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After
defining how Augmented Reality can impact the NPD process, it is important to
identify how effective this technology is in manufacturing. Consequently,
during this section the 3rd Research Question “How effective is AR in manufacturing?” will be analyzed. To adequately evaluate the efficiency,
the advantages are going to be
compared to the challenges. During the literature review several units could be
identified where AR has positive implications, namely Product Design &
Prototyping, Production Planning & Organisation, Production, consisting of
Assembly and Training, Maintenance and finally its positive impact on general
costs and the level of productivity. On contrary possible challenges will be
presented to identify what subjects still hinder the market wide
implementation, that include Technological Challenges, Social Acceptance &
Information Overload and Privacy Issues.

Figure 12: The advantages and disadvantages of AR on
manufacturing according to the literature review, own development (2018)

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1.1.1.The advtanteges of
augmented reality in manufacturing

 

Product
Design & Prototyping

During the design phase, meaning the process of creating and/or
improving a product (Cambridge Dictonary n.d.) computer aided design systems
known as CAD play a major role for the visualisation of product designs, but
are limited as no 3D interaction can be achieved and are bound to the computer
screen (Togay & Sahin 2015, p. 115). On a contrary, AR can provide the
opportunity to seamlessly superimpose visual and digital data in form of 3D
models onto a physical product and the real environment, which benefits the
designer in many ways as designing is extricated from traditional procedures.
For instance, as the detailed models can give an insight on the future product
in reality, a clear and structured view of the functionality can be promoted
which allows the designer to receive early feedback and the possibility to
create estimations due to data storing. Feedback can include how a future product
can be used over time, the look and feel of a future product; its ergonomics
and simply the designer can see what product he is currently working on – from
any location and at any time. Consequently, this ‘early-warning system’ allows
the designer to easily make modifications, not having to create multiple
numbers of prototypes hereby saving costs and time and the ability to conduct
early stage improvements and foster product optimization (Lynch n.d. and Rudeck
2017 and McClintock n.d.).    

V. Elefteriu (personal
communication, 14 December 2017) from BrainLAB also identifies the virtual
visualisation through 3D models especially advantageous in the medical area, as
it improves and simplifies the work performed by a surgeon. Implying that the
models can act as substitute for the surgeon’s imagination consequently allowing
the surgeon to fully concentrate on performing his work without having to
imagine 3D tumour structures and where exactly he has to perform the incision
on the human body. But also E. Bauer (personal communication,16 December 2017)
from KARE design sees an advantage of AR in product design, as furniture’s can
be designed and marketed in a new and innovative way when using 3D models,
which is profitable at point-of-sale as customers can actually ‘place’ the
potential furniture into the room before they purchase the item, leading to an
increase sales and a decrease in return rates. N. Ilmberger (personal
communication 20 December 2017) of UTUM supports this view, as he also believes
that AR can be used to present and consequently market a products design in a
more innovative way. As an example he mentions that a tool producer could make
a construction market more perceptible by providing AR to test a tool the
customer wants to purchase, for instance using a virtual saw to fell a tree.

Production
Planning & Organization

Production planning and design that is executed manually requires a more
complex organization, as not only technical factors have to be considered but
moreover economic and human components. Again, AR can work as an interface by
virtually creating planning objects and tasks that can be overlayed onto the future
physical production environment.

As a result, the planning process can be validated without having to model
and change the actual physical organization. Further, the quality of planning
results can be improved hereby reducing the risk of having to replan and redesign
activities, which are very time-consuming and cost intense. Another
cost-reducing feature is the decreased risk of faulty layouts and errors due to
the possibility of creating step-by-step visuals (Funk 2015).

Finally, the actual production line can be improved in terms of
progression and location. To be more precise AR can help to sufficiently
situate the production cells, assembly workers and robots as well as the
automation lines. Consequently, efficiency and productivity is maximized whilst
inventory can be reduced (Kapoor 2016).

 

Production

The production phase can be divided up into two sections, namely the ‘assembly’ that is powered by tools and ‘trainings & instructions’ that is
powered by people, which are required to conduct the assembly task. In the past
workers needed long hours to complete an assembly part with manual tools.
First, when Henry Ford introduced the concept of mass production, output and
efficiency increased. Today, assembly tasks are mostly automated with some
areas still dependent on live staff (The Economist 2009). Now, AR can foster machine and man
collaboration by supporting and improving the production phase (Geissbauer et
al. 2017, p. 28). As Neil Gupta, founder Boston Augmented Reality states “AR
will be the interface for humans to take part in the digital conversation that
machines are having on manufacturing floors.” (as cited in n.d. 2017)

 

Assembly

When looking at the assembly of products and services, AR can provide
the right information at the right place and time – on-demand. This is
particularly advantageous for factory workers during assembly, as vital data
for monitoring and diagnostics for each process or machine needed during a
manufacturing process can be captured and stored. So for instance one is able
to extract the degree of efficiency to be able to enhance productivity levels
but also quickly identify and locate problems, which could uphold development.
In short, AR offers the advanced ability to help employees correct and identify
issues before they even erupt, again acting as an early warning system due to
real-time data streaming and capturing that can increase awareness and foster
the cooperation between workers (Porter & Heppelmann 2017).

V. Elefteriu (personal communication, 14 December 2017) supports this
view as he also describes AR as being a warning system that leads to increased
security. But also can enhance work to be performed as tasks can be simplified
and therefore act timesaving. K. Ingman (personal communication, 08 December
2017) claims that processes can be made more transparent and understandable
which has a positive effect on production times.

 

Training
& Simulations

A vital
part of the manufacturing process is the conduction of trainings and providing
adequate instructions along the entire production life cycle. For instance, the
company can prepare written instructions and manuals but these require an
extensive amount of time to work through which can be tiresome and demotivating
for employees. Further they could make use of training videos. This type of
training can be more effective as they can be simply designed with interesting
contents to catch the watchers attention. In both cases though no interactive
characteristics are included and tailored to individual learning needs. This
could be tackled by conducting personal trainings that would enhance the
concept of ‘learning by doing’ but are very expensive if an external
professional is hired and are time and location bound. In all cases, the risks
of real life scenarios are not included, which makes these types of trainings
too theoretical and the trainee does not learn how to handle emergency
situations. AR training programs can address all mentioned complications. It
provides real-time and on demand training opportunities, which one can access
from any location (Porter & Heppelmann 2017). Trainings can be conducted by
overlaying instructions onto for instance a screen or headset with visual
information such as a voiceover and text display (Towerfast n.d.) or rehearse
difficult or dangerous scenarios without the risks of real-world consequences
that can be repeated indefinitely. The received data can be stored and
consequently tailored to individual needs to optimize trainings (Porter &
Heppelmann 2017).

 

As a
result, AR can improve productivity and quality, as production steps are
explained during assembly and therefore can be completed quicker. Further,
internal resources can be exploited ergo the amount of time needed to instruct a worker can be decreased and errors reduced (Kunkel et al.
2016, p. 23).

Figure 13: Top 3 areas of interest for using AR,
source: Tandulwadikar in the Cognizant report, self-developed illustration
(2018)

 

To
underline the benefits mentioned above, a survey conducted by tech pro research
with 205 IT-experts (as cited in Tandulwadikar et al. 2016, p. 4) claims that the
top three areas in which AR is going to be used in enterprises, is simulation
excercises and employee testing and training.

 

Maintenance

Maintenance
needs to be completed on a timely basis and as accurate as possible to decrease
the total amount and duration of downtimes. AR can
hereby replace hard copy and monitor-based instructions by acting as an aid for
the mechanics view when he is servicing complex manufacturing components by
providing detailed and accurate digital guidance, real-time updates and
diagnostics from sensors that are connected to ‘IoT’ for instance on a AR
headset. The ability of real-time data streaming allows displaying safety
warnings and errors, which can have a positive effect on defect rates that can
enhance efficiency and consequently improve productivity as the relevant data
can be extracted to help workers understand and solve in maintenance issues
fast (Keenan n.d. and Porter & Heppelmann 2017).

Further it can promote
“remote-support” – off-site maintenance, as experts can log on and help the
technician – independent of place and time. This enables manufacturers to work
quicker and more accurate, which leads to time saving performance and cost
reduction as downtimes are reduced as tasks can be completed even with
inexperienced workers. N. Ilmberger (personal communication, 20 December 2017)
gives an example for this case: For instance, a customer bought 100 Hololenses
for its service employees. As they have production facilities all over the
world, the expert would have to fly over to each production facility if
machinery breaks down. With having Hololens in place, the expert can just
connect online with the service employee without having to fly there which
decreases the amount of costs. Also L (personal communication, 13 December
2017) from the pharmaceutical industry use AR glasses for maintenance purposes.
Here the user will receive a short and simple introduction, which consists of
how you turn on glasses, how to start the app and authenticate yourself and how
you can start the support call. Costs and time can be reduced as problems can
be identified early and solved quickly.

So to summarize the information above, AR can increase productivity and
quality whilst reducing costs. 

First, data on how the assembly part should look like (assembly and
training) or how the component shall be repaired (maintenance) can be overlayed
onto the real product, which will boost workers’ productivity as for instance step by step instructions can be
overlayed onto the assembly task with no need of prior training. Consequently,
workers become more efficient and skilled (NES Global Talent 2016 and Perkins
Coie LLP 2016 and Tandulwadikar
et al. 2016, p. 5 and Abraham/Annunziata 2017)

Second, through identifying
deviations in an early stage, the quality
control of AR can provide more accurate results and prevent any further
expenses and save incalculable losses that would be implied if a malicious
product launches the market.

Third, when production
downtimes are reduced, by repairing components on a timely basis, costs can be reduced and production
numbers increased. So in total the quality of the final product increases, the
entire manufacturing process, maintenance and the qualifications of employees rises
(Perkins Coie LLP 2016 Tandulwadikar et al. 2016, p. 5)

In short, this technology is based on assisting workers (NES Global
Talent 2016), not replacing them, thus have the potential to yield both more
economic growth and better jobs (Abraham/Annunziata 2017)

Both D. Götze (personal
communication, 18 December 2017) from ESG GmbH and K. Ingman (personal
communication, 08 December 2017) support this statement when asked what
advantages AR brings. According to them amongst others, AR can save costs and
time.

 

4.4.2 
The Challenges of Augmented Reality in Manufacturing

 

Every technology faces
challenges and AR is no exception. Even though the technology has come a long
way, there are several limitations that have to be addressed for this
technology to become an established product (aboutaugmentedrealiy n.d. and the
Mission 2017). According to the literature review, these include technological
challenges, social acceptance and privacy issues that will be discussed and
analysed in the following section.

Technological
Challenges

First,
data is still not rendered across the
users’ entire scope of vision. Instead of allowing the human brain’s intuitive
localization sense to portray the augmented world as being part of the real
world, the user will tend scan the surrounding unnaturally, as if looking
through a periscope, to see where AR contents are located, as one is not able
to capture the entire scope of augmented contents. Ergo, to achieve an
acceptable level of engagement, the augmented data needs to be able to
seamlessly overlay onto the physical world (Krevelen & Poelman 2010, p.
14-15).

V. Elefteriu (personal
communication, 14 December 2017) from BrainLAB supports this statement, as he
also identifies the visualization of AR being a general limitation. He implies,
that the resolution and the field of view of augmented contents are still to
some extent undeveloped. In his opinion, AR can only be effective when the
visualization of AR contents outreaches the human range of vision. In short,
when one cannot see the margins of the augmented overlays a credible fusion can
be created by promoting a 180° or even 360° view of virtual contents.

Second, the technology should
also be able to quickly adapt to a human’s natural body movement. Currently,
the augmented data is still lagging behind, not engaging the natural perception
(Krevelen & Poelman 2010, p. 14-15). V. Elefteriu (personal communication,
14 December 2017) also mentioned this limitation, as the current processing
power is still not on the level to offer instantaneous presentation, resulting
in delayed adjustment. The negative consequent is, that the user will not trust
the AR application. According to his research, the rendered information cannot
be delayed 16-20 milliseconds for the human eye to realize the time-delayed
presentation.

Further, when looking at the
current hardware, today’s displays are still too heavy and bulky, which makes
it hard to monitor and handle. For instance, BrainLAB’s microscope consists of
amongst others a large screen. To solve this, they are working on minimizing
the microscope to the extent that it only is attached to a small arm which can
be shifted easily or even exchange it entirely by developing augmented glasses.
In short, the hardware should be light as well as small, easy to use and
transport, but also be fast enough to display graphics. But also in terms of
content creation, there still exist challenges (Lamberti et al. 2014, p.
411-421). When developing the KARE App, E. Bauer (personal communication,16
December 2017) identifies the creation of the 3 D Models to be a hurdle, which
are the main content of the app. Up until today it is very time intense and
expensive to create 360° models of all furniture’s as these have to be
photographed from every single angle.

Further, AR applications
still struggle to recognize objects in the real world and track their purpose. To
ensure the credibility of objects situated in the real world, they have to be
aligned seamlessly with augmented contents (Kipper & Rampolla 2012 and
Lamberti et al. 2014, p. 411-421). So for instance the KARE App is still
lacking the ability to rightfully place furniture onto the actual floor and
align to walls in the real world, which destroys the illusion of AR and makes
its credibility suffer (E. Bauer, personal communication,16 December 2017).

Finally, AR is to some extent
location bound, as AR systems are dependent on Internet connectivity which
limits its usage (Lass 2015 and Lang 2017) and the sensor accuracy is not fully
developed, meaning the tracking of AR systems for instance with GPS is in
in-door positioning lacking accuracy and precision (Kipper & Rampolla 2012).

In summary, according to D (personal communication, 20 December 2017)
that before AR can become a standard technology for the production in general,
many technological issues have to be solved and costs lowered which makes it to
date, not implementable for an entire process.

 

Social
Acceptance & Information Overload

In case
of social acceptance some challenges to
AR exist as well, which ranges from unobtrusive fashionable appearance, as it still
does not feel comfortable to wear something, that restricts a persons’ view
(Helda n.d.) to privacy concerns. These issues will take more time to overcome
than the previously mentioned technical problems (Mainelli 2016). To solve the
issue, the technology needs to promote a wide range of excellent user
experience by creating experiences that are affordable, functional and have a
lower learning curve, as it is still somewhat unknown to the general public (Tandulwadikar, 2016, p. 5.). V. Elefteriu (personal communication, 14 December 2017) also identifies
social acceptance as a challenge to the wide range application of AR. Even
though users know about the value added, older generations are not as open
towards the technology as younger generations are. So when contents lack behind
or the hardware is too heavy, their negative attitude towards the technology is
confirmed.

Figure 14: The battle of the smart glasses

Source: (Porter &
Heppelmann 2017) 

 

Further, Information overload
is often applied to technology in general. People argue, that we live in a 24/7
online society and so AR, which is accessible on demand, from every location
and at any time, will change the way we think and see the reality (Lass 2015).
In addition, when large amounts of data and mass information is presented it
can lead to a cluttered presentation which makes it difficult for user to gain
insight. The solution would be to filter data or create a layout and guidelines
that does not overload the user with information (Höllerer & Schmalstieg
2016).

But also, D. Götze (personal
communication, 18 December 2017) states that a user should not rely exclusively
on AR so that important traits and signs from the environment are missed. Upon
till now there still exist a high range of deviances. For instance, ESG GmbH
used AR when simulating night driving for military purposes with thermal
imaging and information overlays. Here they could identify misalignments to the
reality, as the augmented content did not fully align with the surrounding.
Especially for military and aerospace purposes AR needs to be very precise and
requires ongoing fine-tuning. In short, the overlayed information should
improve the task, not fully take over or distract, intrude or disturb specific
situation (thearea 2015).

Privacy

As AR’s
core component consist of a camera it
can be prone to malware attacks by cyber criminals, as it allows them to hack
the system and ‘see everything’ that can affect innocent users and could have
incalculable effects on a company. Consequently, advanced security measures
will have to be implemented and developed, also together with law enforcement
that promotes a close-coordination with users and vendors to minimise potential
risks (Kunkel et al. 2016, p. 28 and tech4i2 n.d., p. 4). V. Elefteriu (personal communication, 14 December
2017) on the other hand does not see
data protection as an issue, as every industry is bound to norms and rules as
well, that aim to secure the data of identities involved. But he notes, that a
100% security can never be ensured.

From the information provided
above the 3rd Research Question “How effective is Augmented Reality
in Manufacturing?” can be answered. When comparing the pros and cons of AR, the
advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. Even though AR is still in its
developing phase and still has some technological issues that it needs to
overcome to become an everyday tool, AR can benefit the organization and
support its workers to be part of the digital era we are living in today. Manufactures
have already identified that AR can increase efficiency and productivity but
also foster increased customization without having to sacrifice quality. The
reason for this is that AR allows manufacturers to have more control over
training processes and assembly. Through the projection of digital content onto
a work surface and interactive guidance’s in actual time, manual processes are
driven by quickness and accuracy. The result is, a fault-free environment, as
each product is built correctly – every time. For a company to compete it is
vital to have the ability to simplify complex manufacturing processes and envision
functional threats. The data that can be collected with the AR technology
enables production lines, employee and product adjustments to maximize
efficiency and foster better business results as well as communication (Mekni
& Lemieux 2014, p.208, Gaede 2017 and Close 2017). N. Ilmberger (personal
communication 20 December 2017) from UTUM supports the latter when stating that
AR promotes easier communication as information and contents can be presented
visually, what you previously had explain and use your imagination for. Moreover,
AR will be able to create additional positions, narrow the skill gap and advance
the next era of man and machine cooperation (Close 2017). As Thomas McDermott,
executive director of DMDII states “… Augmented reality has immense potential to transform
manufacturing, and early adopters are seeing impressive productivity and quality improvements
… However, wide adoption of this technology requires
collaboration among the industrial companies operating on the front lines and
the AR providers designing solutions to ensure the technology under development
meets the needs of industry. …” (as cited in
O’Leary 2017)

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