Augmented Reality Brings Real Benefits to Manufacturing

by , | Mar 5, 2021 | Asset Management, Digital Transformation, Industrial IoT, Operational Excellence, Reliability, Safety

Todd Walden

Author and Blogger

Augmented reality (AR) has come a long way since it first made a worldwide splash in mobile video games. No longer considered just a toy or novelty, AR is being implemented for real-world applications that are changing the way we work and learn.

One area where AR is taking off quickly is in manufacturing. In a recent article with Automation World entitled, How Augmented Reality Became a Serious Tool for Manufacturing, Vineesh Kapoor, Emerson’s director of product management, shared three critical ways industry is taking advantage of AR technologies:

  • Training and guiding workers
  • Asset identification
  • Knowledge transfer

Improved training and workflows

Industrial AR tools provide plant personnel an opportunity to learn real-world skills they simply can’t get sitting in front of a computerized training tool. Using AR tools, plant personnel can receive training directly on the equipment they will use. Users can view assets through the screen of a mobile device and see overlays that guide them through procedures and processes to ensure right-first-time adjustments and repairs.

AR also helps ensure workflows are performed properly. Steps can be displayed—in order and referencing specific components—to verify that the correct steps of any workflow are completed in order to avoid mistakes and missed steps. Vineesh explains,

AR helps users to achieve faster upskilling and creates more confident workers by standardizing procedure execution and providing in-the-field training.

Find it the first time

Having help finding assets in the field might not seem like a big deal until you consider many facilities have thousands, if not tens of thousands of assets, many of which are the same or similar. Moreover, finding the right asset the first time isn’t only a benefit for efficiency—in a facility shared by multiple business groups or even multiple different businesses, it can mean the difference between fixing your asset right the first time or “fixing” someone else’s, by accident.

Using AR tools, personnel in the field gain instant situational awareness. On-screen navigation helps users quickly and easily find their way to the assets they’re looking for. Color coded asset health tags overlaid on assets provide confirmation they have found the right equipment when they arrive.

Augmented reality can help operators and technicians find assets quickly and easily—a difficult task when they must identify one asset out of hundreds or thousands.

Capture critical knowledge

Plants today are typically operating with a limited staff composed of much greener personnel. Every experienced operator or technician who retires takes away critical knowledge that keeps the plant operating at its best. Moreover, severely limited staffing means that experts in the field who need help often can’t get it as quickly as they need. Vineesh notes,

Senior personnel often can’t travel to a site to help with solving a problem.

AR tools quickly and easily close this gap. The most advanced AR tools offer remote assistance. Experts can see a field technician’s display in real-time and can remotely guide them through processes and procedures using step-by-step instructions and annotations overlaid directly on the technician’s screen.

Working with the experts

Advanced AR tools, like those available in Emerson’s Plantweb Optics Augmented Reality can increase productivity of operators and technicians in the field. By partnering with an automation solutions provider with expert knowledge in AR, organizations can leverage the technology to reduce costs, safety risks, and repair times while simultaneously preparing personnel to make better decisions.

Emerson, as Vineesh notes, recommends

working with integrators and suppliers to create and maintain libraries in the cloud.

These cloud libraries take the responsibility of managing, maintaining, and updating AR software and infrastructure off the shoulders of manufacturers, allowing them to reap all the benefits while they continue to focus on what they do best: driving optimal production.

You can learn more about the advances in AR for manufacturing by reading the whole article at Automation World. Also, be sure to visit the Plantweb Optics Augmented Reality page on Emerson.com. And I’d love to hear more about your experiences with VR and AR in industry. Please comment below to share any experiences you’ve had and how you think they’ll change the future of manufacturing.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.