The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is fully upon us and many of the benefits theorized just a few years ago are now a reality. Even better, they are already showing the value in the industrial operations that they promised. Companies investing in IIoT and industrial innovation are continuing to push the envelope, exploring new technologies to benefit plant operators. One of the most cutting-edge of these technologies is Augmented Reality (AR). With a worldwide market size valued at $11 billion this year, AR is expected to significantly grow to $60 billion by 2023. (1)
While our minds may connect AR with video games, augmented reality is already making a big impact in the industrial sector, increasing efficiency and improving maintenance processes. The industrial workforce is quickly changing from the pencil and paper generation to those more comfortable with a laptop or a tablet. Seasoned employees are retiring and workforces are shifting from an average age of 50+ to a new guard of 20-somethings who have vastly less experience and very different working practices.
Benefits of AR for Industry
With AR, plant operators can fuse together the physical environment with virtual objects through apps and platforms, essentially broadening their view of individual machines and processes across the plant floor. New tools, like EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor by Schneider Electric, put real-time information at the operator’s fingertips to see what is going on inside a cabinet, machine, or plant and link to critical information virtually that helps them diagnose and correct an issue.
You have the classic time-consuming steps of shutting down a machine, opening its cabinet and looking for the problem; then, finding the service manual to identify a solution. All these steps result in downtime and lost production/profitability. Through EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor, each of these steps is streamlined by pointing an iPad at the machine and interacting with the app. Using the iPad’s camera, the app recognizes the machine and surfaces points of interest automatically on the screen fusing of the physical, real-life environment with virtual objects. With a touch, that user can then access real-time data, diagrams, instructions and more. What took hours in maintenance can take minutes, allowing operators to get their processes back up and running faster. Maintenance then becomes more efficient with fewer human errors and safer with less chance of injury to maintenance personnel.
With the rapid age shift in the industrial workforce, leveraging new tools like Augmented Reality makes good business sense. Giving newer employees tools that get them up to speed faster and do so in a way that they are already more comfortable helps them be more productive faster. This AR-guided maintenance is more efficient, less prone to human error and safer than traditional maintenance procedures. The future of Augmented Reality in industry is no game – it’s the New Reality!