Use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in Industrial Training

As we discussed in our blog last week, VR/AR training offers substantial cost-savings opportunities for manufacturing and industrial enterprises, and is a vital tool for addressing the skills gap and high workforce turnover rates affecting these enterprises. In this blog, we discuss the specific applications and use cases for which VR and AR are best suited and the differences between these technologies.

Virtual Reality

In virtual reality (VR), a user is fully immersed in a virtual 3D environment with no visual of the physical world. Everything seen by the user is a computer generated visual. Examples of VR headsets include the Oculus Quest 2, Windows Mixed Reality HP Reverb G2, and the HTC Vive family of products. Some of the benefits of VR include complete immersion in the virtual world, which allows for the display of entire facilities and/or equipment which wouldn’t fit the physical space available to the user.

Applications for VR in Industrial Training

  • Health, Safety, and Environment Training – trainees can walk through the digital twin of the facility to identify potential hazards, exit pathways, safety procedures, etc. Virtually create hazardous situations to test identification and response procedures.
  • Maintenance and Operations Training – technicians can practice maintenance operations on equipment that is difficult or impractical to physically train with such as undersea structures. Avoid plant shutdowns by training on the digital mock-up of the equipment instead of the physical equipment.
  • Assembly and Virtual Build – practice assembly operations before a product is actually available. Prepare your workforce for a new product line or train your customers and partners on product assembly before it arrives.

Applications for AR in Industrial Training

  • Health, Safety, and Environment Training (if the facility is available) – displaying virtual information, hazards, exit paths, etc. as a user walks through the physical structure. 
  • Field Maintenance and Operations – displaying virtual work instructions and operating procedures overlaid on the physical equipment as the user is performing their tasks. Leverage the expertise from remote experts as they collaborate with technicians in the field.
  • Assembly and Virtual Build – a trainee can view virtual work instructions overlaid on the physical object as the user assembles the actual structure.

Final Considerations

Many of the same use cases are suitable for either VR or AR training, and it comes down to the specific industry and/or availability of the physical space and equipment. But virtual reality offers some benefits over augmented reality even when the physical equipment is available. These include: the ease of training creation and modification, the quality of the visuals, and cost/availability of the headsets.

The iQ3Connect Platform makes the VR vs. AR debate less important when choosing a training solution. Any training or experience created in iQ3Connect can be used on any device, whether VR, AR, PC, or a mobile device.

Leveraging VR/AR Technologies to Address Skill Shortages and High Workforce Turnover

People are the strength of an organization. The recent skills gap and high workforce turnover rates faced by many manufacturing and industrial enterprises are inhibiting their productivity and competitiveness. In this blog, we will discuss how the latest VR/AR solutions can help enterprises cost-effectively solve these challenges.

The Skills Gap and Transformation of Work

A study conducted by Deloitte & the Manufacturing Institute reveals that the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028 (Deloitte Study). Additionally, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution transforms the way we work, it is predicted that the new technologies driving this transformation (artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, automation, analytics, and the Internet of Things) are likely to create even more jobs than they replace. This transformation of work and increasing skills gap makes efficient training programs all the more important to ensuring future productivity and competitiveness.

Hands-On Training is Becoming Increasingly Cost Prohibitive

Physical training infrastructure, such as facilities, equipment, and the related travel and shipping costs, comprises about 40% of the average training budget for manufacturers. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as machines and facilities become more advanced, expensive, and specialized, this percentage is likely to increase. Onsite training means production must be paused or physical mock-ups must be built, neither is an appealing option. Moreover, traditional digital means such as training videos and slide decks can’t replace the hands-on training requirements of complex technical work. This means that we must look toward new technologies to help address the skills shortage.

How VR/AR Technologies Can Replace Hands-On Training

Many hands-on training programs can be cost-effectively virtualized by leveraging 3D digital assets that an organization already has access to, whether it’s CAD data from engineering or 3D scans from the facilities team. Existing videos and slide decks can be used as-is in virtual training, all while a trainee is interacting with the 3D digital models. If 3D content isn’t readily available within the enterprise, there exists several online marketplaces where models can be purchased at minimal cost. Even building a custom digital model from scratch can be more cost-effective than physical mock-ups.

Once the 3D content is on hand, many software solutions now enable non-programmers to develop complex immersive training modules without any coding. The same technicians, trainers, etc. who were building the original training program, can seamlessly create these new immersive training routines. Additionally, VR/AR solutions can now integrate directly into Learning Management Systems for uninterrupted and consistent tracking of training completion.

What are the Benefits of Deploying VR/AR Training? 

VR/AR technologies offer the same cost-savings and efficiency benefits as the traditional digital tools (videos, slide decks, etc.) with the added benefit of being able to replicate many of the complexities and realism of hands-on training. It is often much more cost-effective to build a digital twin than to shut down production or build a physical mock-up. Moreover, VR/AR training can be used in training scenarios that are dangerous to physically perform such as in health, safety, and environment training. Finally, VR/AR training can reduce the overall workload on trainers, improve trainee knowledge retention, and increase reusability of training content.

Stay tuned next week for our blog discussing the different industrial training use cases for which virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are best suited.