manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Transforming Training with Augmented Reality

By Paul Ryznar, President and Founder, OPS Solutions

Paul Ryznar, President and Founder, OPS Solutions

Augmented reality-based systems and technologies are designed to provide manufacturing professionals with interactive and intuitive hands-on real-time guidance. Unlike traditional paper or monitor-based work instructions, augmented reality is dynamic, interactive and adaptive–essentially working with each operator to ensure that tasks are completed efficiently and without errors.

“Unlike traditional paper or monitor-based work instructions, Augmented Reality is dynamic, interactive, and adaptive”

As more and more manufacturers turn to this emerging category of powerful augmented reality solutions to enhance their efficiency, streamline their processes, improve safety and productivity—and save money—the power and potential of augmented reality is becoming more evident. It is increasingly obvious that the benefits of augmented reality extend well beyond the manufacturing floor itself. Some of the most valuable ways that practical augmented reality manufacturing systems are having an immediate positive impact is to facilitate operator training and replace paper or monitor-based work instructions.

Pairing People with the Right Technical Guidance

To appreciate why augmented reality systems are such a good fit for training applications, it is first important to understand how augmented reality works. The best augmented reality solutions use a blend of industrial strength projection technology supported by sophisticated software to provide users with an intuitive and interactive visual guide: overlaying a digital operating “canvas” directly onto almost any work surface. Flexible, scalable and fully customizable, high-end augmented reality tools can be used for everything from complex assembly tasks to inspection, logistics, and yes, training.

These systems work with people by drawing attention directly to the task at hand rather than at a list of instructions, and by integrating audio and visual cues to provide real-world and real-time guidance, pacing and direction. And because augmented reality tools ensure that users complete the correct steps in the right order, they are a natural fit for a training environment. The best include no faults forward features that ensure the right parts are used in the right sequence, and can also record real-time analytics and data. This valuable insight on each build cycle in a manufacturing environment is ideal for training.

A new Training Paradigm

Today, modified mobile platforms are opening up promising new horizons by introducing augmented reality tools to enhance training protocols. Offline training programs and hybrid augmented reality training models include those same interactive capabilities–methodically walking trainees through a process using 3D images of real-world environments. For example, a new operator can train using a fully realized dimensional representation of an assembly line, as well as the layout of the racks, tools and materials around the line. Sequential training ensures that operators utilize a standardized sequence. Once they have run it through enough times, they can attempt to get certified by completing exactly the same program again–only this time without computer guidance. The system records hand position, sequencing, using the right number of bolts among others.

The result is an extraordinary training tool: an innovative way to train professionals to master even the most complex of tasks, and to do so while saving tremendous man hours and resources by virtually eliminating the need for oversight from trainers and experienced professionals.

The advantages of a going from a paper or screen-based checklist to an augmented reality training or guidance system is akin to graduating from a handheld paper map to a powerful new GPS app. Both will eventually get you to your destination, but the visual and verbal guidance and navigation, convenience, and the adaptive capabilities of GPS will get you there faster, safer, and with fewer mistakes.

Tactical and procedural augmented reality training advantages include:

• Making it possible for trainees to self-train on manual processes;
• Standardizing training, eliminating training variation and ensuring that every employee is trained in precisely the same way;
• Easy programmability/customization for a wide range of applications;
• Allows highly qualified personnel to take on more complex tasks and work on more technical tasks;
• Removes the need for written work instructions and keeps eyes on the task at hand; and
• Mobile and flexible systems can be moved throughout various locations.

Replacing inefficient, inconvenient and unsanitary paper and touch screen checklists is even more valuable in lab or healthcare settings. With augmented reality, hospital personnel can train and work not just more efficiently, but more safely. Augmented reality systems can be used in sterile environments, reducing touch-points where infectious material can be transmitted, and greatly reducing concerns about contamination, health and hygiene.

Already an increasingly popular and powerful manufacturing tool, it seems clear that augmented reality is primed to break new ground as an innovative approach to training, testing and logistics.