What Are the Top 5 Benefits of AR and VR in Manufacturing?

by Emily Newton, Editor in Chief of Revolutionized Magazine

Are AR and VR in manufacturing worth adopting? These technologies may be new to the manufacturing industry but they offer several major benefits. Companies can improve their workplace safety, employee performance and more by implementing VR and AR in manufacturing. Here are some of the benefits of these technologies.

1. Safe Hands-on Training
Surveys show that 27.6% of businesses using AR and VR in manufacturing are using it for safety and skills training. Education is the most common application of this technology today, second only to product design and development. AR and VR are extremely versatile tools for conducting training since they give trainees a hands-on experience without any physical risk.
Using VR and AR in manufacturing to train new employees or upskill existing ones can be faster and more effective than conventional training. For example, a company could use artificial reality to train existing maintenance personnel to repair robotic arms. AR would allow the employees to have a digital guide projected onto a robot, walking them through a hands-on repair in real time.
This helps employees learn to identify and understand mechanical components more intuitively than a paper instruction manual would. Plus, digital AR training modules can be repeated with consistency. In contrast, there will inevitably be variations in how different teachers instruct employees. AR training can deliver more reliable results and let workers learn on the job and at their own pace.

2. Immersive Remote Work
Manufacturing may not be the first industry that comes to mind when people think of remote or hybrid work. However, there are many reasons why working from home could benefit the industry, not just in desk jobs but in manufacturing floor roles. For example, in a few years, employees may be able to drive forklifts or operate robots remotely using VR. Developers are already taking steps toward mainstream technology like this. For example, a remote forklift driving system won an innovation award from TIME magazine in 2022. This system allows remote drivers to see various live camera angles around their vehicles and communicate with other employees. Drivers can easily swap between vehicles, as well.
A system like this could be even more functional in VR. It may take some time for live VR remote work to become a reality, but wider adoption of 5G in manufacturing could pave the way.

Innovations like this are important for the future of the manufacturing industry since they allow a wider range of roles to be performed remotely. This expands the talent pool available to manufacturers. It removes employees from potentially risky working conditions without deleting their skills and knowledge from the equation.

3. Improved Workplace Safety
Safety is one of the top applications for VR and AR in manufacturing. Employees can use AR and VR guidance for workplace tasks beyond the training stage. AI image recognition can discover potential risks or mistakes in real time, expanding employees’ situational awareness and preventing accidents.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 23,400 maintenance and repair workers experienced workplace injuries resulting in days off in 2020. These injuries could be significantly reduced with the help of a heads-up display or assistant in AR or VR.

VR in manufacturing can be particularly effective for safety skills training. Teaching can be challenging since it inherently involves understanding dangerous situations. Reading about what to do in certain instances is drastically different from experiencing them. VR allows employees to have immersive safety training exercises without actual risk.
This application is already gaining ground in high-risk fields like construction and emergency response. Immersing trainees in a realistic simulation lets them experience what it feels like to be in a risky situation. This heightened emotional connection increases the likelihood of employees taking risks seriously and responding accurately.

4. Digital Process Optimization
AR and VR in manufacturing can help optimize facilities and workflows for optimal performance. Digital twins are already revealing the potential of simulations in logistics optimization. They allow facility managers to test ideas digitally before implementing them on the floor. VR and AR can take these simulations to a new level.

For example, a digital twin could help a manufacturing team pinpoint a few possible layouts for a new robotic cell. How do they know which one will be the most effective in reality? VR can allow
them to walk around a digital mock-up in different test configurations. This first-person point of view could reveal insights that aren’t obvious initially.

5. Virtual Product Design
People have increasingly high expectations for product quality today, so manufacturers must innovate to deliver a great experience. Adopting VR in manufacturing can transform the design process by allowing R&D teams to experience the customer’s point of view of an item before it goes into production.

The conventional approach to product development requires producing physical mock-ups or prototypes. This is expensive and time-consuming, particularly for smaller teams with limited resources. VR headsets have become far more affordable recently, making them a more accessible option for manufacturing teams of all sizes.

AVR product mock-up can be created from CAD designs and updated throughout development without wasting physical resources. They also allow designers to take on different customer personas during product development. For instance, they could scale their avatar in the simulation to see how something works for people of different heights.

Innovating With AR and VR in Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is undergoing widespread digital transformation to adapt to labor challenges and shifting customer expectations. Adopting AR and VR in manufacturing can improve employee performance, safety, workplace optimization, remote work and product development. These technologies are invaluable tools for improving productivity in manufacturing.

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