As automotive manufacturers understand all too well, the pressures applied by an increasingly competitive marketplace create extreme and at times competing demands for safety, quality, consistency and efficiency.
In an environment where minimizing mistakes and maximizing operational efficiencies is a priority, manufacturers constantly are looking for new solutions and technologies that can give them an edge.
Today, growing numbers of manufacturing professionals in the automotive space are embracing augmented-reality technology, leveraging powerful new tools to optimize efficiency and minimize mistakes – all while keeping costs down and reducing their liability exposure.
Augmented reality encompasses a wide range of systems designed to provide manufacturing professionals with the hands-on guidance they need to complete tasks correctly and efficiently. In contrast with more traditional instruction, the best augmented reality solutions provide real-time guidance with dynamic, interactive and adaptive functionality.
Augmented-reality technology already has had a profound impact in some parts of the automotive industry, as manufacturers and suppliers successfully have used these new tools to streamline processes, increase productivity and boost their bottom line.
The most effective applications are designed to error-proof and streamline manual assembly and manufacturing processes, utilizing a combination of industrial strength projection technology and sophisticated software to present an intuitive and interactive visual guide. The best of these augmented-reality tools are flexible, scalable and fully customizable, ideal for everything from complex assembly tasks to inspection, training and logistics.
These proprietary tools project a digital operating “canvas” directly onto virtually any work surface. Together with integrated audio and visual cues, augmented-reality solutions provide real-world and real-time guidance, pacing and direction.
The result is a dynamic and adaptive guide that ensures tasks are completed correctly. While this technology has been used successfully in a range of different industries and applications, it is an ideal fit for the complex demands of an automotive manufacturing environment.
These new tools ensure manufacturing professionals execute the correct steps in the right order, essentially eliminating the most common issues that lead to production errors, avoidable slowdowns and potential bottlenecks in manual assembly and manufacturing procedures.
While the basic concept is relatively straightforward – delivering the right information, at the right place and at the right time – some augmented-reality solutions include an array of features that elevates a helpful tool into a potential game-changer.
“No Faults Forward” system designs ensure the right parts are used at the right time in order to standard manual processes across different personnel and work shifts. Additionally, the ability to integrate high-end tools such as programmable machine-vision cameras and torque guns, for example, introduces a level of precision that makes this technology a good fit for parts, products and processes with exceptionally tight tolerances.
In some systems, real-time analytics and detailed data collection provides insight into each build cycle. Not only can common problem areas be identified and addressed, but each part that comes off the line has its own digital “birth certificate,” complete with comprehensive individual process records. The ability to use a button or a simple bar-code scanner to switch between pre-programmed processes makes it easy to cycle through different programs quickly and easily, providing a level of flexible functionality that translates to potentially significant savings.
What is truly exciting about augmented reality is that it uses technology to drive improvements in quality, efficiency and production by working with operators – not replacing them.
The results of that collaboration can be extraordinary: A major American car brand implemented such a system and subsequently achieved an 80%-90% reduction in errors, nearly a 50% reduction in cycle time, and an overall increase in throughput that has approached 95%.
Those numbers make it clear augmented reality is transforming the way cars are manufactured today.
Engineer, inventor and entrepreneur Paul Ryznar created Light Guide Systems and is the founder, president and CEO of Novi, MI-based OPS Solutions.