Integration of intelligent machines and software, evolution of human’s role and their work in industry, automation and digitalization of different activities – those are, much simplified, in the focus of Industry 4.0. One thing is sure: wide-reaching industrial revolution is inevitable and although the implementation processes are more advanced in the West than in Poland, no market will remain untouched by the changes. The lack of adaptation to new market and industry requirements will be crucial for many companies.
In a very general perspective, in the period of 2018-2023, according to research conducted in the American market by LEK consulting, businesses will focus mainly on:
- Further optimization of supply chain;
- Improvement of profit on sales;
- Automation of works carried out in factories.
Despite ambitious plans and high expectations which are connected to current industrial revolution, there are some visible problems related to the lack of well-qualified workforce – according to research conducted by leading advisory and analytical institutions (Deloitte/World Economic Forum), there are approximately 10 million vacancies related to production. Lack of production workers who are able to work effectively in ‘digitalized plant’ can have negative impact on automation of processes as well as their general progress. Even worse, generation change in industry is getting more and more noticeable in its negative aspect. Employees with huge experience, and often with unique knowledge, are thinking of retiring. It’s getting more difficult to find people willing to replace them.
On the one hand, businesses are trying to implement programs aimed at attracting potential employees. On the other hand, they are looking for innovative solutions allowing faster staff training and more efficient access to expertise. Additionally, current tasks demand support to be performed more effectively. This is where Augmented Reality (AR) comes in with a helping hand. For many, it is a substantial driving force which allows developing business activities and achieving the goals which were hard to reach before.
Areas for the use of Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) has introduced a new era of efficiency, mobility and connection, allowing for optimization of current processes, cost, time, service, products, and as a result, work itself. As it can be observed, those activities have been in progress, as if, on many fronts. Digitalization development which has been brought by AR, allows combining all the elements together by way of: improvement/development of A influences improvement/development of B, and this one, consequently, on C. Western industry already realized it a long time ago. According to Statista platform, the number of glasses allowing for the use of Augmented Reality is going to increase up to over 26 million pieces till 2022.
Currently, we can distinguish a few main areas where AR technology has been in use:
- Planning – it is about industrial/production area planning, installation, control systems and subsystems, which often involve many teams. AR is capable of introducing a real revolution in space arrangement. It can let humans get away from designing space in CAD software and give them possibility of making arrangements in physical space to understand real dimensions, implications and interactions better, and as a result, to make right decisions earlier, synchronize teamwork, avoid mistakes or costly corrections.
- Installation – undoubtedly, AR is the effect of CAD technology revolution. Because of advanced technology, we have an opportunity to take a closer look at product manufacturing process by displaying digital manuals at a production workplace and their final shape/appearance. Simultaneously, it can support processes of checking quality of manufactured goods.
- Service – a huge advantage of AR is a possibility of familiarizing technical employees with new equipment before it is installed or repaired. What is more, AR is able to help significantly during repairs, presenting instructions for the repairs step by step, by means of 3D elements animation placed on a physical machine. It enables ongoing assistance by a more experienced employee thanks to AR teleconferences.
- Training – another advantage of AR technology is used in case of trainings. The technology allows transmitting (knowledge) in a totally different way (than before), as well sharing skills, which is possible owing to practical exercises in virtual reality.
- Development – it is another area which is successfully supported by Augmented Reality. Companies which focus on developing their products can do it totally digitally in one-to-one scale. The technology allows running project and product review/evaluation sessions together by domain experts in order to eliminate construction mistakes or just to improve product ergonomics or quality. It will not only allow gathering feedback during development work coherently, but also accelerating sales cycle and marketing activities before the product is released into the market.
AR as a technology supporting plenty of business functioning areas is sure to be able to improve efficiency of different activities. Additionally, it can also manage expertise and share it much more effectively.
Industry is less and less often afraid of solutions using innovative technologies but still the common fear of change (and monitoring) prevails over potential solutions for the competence gap problem. Obviously, Augmented Reality is not going to overcome the problem of the lack of well-qualified staff entirely. However, it can reduce the negative results of the situation, providing new technological opportunities for supporting human in numerous aspects of their work.