Best Augmented Reality App is on the Training Floor
We’ve heard about augmented reality (AR) for the last few years. Yet, although innovations are consistent, there hasn’t been a true rollout into the factory environment. That could change this year, according to reports from CES 2020 that signal a ready-to-market push from several wearable manufacturers. Their target? The training floor. Training applications present a unique opportunity for both device makers and the skilled manufacturing workforce.
Opportunities for better training
The traditional tried-and-true method for training in factory environments is shadowing. New recruits follow seasoned technicians around for days or weeks, learning the skills, nuances, and demands of the position they’ll soon step into. It’s a method most manufacturers prefer.
The problem with shadowing is that it’s expensive. Shadowing means paying two employees to tackle the same task, and at a slower rate so trainees can learn. The cost of shadowing can add up quickly after just a few weeks or with a large influx of new hires. It’s subject to variance, of course, as every teacher has his or her own small deviations from standard operating procedures (SOPs).
AR can alleviate these issues without detracting from proven training concepts. There are numerous early adopters with the data to prove it.
Why AR will flourish as a training tool
In many ways, the shadow method of training maintenance technicians is already a low-tech representation of AR. Trainees learn by watching, then by doing, with safeguards in place to ensure success.
AR technology and wearables take the shadow concept to the next level. Through wearables, trainees will get the same experience of watch, then perform, with increased guardrails to the learning process.
For example, visual modeling enables trainees to interact with a digital twin of the equipment at a granular level and in ways not possible physically, such as looking at an x-ray or cross-section of a component. Also, AR can teach process with direct correlation to SOPs, ensuring every technician gets the same fundamental education. Finally, the ability to practice the same procedure repeatedly adds innate value to the training process that might not be possible in traditional shadowing.
Most importantly, AR alleviates stress from the training process. There’s no pressure to succeed or fail on a digital model. Trainees not only learn the right way to approach problems, but how to fix ones they make. It serves to instill confidence and a greater understanding of vital manufacturing processes. And, new technicians get firsthand experience with technologies they’ll likely use in the future.
Where are the wearables?
Despite the many early technologies in the field, many manufacturers are looking for viable AR wearables. They’re coming, according to a report from Research and Markets. 2020 heralds a five-year stretch when AR is expected to make a big splash in manufacturing — specifically within the training sector. Head-up displays (HUDs) are likely to be the first and most prominent pieces to enrich training programs. Companies with a burgeoning Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will find fewer barriers to adoption; however, those without a robust digital infrastructure will be able to leverage standalone AR training resources as well.
Wearables are just over the horizon for most manufacturers. When they arrive, it’s likely they’ll occupy a very specific purpose: training the next generation of factory repair and maintenance technicians.