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Unlocking Manufacturing Training Potential with Mixed Reality Solutions

In the present scenario of dynamic, fast-moving, growing industries, manufacturers need to have a skilled and job-ready workforce. To equip workers with the knowledge and abilities needed to operate complex machinery safely and carry out intricate operations effectively, manufacturing training is crucial.

While the training is being conducted, the factors that influence the training effectiveness are - time, cost, pace of learning, and ability to apply the learned skill immediately after training. Mixed reality is the training solution that can address these factors and enhance employee development in the manufacturing industry.

In this blog, we will discuss how mixed reality training solutions can help the manufacturing sector to elevate the learning style and methodologies, and to equip the workforce with the ability to work safely and effectively.

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality (MR) is a technology that blends the virtual world and the real world in a way so that the user can interact with both. It combines the elements of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to create an environment where physical and digital objects interact with each other. MR technology is becoming popular, with Microsoft's HoloLens being one of the most prominent early adopters of this kind of technology.

To understand it better, let us first understand AR and VR.

Augmented reality (AR) Augmented Reality (AR) enhances a “real-world” view by adding digital content, traditionally done with the aid of a smartphone's camera.

Examples of augmented reality include visual overlays used in navigation apps such as Google Maps, interactive product displays for shopping, immersive educational experiences that enable students to learn by exploring virtual landscapes, and 3D game environments such as Pokémon Go.

Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated three-dimensional environment, usually powered by a computer or gaming console, that people can enter and interact with using head-mounted displays. VR immerses the user in an artificial environment, allowing them to experience and explore it as if it were real.

Examples of virtual reality include 3D gaming experiences, virtual tourism applications, interactive artwork installations, and flight simulators.

Users will be able to navigate the VR content in a 3D environment with VR headsets, lenses, and controllers with sensors.

While AR improves navigation systems by superimposing virtual elements on real-world environments and the users can control their actions, VR simulates an entirely digital environment and controls the user experience. VR requires a headset device but AR can be experienced through smartphones.

Mixed reality (MR) can meet the training requirements in the manufacturing sectors, where both AR and VR can play specific roles in specialized technical training programs that would otherwise be costly, time-consuming, challenging, and possibly unsafe.

Training Through Mixed Reality In Manufacturing Industries

Mixed reality can be used in manufacturing industries for training in many areas. Let us look into the ones that are essential for any industry. Those are:

  • Employee orientation

  • Safety and compliance training

  • Remote troubleshooting

  • Machine assembly

Let us examine how MR can be used in each of these training areas.

Employee Orientation

This training provides an overview of the organization’s departments, facilities, equipment/ machinery, technology, products/services, organizational structure, and employee roles/ responsibilities in the organization.

Mixed reality (MR) technology can be an effective tool for providing orientation training to new employees in the manufacturing industry.

An example of using mixed reality for orientation training in a manufacturing industry would be a virtual reality (VR) simulation of a factory floor for new employees.

Simulation of a Factory Floor

The VR simulation would depict a realistic, 3D model of the factory, including all the different areas and equipment that the new employees will be working with. The employees would wear VR headsets to immerse themselves in the simulation and move around the virtual factory, getting a sense of the layout and organization of the facility before they even start working there. They may be able to interact with the virtual equipment and get a sense of how it operates.

As they move through the simulation, the employee can be prompted with information about the different areas of the factory and the equipment they will be using. This information can be presented in the form of virtual annotations, labels, and audio prompts, helping the employee to understand the context and usage of the different areas and equipment.

In addition to the VR simulation, the employees may also be provided with AR-enabled smart glasses, during the actual orientation tour of the factory floor. This can provide real-time information about the equipment and facilities as the employee is viewing them in person. This can include technical specifications, safety precautions and emergency procedures, and how to perform certain tasks.

This example of orientation training combines the use of VR and AR technology to provide an immersive and interactive experience that allows new employees to familiarize themselves with the factory, understand the different areas and equipment, and learn basic procedures and protocols, all while being in a safe, simulated environment.

Safety and Compliance Training

Mixed reality (MR) technology can be an effective tool for providing safety and compliance training to employees in the manufacturing industry.

Virtual simulations of common workplace hazards and emergency situations using VR technology allow employees to practice responding to these types of scenarios. In a safe, controlled environment, they can experience these before they have to face them in real life. This can be especially useful for training employees on hazardous tasks such as working with dangerous chemicals or operating heavy machinery.

Interactive simulations of safety protocols and procedures can help employees to practice and familiarize themselves with the different protocols and procedures before they actually start working.

Safety and Compliance Training for Heavy Machinery

An example of using MR technology for safety and compliance training is on proper lockout/tagout procedures for heavy machinery.

Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are used to ensure that equipment is properly shut down and secured before maintenance or repairs are performed, in order to prevent accidental starting and potential injuries to employees. However, the process can be complex and difficult to understand, especially for new employees who may not be familiar with the machinery.

To train employees on LOTO procedures, VR technology can be used to create a virtual simulation of the machinery, which employees can interact with using VR controllers. The simulation would depict different steps of the LOTO process, and they can practice performing the procedures. The simulation can include hazards, such as unexpected equipment movement, that employees would face in real life, allowing them to learn how to identify and avoid them.

AR technology provides real-time guidance to employees as they perform LOTO procedures on the actual machinery. Wearing AR-enabled smart glasses, employees can view specific instructions and reminders for each step of the process, overlaid on the employee's field of view. Visual cues and labels on the physical equipment indicate where controls and lockouts are located.

To view an example of using VR for safety training, click: Fire Safety Training using Virtual Reality

Remote Troubleshooting

Mixed Reality could be used to great effect in the manufacturing sector for troubleshooting training and support remotely. Shown below, are some examples of training in such cases.

Virtual Simulation

VR makes it possible to generate simulations of the most common equipment faults and malfunctions. Employees can practice correctly identifying and dealing with these problems in a protected space prior to having to do so in real life. Especially for industrial robots or automated machinery, which require specialized troubleshooting skills, VR can be an invaluable tool for training purposes.

Direction in Real-time

AR can provide employees with real-time info and guidance when working remotely to debug the equipment. This involves displaying digital instructions, diagrams, and schematics from the employee's field of view to help identify the issue and best solution. It could also include virtual annotations or highlighting, guiding them to the specific part of the equipment to look at.

Example: Remote Troubleshooting - Conveyor System

Conveyor systems are a crucial component in many manufacturing operations. If a conveyor system malfunctions, it could cause significant delays and disruptions to production.

Here, VR can be used to create a virtual simulation of the conveyor system for training employees on troubleshooting and repair. VR controllers allow employees to interact with the simulation, to depict malfunctions like jams and broken parts. Employees can practice correctly resolving the issues in a secure setting.

AR technology can provide real-time guidance to employees as they troubleshoot and repair conveyor systems remotely. Using AR-enabled smart glasses, employees follow a series of instructions and troubleshooting guides overlaid on the equipment. Wiring diagrams and schematics would be visible to understand it better.

Here's an example of using AR for maintenance work:

Machine Assembly

MR technology can generate a realistic, interactive assembly simulation to help employees gain familiarity with procedures and best practices before attempting them in real life. This allows them to practice in a secure space.

Example: Assemble and install complex industrial robots.

Industrial robots are essential to manufacturing but can be complex and require specialized knowledge to set up correctly. A wrong assembly or installation can cause major delays in production and reduce the equipment's lifespan.

Using VR technology, a virtual simulation of the robot can be created. The simulation would depict different stages of the assembly process, and employees would be able to practice assembling and connecting different components, such as sensors, actuators, and controllers.

As they assemble or install the robots on-site, they can wear AR-enabled smart glasses to read instructions, visual cues, and real-time data on the status, helping them identify and troubleshoot potential issues.

Here's an example of machine assembly using VR:

Benefits of Using MR

We have seen that Mixed Reality (MR) technology can provide a range of benefits to manufacturing industries in terms of training and employee performance. By creating immersive and interactive virtual environments, MR provides employees to practice their skills in a safe, controlled environment prior to applying them in real-life situations. This greatly increases the speed and accuracy with which they are able to carry out tasks, reducing errors and inefficiencies. It also enables companies to create simulations of complex pieces of equipment for hands-on troubleshooting training. This makes it easy for employees to understand the workings of the machinery and develop the necessary skills to maintain it. Furthermore, MR can be used in production lines, giving employees detailed instructions, guidance, and real-time feedback, allowing them to learn faster and apply the skill effectively.

All such training programs ultimately foster an organization's capacity for innovation and expansion. Organizations that spend on the training and upskilling of their workforce create a safe and conducive environment for growth and learning. Such organizations feature happy and motivated employees who contribute to the growth of the organization. If you are thinking about using MR to leverage your training programs, write to us for more information.


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