As the manufacturing industry continues to move towards more technologically advanced factory systems, it is evident that the strongest component of the modern factory still resides with the human labor force. As automated devices continue to take on more monotonous, labor-intensive tasks, the machine operators’ roles have shifted from physically demanding work to more skills-based requirements. PBC Linear recognizes the need for consistent and engaging training programs to help scale up our existing workforce and invite a new generation into the manufacturing industry. New training strategies that utilize augmented reality (AR) and other software are helping PBC Linear to create a factory that is smarter, safer, and capable of greater output.
Through this article, we are going to look at how PBC Linear is incorporating technological enhancements into its production systems to create greater efficiency, output, and workforce skills. It further demonstrates how the manufacturing industry is advancing through Augmented Reality and supporting software in its training programs, and how that benefits workers, businesses, and most importantly customers.
AR, short for augmented reality, is an interactive experience that incorporates HoloLens 3D goggles and accompanying software to enhance real-world surroundings. These two elements work together to project holograms onto the clear panel at the front of the goggles, interacting with the viewer’s field of view and corresponding environment. This is different from virtual reality, which builds the entire environment in a computer-generated digital space.
Manufacturing is the latest industry to begin using augmented reality. When factoring in all the different types of machines and subsequent skill sets needed to operate them, it is apparent that AR is very suitable for training purposes within the manufacturing field. This sophisticated instruction replaces the more traditional process of online manuals or person-to-person training. The results are a reduction in lost information between the “listening and the doing”, and the potential bad habits and shortcuts that can be inadvertently learned, which in turn results in 20% annual savings due to less scrap and fewer mistakes.
With AR, the trainee is now experiencing the equivalent of a video game, where real-time instructions and videos are adjacent to the machine. Once they put the headset on and start going through the program, the flow is easy to follow and practice, making the training much more engaging, reducing the time it takes by 80%, and saving up to $5,760 on onboard costs per intern.
As previously stated, PBC Linear has implemented training software to produce its AR programs.
The software used allows expert users to easily document and record tribal knowledge and distribute it across an entire workforce. For example, they have been able to take decades of toolmaker and machinist knowledge and break that down into very understandable and consistent instructions, and then author them into the augmented reality space. These skills and job instructions are then available on demand, virtually transporting that expertise when help is needed, which in turn provides an outstanding cost-saving of $6,080 per training manager. As Jackson Duncan, Manufacturing Engineer, states, “Just put on the headset, connect to the training, and emerge twenty minutes later as an expert in the field.”
The development process of the program starts by shadowing a technician who has proficiency in operating a machine. Notes are taken, and the designers fully educate themselves so that they can build an accurate template within the software used. Once all the instructions are approved by a manager, then the software is used to construct the template:
- Create a new template and select an appropriate asset class.
- Create as many steps as needed.
- Add pictures, videos, and notes wherever they are needed.
- When the structure of the template is complete, put it on the headset and attach 3D markers.
- Do trial runs with the AR goggles and make any necessary updates.
- Attach a QR marker to a fixed location near the machine so that the template can be activated. This is considered the “home base” for that template.
3D markers are how the AR user is notified of specific instructions within the AR space. For example, when creating the template for their thermoforming machine, PBC Linear added a spatial marker for Step 4 that instructs the user to “slide the oven onto your workpiece”. In a traditional manual text, the oven’s location might not be apparent. AR provided a simple solution by adding a 3D marker next to the handle and additionally helps define the starting point and the endpoint of the sliding action.
PBC Linear’s implementation of AR resulted in a return on investment of:
▲ 20% annual savings due to less scrap and fewer mistakes.
▼ Reduction of 80% in training times.
▲ Saving up to $5,760 on onboard costs per intern.
▲ Cost-saving of $6,080 per training manager.
▲ $7,200 onboard cost savings per machinist.
Just as this case study shows, implementing AR into your business is heavily dependent on the software you decide to implement it with. We are experts on XR technologies and can provide you with the software and more, to effectively incorporate AR into your business. Explore our website and contact us!