of DHL operations, productivity improved by 15% since AR was implemented.
In the logistics sphere, AR is a synonym for business operations optimization that is why DHL decided to make augmented reality a standard in logistics.
General Electric also use smart glasses to improve efficiency in warehousing and logistics and statistics already shows an increase in productivity by 46%.
Augmented Reality for Logistics
For many companies that produce heavy and bulky equipment, logistics becomes as serious challenges. Let’s imagine the company that produces equipment for oil extraction. It weighs tons and transporting it to a conference is a real chore. Triol, the company that produces equipment for the oil and gas industry, found a non- trivial solution in logistics when faced this problem. Augmented reality.
The company created high-end equipment systems, and it was important to represent it at various conferences without physical transportation. AR app created for this purpose allowed observing all the oil and gas equipment up to the smallest detail without the need for its transportation. Clients needed to point cameras of their smartphones or tablets at special markers and the 3D models of the equipment were visualized in real time. Speaker mode was another bonus of this augmented reality application for logistics. The speaker representing this equipment in 3D in AR could control it manually on the tablet during the presentation.
AR is a perfect tool for transporting bulky and heavy equipment because it reduces cost without compromising the quality of the presentation of this equipment.
Augmented Reality for Quality Assurance
Quality assurance is all about finding bugs before the production and fixing them effectively. In most cases, QA specialists have to compare various details, systems or structures with the standard schemes to reveal discrepancies. Augmented reality allows improving the level of QA to an incredible level.
And the companies that have complex production level, have grasped the opportunity to improve their operation with the help of AR/VR as soon as these technologies became available. Just take a look at automobile production: Porsche started using AR to make QA more effective and accurate. So now Porsche engineers can capture different parts or assemblies, overlay digital data on them in AR, and find all the errors quickly and almost intuitively. In such a way Porsche aims to reduce the time of inspection and improve its quality. In the end, it will be possible to connect cameras to the production floor to Porsche’s cloud-based parts database to make
in order to enable real-time analysis of parts and assembled components. This could reduce inspection times significantly, though it would also seem to undermine the value of augmented reality in favor of automation.
Airbus has been using augmented reality for years already and even created a special AR solution called Smart Augmented Reality Tool (SART) with multiple applications. For instance, SART, which is used by more than 1000 employees today allows inspecting the fuselage assembly and spotting any errors that appear.
With AR technology Airbus managed to reduce the inspection time from 3 weeks to 3 days.
When we are talking about AR, VR, MR today, we are not talking about some technologies from sci-fi movies. We are talking about real things that can be applied here and now and give tangible results. Of course, I can tell you much more about MR, VR, AR in logistics and manufacture. But it looks like that the numbers speak better than words in this case.
In manufacture and logistics numbers rule. If it is possible to decrease the time of inspection by 86% in the manufacture, this must be done. If it is possible to decrease the cognitive load of warehouse workers and improve productivity by 15%, here is the only one question “When will your company implement this technology?”