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Can Augmented Reality Help Manufacturers Save Money?

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Many manufacturers struggle to implement on-the-job training programs, as they draw skilled workers away from their tasks. It’s a major cost that some shop owners are not willing to incur. 
What if they didn’t have to? What if a small device – a tablet perhaps – could walk new workers through the steps of repairing and setting up complex machinery, checking their work and offering the advice of a veteran machinist? The same technology could enable a skilled engineer to assist with repairs off-site or make quality control faster and more accurate. This technology is on the cusp of seeing mainstream adoption, and most are only familiar with it through Pokémon Go.
Enter Augmented Reality into Manufacturing
Augmented Reality (AR) refers to any technology that uses interfaces such as digital screens to assist in manual tasks. It may seem like a broad category, but the applications are very real. Take the example of on-the-job training. Rather than relying solely on a veteran team member to train a new hire, a shop owner can design an AR program to oversee, review and assist the hire in their duties. This training program can highlight objects and provide explanatory text and videos on the display screen, in addition to monitoring the hire for mistakes and alerting both the new worker and a supervisor of any problems or issues. 
“The real benefit in AR-assisted training is that it eliminates a burden that is often placed on the more experienced personnel,” says Tim Shinbara, AMT Chief Technology Officer. “Instead of having the most productive workers in the shop step away from the line to train up-and-comers, the new worker can learn and grow into their role without slowing down production.” This significantly reduces the cost of training. Additionally, shop owners can design training modules to best fit their needs, and the pace of training can scale to match the abilities of the trainee. 
And AR is not limited to training. Waiting for an OEM -licensed technician may not be necessary if an AR-assisted one can identify problems and go through step-by-step repairs through the AR display. Quality assurance can be both faster and more accurate with AR devices identifying flaws in seconds, and assembling parts is simple thanks to step-by-step assistance from an AR device.
It sounds a bit like science fiction, but the technology will be here faster than most think.
A Technology for Today’s Manufacturing Realities
Shinbara also says, “Augmented reality is one of the most near-term and high-return technologies in manufacturing today.” It is a major focus of the MT360 manufacturing event, June 18-20, in Santa Clara, Calif
MT360 aims to bring traditional manufacturers, non-traditional tech companies, and venture capitalists into one conference to learn about transformative technologies that will intersect all three worlds. 
MT360 will showcase: 
  • Additive Manufacturing – Several related technologies that enable manufacturers to create complex parts and fixtures through 3D printing.
  • Augmented Reality – Technologies that use digital displays to assist with manual tasks.
  • Cognitive Automation – A spectrum of AI or data-related tools that enable automation systems to sense and react to information.
  • Digital Thread – Electronic connections that allow manufacturing information to follow a product through its entire production process.
In addition to the speakers and panel discussions, MT360 will host a Virtual Factory, which will showcase companies involved in every aspect of these technologies. Attendees can visit and interact with software companies, hardware companies, complete AR-platform providers, and smart manufacturing. Industry leaders will showcase specific manufacturing challenges and demonstrate how these technologies can work together to create real, actionable solutions. 
Space is limited.  Register today at mt360conference.com.
MT360, June 18-20, Santa Clara, Calif.

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