The term, Virtual Reality, is referenced so often in society and movies, that many forget just how much the nascent technology is changing and developing. While the idea of a “virtual reality” has been in the works for decades, it wasn’t until 2012 that the now infamous Oculus Rift hit the world’s stage. And while the technology itself has evolved steadily over the past ten years, its far-reaching industry uses are still being recognized.
The manufacturing industry, like many industries over the past two years, has experienced its fair share of challenges. The manufacturing process consists of numerous interconnected facets, most of which depend on some form of “boots on the ground” to ensure operations run smoothly. However, routine manufacturing processes, such as facility inspections, supplier audits, process reviews, and even project management as a whole were significantly hampered by the pandemic shutdowns.
The urgency to find a solution during COVID led to many organizations considering other options, such as virtual reality, to minimize pandemic-related disruption.
Yet, Virtual Reality applications for manufacturing not only work in a pinch, but can actually aid in being a catalyst for increased efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and carbon reduction efforts.
Virtual Reality for Manufacturing
#1. Remote Experiences in Three Dimensions
Virtual Reality is just one method for facilitating remote collaboration. However, Virtual Reality, unlike standard collaboration tools, provides a different experience in that it connects people through 360° technology. Experiencing a location in 360°, especially with the immersive capabilities of a VR headset, is inherently more engaging than watching through somebody else’s point of view.
Virtual Reality for manufacturing enables a real experience, in real time, while providing a way for remote visitors to experience a location in three dimensions. This experience gives viewers more autonomy to observe in a higher level of detail.
#2 Cost-Effective Site Meetings
Manufacturing is, by nature, a collaborative and multi-faceted industry that requires regular visits, meetings, and audits. An ever-present hurdle to optimal collaboration is the cost and time associated with travel. These regular travel challenges have only become compounded by COVID, with much of the world still facing travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, and other complications that prevent teams from being on site and on schedule.
Regardless of the pandemic, business travel was and still is, a considerable business cost, especially with inflation on the rise. The cost required to fly, accommodate, and feed various collaborators or experts can often be in the millions, or even tens of millions, per year.
Virtual Reality for manufacturing is an effective way to facilitate the transparency and collaboration needed in manufacturing on demand, without sacrificing the sense of “being there” needed for site visits.
#3 Increased Quality Control
Virtual Reality remote collaboration enables a level of quality that isn’t possible in standard video collaboration platforms. Most notably, Virtual Reality provides “viewer autonomy,” where each visitor has the power of the full picture and the freedom to select their unique point of view, navigating about the space as if physically present.
While standard videoconferencing was a quick fix during the pandemic, the limited point of view and lack of immersion does not make it a suitable substitute for an actual site visit. With the level of detail and quality provided by Virtual Reality collaboration, organizations can actually conduct more frequent site visits, allowing for an effective hybrid approach to site visits that ultimately results in increased transparency.
#4 Virtual On-Site Training
When onboarding or training new employees in the manufacturing space, the learning is often hands on. There is only so much that can be learned via PDF or handbook, especially when it comes to performing hands-on processes such as operating machinery or understanding site-specific protocols.
Virtual Reality training helps organizations eliminate the cost, time, and logistical challenges related to bringing a large group of people together for training purposes. Remote teams can join from wherever they are in the world and feel as if they are physically present thanks to the immersive experience enabled by virtual reality. Bringing global teams together for a single training session helps teams get everybody at the same page at the same time.
#5 Process Reviews
Traditionally, when an auditor or stakeholder wants to come on site to observe a facility process, they must arrange for a special visit or tour. While observing processes and protocols are crucial to maintaining safety and transparency, visits are often a disruption to normal operations and workflows. Utilizing Virtual Reality to supplement site visits can allow a leadership team or quality assurance specialist to drop in unobtrusively and make their observations without distraction. Additionally, the Avatour remote collaboration platform enables recorded sessions in 360°. Therefore, an observer can virtually “return” to the site and double check for any errors or additional details.
“One of the great things about Avatour is it’s not obtrusive and it’s easy for them to leave it somewhere and for me to do long term sporadic observations of traffic or worker habits. I can check in on a regular basis, whereas if I go to a site, I’d have to stand there and have someone walk me around.”
– Robert Warren, Senior Environmental Scientist, Black & Veatch
Learn more about how Black & Veatch utilized Avatour to conduct remote process reviews and mitigate safety risk.
Avatour is the remote collaboration platform for site meetings. Available through Virtual Reality headset or standard web browser, Avatour’s advanced 360° technology brings people together in real time, wherever they are in the world.
To learn more about how Avatour could work for your organization, click here.