Table of contents
- What is AR (Augmented Reality)?
- AR technology used in various industries
- Today’s manufacturing challenges
- Serious labor shortage at factories
- Product complexity
- Three benefits of introducing AR technology in the manufacturing industry
- cost reduction
- Improved productivity
- Work instructions and support in remote locations
- Examples of using AR technology in the manufacturing industry
- Initiatives to improve productivity | BAE Systems (BAE)
- Introduced into factory technical education | Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (Honda)
What is AR (Augmented Reality)?
“AR” is an abbreviation for “Augmented Reality,” and is expressed as “Augmented Reality” in Japanese. It is a technology that uses devices such as smartphones and tablets to augment the real world into a virtual reality by overlaying digital information on images of the real world.
AR technology is evolving day by day and is routinely used in entertainment fields such as smartphone apps.
VR is often confused with AR. VR is an abbreviation for “Virtual Reality” and refers to a technology that allows you to experience a virtual world realistically by using special goggles. In Japanese, it is called “virtual reality” or “virtual reality.”
AR is a technology that adds virtual information to the real world, while VR is a technology that allows you to experience a virtual world realistically. In other words, AR is a technology that focuses on the real world, while VR is a technology that focuses on the virtual world.
AR technology used in various industries
AR technology has been applied in various fields, especially in the entertainment world. “Pokémon GO”, which became very popular in 2016, is one of them.
Pokemon GO is a game that uses AR technology to give you the experience of actually collecting Pokemon in the real world, and at one point it was such a huge hit that it became a social phenomenon.
Furthermore, at the Osaka World Expo, which is scheduled to be held in 2025, the latest technology incorporating AR technology is scheduled to be unveiled with the main theme of “Designing a future society where life shines.”
In addition, AR is being widely used in familiar places, such as the opening of an attraction using AR in Huis Ten Bosch, and JR’s stamp rally using AR technology.
AR technology is attracting attention in areas other than entertainment for general consumers, and in recent years, services have begun to be provided to companies in various fields.
For example, in the construction and civil engineering industries, AR is used to simulate dangerous situations before work begins, allowing users to anticipate and prevent accidents that may occur on-site.
AR technology is also becoming more widespread in manufacturing industries such as factories, and one company has introduced AR technology to train engineers at manufacturing sites.
The manufacturing industry uses a variety of machinery and equipment to carry out production activities. In order to maximize the productivity of such equipment, the presence of excellent engineers is essential.
Using AR technology, it is possible to create an environment equivalent to actually working in an augmented reality world, which will greatly contribute to the education of engineers.
Additionally, until now, it was common for work such as maintenance and inspection of equipment to be carried out with a manual in hand. However, by using smart glasses that use AR technology, paper media is no longer necessary and work efficiency can be improved.
Today’s manufacturing challenges
AR is becoming popular in the Japanese manufacturing industry, and is expected to improve the efficiency of various operations. However, behind this, there are also issues that Japan’s manufacturing industry is facing.
Examples include serious labor shortages and production systems that are becoming more complex due to IT technology.
There are many other problems in the manufacturing industry. Will the introduction of AR technology help overcome these problems? Here we take a look at today’s manufacturing challenges.
Serious labor shortage at factories
In the manufacturing industry, labor shortages are an issue for many companies. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s “Current Labor Shortage in the Manufacturing Industry and Utilization of Foreign Human Resources,” more than 94% of large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises are suffering from a labor shortage.
Additionally, more than 32% of companies responded that their business operations have already been affected, making it clear that the labor shortage is a serious situation.
Japan, with its declining birthrate and aging population, is predicted to face an even more serious labor shortage in the future. AR technology is being introduced to overcome this current situation. Many companies are leveraging next-generation digital technologies such as AR, VR, IoT, and AI to maximize productivity.
Today, the manufacturing industry is at a turning point. Industry 4.0 , the fourth industrial revolution in human history, has been proposed, and factories are becoming smarter.
All equipment and facilities are linked with IT systems, and the productivity of the factory itself is increasing. However, on the other hand, systems are becoming more and more complex, and the burden on engineers who manage and maintain them is only increasing. Coupled with the severe labor shortage, the level of knowledge and skills required of each engineer is increasing.
Excellent companies need excellent human resources, and nurturing excellent human resources is a top priority for companies. Regarding these educational issues, it is expected that by applying AR technology, it will be possible to create educational content for employees and to significantly shorten and reduce the cost of education itself, and its introduction is progressing.
Three benefits of introducing AR technology in the manufacturing industry
What benefits can be gained by introducing AR technology in the manufacturing industry? Not only AR technology, but all kinds of equipment and equipment will be introduced with the aim of reducing costs and improving productivity. Let’s take a look at how AR technology can benefit the manufacturing industry.
The most anticipated effect of introducing AR technology into the manufacturing industry is cost reduction. As mentioned above, the manufacturing industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage, even as operations are becoming more complex due to the introduction of advanced IT equipment.
In order to overcome this current situation, the introduction of technical training using an AR-specific “HMD (head-mounted display)” is being considered.
For example, by using AR technology to create an environment equivalent to working on the actual site, you can gain more practical training. Additionally, by displaying steps and instructions on a display, the child can learn the correct way to do the task without having a trainer teach them one-on-one.
In this way, you can improve the level of your engineers while reducing the various costs associated with employee training.
The introduction of AR technology is expected to significantly change traditional work styles and improve productivity. In the past, people would carry out tasks such as maintenance and management while checking work progress with a paper manual in hand.
However, by introducing AR technology, work manuals can be displayed in augmented reality through devices, eliminating the need for paper media. This allows each technician to work hands-free, maximizing labor productivity for each technician.
Additionally, AR technology can improve the efficiency of equipment maintenance operations. Traditionally, equipment maintenance was performed by engineers using their years of experience and visual inspection. However, by linking AR technology and production equipment, the information necessary for maintenance can be visualized and maintenance operations can be carried out more efficiently.
Work instructions and support in remote locations
With AR technology, it is also possible to issue work instructions and support operations from a remote location. Using AR-enabled devices such as smart glasses, you can connect with technicians far away through a virtual augmented space. It is also possible for one skilled technician to attend multiple work sites.
You can enjoy a variety of benefits, including reduced labor costs, improved troubleshooting accuracy, and dramatic productivity improvements.
Examples of using AR technology in the manufacturing industry
So far, we have looked at how AR technology can benefit the manufacturing industry. AR technology is expected to have various effects such as reducing costs, improving productivity, and improving the skills of engineers. What kind of results have been achieved in companies that have actually implemented it?
Representative companies that have achieved great results by introducing AR technology are the British aerospace company BAE Systems and the major Japanese transportation equipment manufacturer Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Now, let’s take a look at examples of AR usage at these two companies.
Initiatives to improve productivity | BAE Systems (BAE)
First, let’s look at an example of how AR technology is used by BAE Systems, a company that develops and manufactures aerospace systems.
BAE Systems uses the HMD “HoloLens” provided by Microsoft to introduce technology that allows work manuals using 3D models to be viewed overlaid with real images. This AR technology allows engineers to work smoothly without the need for paper manuals.
Using this method, BAE Systems has dramatically increased the efficiency of training technicians, reducing training time by 30-40%. In addition, by increasing the efficiency of training engineers, we are able to reduce the overhead costs associated with training, reducing the necessary costs to 1/10 of conventional costs, resulting in significant cost reductions.
Introduced into factory technical education | Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (Honda)
Next, let’s take a look at the case of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (Honda), one of Japan’s leading companies. Honda, a major transportation equipment manufacturer, is a global company that boasts world-class performance in the production and sales of automobiles and motorcycles.
Honda is applying AR to training when assembling car bodies. Previously, assembly training was conducted using actual test vehicles, but we have changed this to training that does not require an actual vehicle using AR technology.
By conducting assembly work training in an augmented space using AR devices, it is now possible to train in a more practical environment than training in a real vehicle, such as learning about lighting and movement on a factory line.
Initiatives using AR technology like this will likely become the standard in the manufacturing industry in the future.
AR is also an innovative technology that will greatly change the future of manufacturing. It helps solve problems faced by the manufacturing industry, such as a shortage of human resources and the complexity of operations, and brings various benefits, such as dramatically increasing productivity. Why not consider introducing AR in order to adapt to an ever-changing society and continue to meet diversifying customer needs?