Today’s industrial workers are able to see and do things that would have been impossible just a decade ago. Augmented reality (AR), an innovative digital technology, is both enhancing what people can see and how they can use that added information to accomplish specific tasks. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The level of competition in the manufacturing sector has greatly intensified, expanding on a global scale and driven by imperatives to lower costs, shorten lead times, and improve quality control. Productivity improvement, process optimization, and maximum return on investment have become the watchwords of industrial production worldwide. And throughput volumes today are at historic highs.
Sustaining these levels of production requires a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively. One of the most critical is the need to minimize unplanned downtime of production machinery, much of which is now digitally controlled, having long ago replaced traditional electromechanical shop-floor equipment.
All machinery, whether electronic or mechanical, requires maintenance. Keeping up with the constantly changing conditions of that equipment, as well as issues affecting materials, inventories, production quality, and physical security, is a huge challenge. To stay on top of it, a growing number of companies are outfitting their manufacturing facilities with an assortment of remote sensors, cameras, robots, meters, and controls. And all are connected by the internet to one another, as well as to centralized monitoring stations. Collectively, those devices constitute the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and are at the heart of emerging digitally-enabled manufacturing plants.