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  • By Steve Jones
  • In Blog
  • Posted 17/05/2017

Augmented reality technology promises to increase productivity in manufacturing and service sectors by delivering timely, useful information such as wiring diagrams to operators’ eyes without needing to consult technical manuals. AR smart glasses visually guiding workers may also improve safety and worker satisfaction.

It has been shown that improvements of 25-50% productivity in certain tasks can be achieved by augmenting human workers. In addition AR may also plug a skills gap where not enough skilled people are available for these jobs, where less skilled workers can match the productivity of experienced workers even the first time they attempt a task. It’s being trialled in a range of industries from manufacturing, warehousing and field service environments and even NASA astronauts are getting in on the action, using VR to train and AR (Microsoft HoloLens) whilst in space!

Extending AR Beyond the Factory Floor to Support Decisions

But what if augmenting shop floor workers was not the only use for AR? What if managers and executives could either:

  • walk a process in reality with augmented information?
  • walk in virtual reality around a digital twin, with performance metrics overlaid on a virtual representation of their business?

Businesses stand to gain at least as much, if not much more, from better decision making in re-structuring processes and investment decisions than in increasing productivity at the coal-face.

Many  smart manufacturers use predictive simulation and predictive analytics to understand how their business may perform in a range of future scenarios, using it as a virtual sandbox to tinker, play and learn about the dynamics and reactions of processes. These decision support tools are best anchored to the real world, when people can understand the (virtual) reality in play, and so visualisation is a very important component in the "believability" of a simulation.

Predictive simulation often becomes an  embedded part of the way a business makes decisions, so that often investors insist on seeing the latest simulation of where their money will go, and companies mandate their suppliers to provide simulations of how they will be supplied – what better way to deliver that proof than in AR/VR world.

And so I believe we will see an increasing interplay between augmented reality for management, and decision support simulations. This will start from current metrics overlaid on a real business, moving on to proposed investments and reorganisation, with future simulated realities. This will enable deeper understanding, rooted in the real-world, with evidenced based, believable proof to back up what can often be seen as ivory tower process improvement or investment decisions.

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