How augmented reality improves maintenance and operational performance
Augmented reality (AR) can improve remote maintenance in manufacturing operations as well as resolve issues in hours rather than days.
- Understand how augmented reality (AR) has evolved and played a key role in manufacturing operations.
- Learn about AR’s capabilities in manufacturing environments and where they can specifically help companies.
- Learn about specific examples where manufacturers benefited from AR and what the results were.
Augmented reality insights
- Augmented reality (AR) has been around for decades, but its role in manufacturing and other industries has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced companies to develop solutions because many workers were remote.
- AR can help workers find real-time solutions by creating an interactive environment with experts providing assistance and guidance.
Augmented reality (AR) is gathering momentum in the world of equipment servicing and is impacting the way shopfloor operatives, service technicians and engineers interact. AR, more than ever, is helping maintain competitiveness in a perpetually changing and demanding economic climate.
Research shows that businesses are concerned about energy pricing and security and the impact that this is having on their ability to compete, invest in people and reach their sustainability targets.
This is according to a recent Energy Insights Survey of 2,300 leaders from small and large businesses, which revealed that 92% of respondents believe the continuing instability of energy is threatening their profitability and competitiveness. It is also having a significant impact on the workforce with decreased investment in employees. They are also concerned about potential impacts of meeting their sustainability targets.
The priority for industry, therefore, is resilience! Operators need to build an infrastructure that is resilient to all geopolitical changes and be willing to adopt and integrate new technologies, such as AR.
For example, the likes of augmented servicing guides visible on the electrical equipment, boosts interaction and the ability for self-support, removing the need for an engineer to travel to the facility, which increases efficiency, reduces downtime and drastically cuts CO2 emissions.
AR’s capabilities in manufacturing environments
Unlike virtual reality (VR), which replaces physical reality with a computer-generated environment, AR superimposes digital information on the physical world.
Through AR technology, operational information is presented as augmented in a person’s view of their real environment and acts as a digital assistant. AR also makes digital assistance interactive, more practical to absorb, as well as easier to understand and act upon. Its core capabilities are to visualize, instruct and interact.
AR technology has been around since the early 1990s, but it became more widely adopted after the COVID-19 pandemic. With international and domestic travel bans in place, operators needed to find alternative ways to carry out essential servicing and maintenance. That’s where the quantifiable benefits of digital support technology using AR proved compelling. Indeed, AR has unlocked post-pandemic productivity by simplifying maintenance, reducing downtime costs and increasing equipment effectiveness via the quality of repairs and speed of resolution. It also has reduced the need to travel to site, but with an expert on hand, albeit remotely.
Users are now connecting remote live experts to real-life customer issues, wherever they are in the world. This is reshaping the way people interact with them and enables self-learning through first-rate support.
AR also delivers value by making procedures faster, smarter and safer in a standardized way to facilitate knowledge retention and continuous improvement cycles. For example, remote factory acceptance testing (FAT) now regularly deploys AR solutions encompassing audio, video, document sharing and live annotations by overlaying digital information onto the equipment operatives are working on, removing the need for customers to visit our facility.
Developing solutions in hours, not days
Because AR applications work on a multitude of devices, it is no longer a restricted technology. Even Android and iOS mobile devices we use can provide the operational gateway to reducing downtime and increased efficiency.
The service expert gets real-time visual insight to the application, accessing chat, images or videos shared by the on-site engineer, and in turn helps the customer troubleshoot by guiding through the service process with the aid of interactive tools that visualize and simplify the instructions.
Some recent outcomes show the value of AR in practice.
Field service engineers of a leading pulp and paper producer use headsets imparted with AR technology containing repair strategies and guidance documentation – so maintenance issues that would normally result in days of downtime due to travel and other logistics issues are solved in hours.
One of the world’s largest marine shipping operators needed remote maintenance to support problem-solving for its global fleet and reduce the impact of issues while at sea. Service support delivered through AR extends the ability of onboard technicians to address failures they would have otherwise lacked the experience to diagnose and complete.
Specialists could identify issues from thousands of miles away and provide their maintenance crews with instructions to solve problems, eliminating the need for re-routes, port stops and all the associated costs.
Bringing connected technology together
These AR solutions are available as downloadable apps from Google and Apple stores and use augmented reality to overlay the instructions on real equipment to expertly assist customers quickly and efficiently.
Interactive troubleshooting using step-by-step tutorials can be accessed by customers 24/7 for fast and easily accessible guidance through the different steps of key procedures. Facilitating remotely guided repairs and replacement of critical components takes this a step further, because in addition to using live on-screen annotations and digital overlays in the engineer’s field of vision, it also allows taking pictures, as well as audio and video sharing capability and guidance via live text chat.
A service assist mobile app provides information even faster and more efficiently with the additional support of a virtual assistant, which can find immersive guides, books appointments for either on-site or remote services. It also pulls together company and other related documentation in a single digital location.
The speed of resolution is tangible and vital in minimizing potentially disruptive and expensive downtime.
Value-added AR solutions should integrate multiple data sources and collaboration tools into the same augmented environment, so teams can collaborate much more effectively, regardless of their location, and get virtually hands on.
As we continue to navigate the challenges of a constantly changing energy landscape, the adoption of AR will only continue to accelerate. Providing operators with the visual information needed to fix problems and issues is a winning formula for achieving ongoing improved efficiency, quicker and safer resolutions as well as enhancing asset life and performance.
AR empowers end users and boosts positive and proactive interaction, so for both parties service support is conducted in a faster, more optimized and sustainable way.