On today’s manufacturing assembly lines, products and equipment are becoming increasingly complex. They might have variable configurations that are difficult for an operator to understand, and the standard methods and tools can be challenging to master. When an operator tries to work through an issue, they often have two options: Ask an experienced team member to step away from their own work to help, or flip through paper documents, which may or may not be readily available, up-to-date or easy to follow.
Enter augmented reality (AR): an experienced manager and clear instruction manual all in one nice package. Its visual overlay technology helps people better understand directions, ensures those instructions are up to date, reduces error and non-conformity rates, decreases setup and cycle times, and lots more. For today’s supply chain organizations, AR can be used to:
- Digitize assembly instructions and project them directly onto the surface to be assembled, keeping all the necessary information in one place.
- Display instructions on a screen to guide assembly operations for individual parts.
- Show digital instructions on a tablet or right in the operator’s field of view via smart glasses or a headset.
Here are four ways AR can advance your own supply chain operations:
1. Faster onboarding. When a new operator arrives in a factory and must handle workflows for the first time, chances are that they will be quickly overwhelmed by the complexity. There will be a long and time-consuming learning curve with a high risk of error along the way. AR walks operators through their assembly tasks step by step again and again. The practical guidance makes the work more intuitive and helps new employees become proficient and achieve right first time faster.
2. More accuracy. When assembly instructions are projected onto the task at hand, the instructions become less intimidating and complex and instead easier to complete. In addition, the displayed AR instructions can be so precise on the location of the elements that it virtually eliminates errors in that regard. Also, clear, structured guidance can ensure that an operator doesn’t skip or misunderstand directions, which results in higher levels of accuracy. Plus, when the information is easy to follow, the task can be completed faster, thus reducing cycle times and in turn increasing production rates.
3. Improved safety. Instructions aren’t the only information that can be displayed via AR. The system also can project important safety information to protect workers and minimize accidents. Likewise, the reduced reliance on paper manuals minimizes confusion and potential errors. And interactive and immersive learning experiences improve training procedures, as well as enhance communication and collaboration among workers.
4. Increased operator comfort. AR can be implemented in a number of ways via various equipment, including projections, tablets and other screens, and smart glasses and headsets, some of which offer heads-up and hands-free operation. This allows companies to guide operators in whatever manner makes the most sense for a given operation and best ensures operator comfort throughout the assembly activity. For example, in the case of an assembly on a large flat panel with multiple elements to be mounted, the most suitable solution would be a projection system that displays the steps to follow directly on the structure.
Manufacturing and assembly jobs still can be challenging, laborious, complicated and dangerous. AR offers companies the opportunity to make the work safer and more approachable with helpful guidance. Explore AR to make your manufacturing and assembly tasks more engaging and exciting while reducing skills gaps and significantly boosting productivity.