Countless industrial and manufacturing businesses have been forced to scale their operations back due to the COVID-19 crisis. Augmented Reality is supporting leading business by helping them remain at capacity while running on a skeleton staff, writes UtilityAR CEO Patrick Liddy.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced almost every industry to revise and improve their business continuity plans, allowing for the risk of reduced staff availability, supply chain issues, international travel restrictions and risk to staff health. To that end, Augmented Reality (AR) glasses are being utilised by leading industries to help manage these risks and keep business operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The transparent glasses allow a worker to see digital information projected on the glasses while also carrying out their tasks on site and getting the job done.
Here are five distinct ways Augmented Reality is helping manufacturing industries operate during COVID-19.
- QUARANTINED OR VULNERABLE STAFF UNABLE TO ATTEND SITE
Most companies have staff who hold key knowledge and are consulted when all sorts of problems and issues arise. As a result of the coronavirus crisis, there has been a rise in staff becoming unwell or unable to attend work, along with those prevented from attending due to government social distancing measures. This places a significant risk to the continuity of certain manufacturing industries, and rapid solutions are required.
Using Augmented Reality glasses, onsite workers can take part in Remote Adviser Video Calls with their offsite experienced colleagues to resolve issues when they arise. The onsite worker wears the AR glasses and their colleague can see live video and sound from the AR glasses on his or her computer screen or tablet. The expert colleague can then draw annotations that appear on the AR glasses vision, that will in turn allow the on site worker to diagnose and resolve issues immediately.
- WORKING WITH A REDUCED STAFF
Many companies are staggering their staff shifts in an attempt to reduce health risks and facilitate childcare challenges brought on by current restrictions. This means that engineers and technicians are required to work with more diverse pieces of equipment in their workloads than before. This complexity demands that procedures be drawn up, particularly for tasks which are done less frequently. Following these procedures is unwieldy and requires workers to follow a set of instructions that will prolong the task and reduce productivity.
Using QR codes, AR glasses can identify the asset that an employee is working on and, through the glasses, outline the procedures that they should follow to complete the work. The procedure can be broken down into simple steps, and with the aid of images or video, can guide the worker through the task while leaving them hands-free to complete the work. With this method, the accuracy of tasks can increase significantly, adherence to procedures will improve, and the time to completion shortened. The worker can also use the headset to take images and video to validate that they have completed the work correctly or to take notes as they go.
- REDUCING ACCESS TO SITE
Restrictions on access to sites by vendors, consultants and visitors has suddenly become the new normal in many manufacturing sites. These restrictions are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future and it is critical that companies find new ways of facilitating these important interactions. Using Remote Adviser Video Calling, many inspections, reviews and checks can be done by local staff, reducing the need for travel and site access for visitors. Similar to how we have quickly become accustomed to using video calling software for our meetings, using AR-based video calling for these applications seems inevitable.
- REDUCE PRODUCTION DOWNTIME
With the increased financial pressures caused by recent events, production downtime due to machinery breakdown will be a growing issue. With the help of AR, teams can quickly bring in the best expertise via Remote Adviser calls from vendors or contractors to identify the problem and get the equipment back up and running swiftly. Additionally, the improved accuracy of maintenance work can prevent the downtime from ever occurring in the first place. Improved procedure following and advice at the maintenance stage can have a significant effect on breakdown occurrence.
- FACILITATING SOCIAL DISTANCING IN CONFINED SPACES
AR glasses allow a worker to get their job done without having a colleague looking over their shoulder. The availability of procedures, videos, live data and other digital information allows a company to provide workers with better guidance than ever. In the event that they need live assistance, this is also possible using this technology. It means that a two-person job can be executed by one person, providing enduring savings and also allowing for social distancing.
As you can see, AR is bringing a new paradigm to manufacturing industries, in the way technicians and engineers interact with technology and complete their work on a daily basis. The technology partners well with other work data and IOT projects that are set to roll out. The need for such technology has been enhanced by the current demands of the CoronaVirus, but the long term advantages for those using AR glasses in the workplace are significant, so the time to act is now.