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Augmented Reality: An Essential Part of the Modern Manufacturing Toolkit

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well under way in the United States, and with each day that passes it continues to change the way we manufacture products and distribute them worldwide.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well under way in the United States, and with each day that passes it continues to change the way we manufacture products and distribute them worldwide.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well under way in the United States, and with each day that passes it continues to change the way we manufacture products and distribute them worldwide. Today, there is no tool in American manufacturing more important for continued success than Augmented Reality (AR).

Unlike Virtual Reality, which provides a more immersive experience for the user (commonly seen in video games, for example), augmented reality provides an overlay of digital information on top of the physical world in front of us, so information that cannot be seen by the naked eye can now be seen. One easy example that comes to mind is the technological advancement in the automotive industry, where digital overlays are placed in dashboards and windshields to provide the driver with needed information. Yes, this is augmented reality—a tool to see something that otherwise couldn’t be seen, meant to make human experiences easier.

And even more than being a product feature, AR is now integral in how products are designed and made. Every manufacturing and distribution sector has benefited from augmented reality during the Fourth Industrial Revolution, from instructions for workers on the floor to research and development all the way to members of the supply chain who depend on it to make their products better and more accessible. It is as essential a manufacturing tool today as the machinery on the production floor.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought with it an enormous amount of data, which needs to be made accessible within the physical world. This is where augmented reality comes in. Instead of workers reading lengthy instruction manuals, AR now provides the ability to have eyeglasses that show the workers how to assemble/repair products—contextual information now literally appears before their eyes in real-time, streamlining the manufacturing process for everyone. When one considers the massive and complex machinery so many workers operate on a daily basis, the benefits of AR are tremendous.

In a state like Connecticut, where there is a continual shortage of skilled labor, training workers and future workers in AR is highly valuable for manufacturing companies. Having this as a part of the “new worker toolkit” can help to accelerate getting the right people into the workforce at a time when they are more needed than ever.

For smaller manufacturers with complex processes, augmented reality is being used to train workers on the shop floor with much more efficiency. In the area of maintenance, technicians who service specific pieces of equipment for customers now use AR as an inspection guide, with maintenance instructions literally overlaid onto the serviceable part. And out in the supply chain, a critical part of any manufacturing operation, AR has helped to drive value and benefits. Businesses now use AR to track shipments as they are delivered, and the overlays show where materials come from. In an industry where compliance is part of its lifeblood, using AR to ensure quality and efficiency cannot be overstated in its importance.

Generating value through the use of complex data is at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it is through augmented reality that success is now achieved. Manufacturing workplaces have changed forever thanks to the advancements made in AR, and changed for the better. It allows workers to be more productive, more efficient and more technologically adept, and in the modern world of manufacturing, there is nothing more essential than that.

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