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Overcome Workforce Challenges with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality in life sciences

Address skills gaps, enhance the training experience, and improve job satisfaction with forward-thinking solutions.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated content over real-world views to create an interactive experience. The content is seen using glasses, smartphones, or tablets. 

It has a variety of everyday uses in retail, entertainment, gaming, and navigation, just to name a few. This blog, however, will focus on how AR is used in manufacturing in the life sciences industry.  

AR provides information to users by displaying visual elements and delivering sensory information to the user. In the case of manufacturing, it shows employees how to complete tasks in a consistent manner, helps technicians perform maintenance and cleaning activities, and enables someone off site to troubleshoot issues with onsite employees.  

It also provides direct links to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work instructions (WIs) as written documentation or as video files for real-time reference. Pre-loaded examples of properly completed tasks and scenarios alert employees to missed steps and critical errors.

Why Manufacturers are Turning to AR

When there’s a skills gap in your workforce, it takes forward-thinking solutions to close it. Traditional training methods—like having a new hire shadow an experienced employee—are inefficient and may not yield the training results you expect. If you’re backfilling manufacturing roles because your experienced workers retired or accepted a job elsewhere, those employees took their knowledge with them when they left.

AR is a solution that assimilates expert knowledge and helps ensure that a job is done right. New employees are trained using proven and reliable methods and current employees deliver consistent final products. As processes are updated and training requirements evolve, AR provides real-world context, visual instructions, interactive content, and quality checks at the end of a process or task.

Advantages and benefits of augmented reality are that it: 

  • Speeds the time to proficiency for new hires 
  • Supports assembly and quality inspections 
  • Improves efficiency, accuracy, and safety 
  • Enables remote assistance

The ROI of Augmented Reality

Significant improvements in competency, productivity, and agility await organizations that implement AR-based training and ongoing production support.

But AR technology consists of sensors, input devices, processors, and other components. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to implement. How do companies justify it? Here are some examples of return on investment (ROI):

  • Analyze data. Determine how long it takes to complete steps in a process. Analyze the data from your AR technology to improve processes. 
  • Transform service. Improve first-time fix rates and reduce the number of service calls (truck rolls). This also helps to boost customer satisfaction. 
  • Decrease downtime. Improve your production process and manufacturing efficiency. Your employees are able to avoid mistakes when using AR. 
  • Increase quality. Introducing quality checks through AR enables more accurate production and fewer quality failures upon inspection.

Cost savings are realized through a reduction in service and training expenses, material defects, and workplace accidents. Further examples of ROI for AR include: 

  • Retaining skilled workers by providing up-to-date, interactive training 
  • Reducing hiring costs by ensuring that new hires are trained quickly and properly 
  • Minimizing mistakes that lead to longer cycle times, maintenance costs, and downtime 
  • Improving productivity, safety, and job satisfaction

How Predictive Maintenance Uses Real-Time Data from AR

The AR system accesses a central repository—a single source of truth—for manufacturing data using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Even when technicians are in the field, they have accurate, up-to-date information.

Predictive maintenance uses the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to act on data, improve efficiency, and reduce costs. IIoT connects machines, employees, and processes to facilitate transformational business decisions. For example, sensor data observes a machine’s performance, status, and real-time health. Alerts and notifications make operators aware of maintenance issues that could result in downtime. With information like this, technicians are able to identify and resolve issues before they lead to equipment failure.

Get the Right AR Technology for Your Business Needs

As a trusted partner of USDM Life Sciences, PTC offers Vuforia, an augmented reality solution used to create immersive content for frontline workers. Further, Vuforia Expert Capture uses the knowledge of experts and three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) to deliver interactive work instructions. It also automates visual inspections using AI to guide workers with AR overlays of a correctly built product. The system analyzes the end result and identifies incorrect configurations, which helps to shorten the time to completion with zero defects. 

Using the computer software assurance (CSA) approach, USDM helps PTC create software and push updates. USDM Cloud Assurance gives PTC customers the tools they need for full-suite risk-based regression testing and validation after each release. Customers also get validation information to support audits, including the initial validation package and results from automated testing.

To learn how your organization can plan for, implement, and reap the benefits of augmented reality, contact USDM today.

Contributing subject matter expert: David Blewitt, Vice President of Cloud Compliance

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