Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Manufacturing: Reality or just hype?

VR and AR have made the initial impact through use cases in manufacturing and experts believe that their role will only get bigger in the time to come

IDG STAFF Jan 09th 2018 A-A+

Manufacturing industry is characterized by a continuous process from material procurement to production to logistics and distribution. In manufacturing, a moment saved is a minute gained as everything from design to layout and production is crucial and cannot afford setbacks or hurdles. 
Virtual Reality (VR) helps simulate everything from factory design to layout while Augmented Reality (AR), helps improve efficiencies on the factory floor, assembly lines and logistics. Together, VR and AR make a deadly combination of technologies that promises to enhance manufacturing through greater efficiencies in processes and production. 
According to an IDC report, the total spending on VR and AR products is slated to reach $215 billion by 2021 from an estimated $11.4 billion in 2017 at an astonishing CAGR of 113 percent.

Why AR and VR could prove vital 
Warehousing and Logistics: AR helps improve efficiency in these integral areas – as in the case of logistics company – DHL. DHL in collaboration with Ubimax technology implemented ‘Vision picking’ in warehouse operations. Warehousing staff, with the help of graphics displayed on a Smart Glass, could speed up picking process and reduce number of errors resulting in a 25 percent increase in efficiency. 
As Jan-Willem De Jong, Business Unit Director Technology, DHL, aptly puts it  
‘’ Vision picking enables hands free order picking and greatly increases productivity. The technology significantly supports our staff and brings exciting value to our customers,” 
Assembly line: Boeing used AR to help teams assemble parts of an aircraft wing. Emolyees aided by AR showed a 90 percent improvement over those who did not. The team using AR reduced time to build the wing by 30 percent leading to an increase in productivity and quality. 
Home Renovation: Lowe’s, a Home Renovation Company uses VR to help customers renovate bathroom and kitchen. Lowe’s – Holoroom How To is a VR based Do-it-yourself (DIY) skills clinic. This resulted in customer delight and has prompted customers to seek advice in other areas of home renovation.   

How realistic are these technologies? 
2016 has been an exciting one for VR and AR as Corporates and venture capitalists invested $2.3 billion into VR /AR start-ups. The year was also a reality check for VR /AR and experts believe that both (AR especially) are in initial stages of the ‘hype cycle’ but have found far better use in the enterprises segment than in consumer segment. AR as a technolgy still needs to mature before it becomes mainstream.

‘’Smart entrepreneurs and developers will identify the key elements of early successes and apply those lessons to other consumer-relatable industries with a B2B focus’’
                                                       -    Tech Crunch Report 

Experts believe that Manufacturing apart, Retail, Education, Healthcare, CPG, Telecom and even Real Estate and Hospitality will benefit in a lot through AR/VR. In the next couple of years, enterprise or B2B use cases will proliferate giving rise to the much needed traction for these emerging and fascinating technologies. 
In the enterprise market AR/MR have both gained progression in 2017 but it could anywhere between 12-18 months before they both see a major traction from current levels. As per an IDC report, global revenues for VR/AR (Consumer + Enterprise) are expected to double, each year, over the next four years to 2021. Region wise, US will lead followed by Asia/Pacific and Western Europe. 
It is interesting to note that within the enterprise segment, Retail and Manufacturing will lead the way for 2017 but by 2021, industrial maintenance, public infrastructure maintenance and retail will be the biggest adopters of VR/AR.