Augmented Reality in Manufacturing: Why Localization Matters

Last Updated December 8, 2020

Looking to make augmented reality a reality for your manufacturing business? Here’s how to get more out of the technology at an international scale.

Augmented reality (AR) turns a real-world environment into an interactive user interface. The AR process typically involves the user viewing the scene in front of them via a smartphone or tablet. The image on the screen is digitally enhanced—in real time—to incorporate objects and activity that enrich the user experience.

One of the early applications of AR technology was in gaming (think Pokémon Go). More recently, manufacturers are exploring how this still-emerging technology can be used to enhance their working environment.

According to recent research by PTC: “Industrial enterprises are the highest adopters of augmented reality, focusing efforts on improving worker performance and solving the skilled labor shortage they are experiencing.”

This surge in the industrial application of AR partly stems from an expansion in the variety of ways the technology can be used.

For example, AR can now present users with a variety of relevant documents, statistics, and live feedback on equipment. Imagine looking at an industrial furnace and being able to view its current temperature, maintenance history, and internal operation—right from your phone screen.

3 Ways Augmented Reality Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Augmented reality is starting to make waves in the manufacturing space. Here are three ways manufacturing companies are making use of augmented reality.

1. Accelerated Product Development

In the world of product development, the journey from conception to completion is often long and tortuous. The back-and-forth between prototype design and product evaluation alone can be frustratingly time-consuming.

AR, however, can dramatically reduce the costs and time of development by allowing people at any stage of the process to ‘grab’ a concept from the screen, drop it into the real world, and adapt the design accordingly.

AR can also provide unprecedented insight to help designers hone their products. Car manufacturer Volvo, for example, has been using the technology for their car-development process, putting designers’ concepts to the test in the ‘real’ world and refining them as they go.

2. Streamlined Logistics

Managing how resources are acquired, stored, and transported to their final destination involves many interrelated tasks. Coordinating these often-conflicting processes can be a complex and time-consuming operation.

The entire system can be streamlined, however, using AR to continually evaluate and optimize the flow of resources and to empower workers with the tools and information they require.

One logistics business at the forefront of using AR is DHL, the shipping, tracking and courier delivery company. DHL’s use of AR glasses to enable hands-free scanning and processing of trolleys and individual packages has resulted in average productivity improvements of 15%.

“The operation is so intuitive,” says Markus Voss, COO and CIO of DHL Supply Chain. “The visual support helps to locate products really fast and sort them into the intended trolley boxes. We expect this to lead to further productivity increases from which our employees and our customers will benefit equally.”

3. Enhanced Maintenance

AR helps improve productivity and safety by providing maintenance teams with the information they need, when they need it.

That could mean, for example:

  • being able to ascertain the health of an asset without disturbing its operation;
  • seeing the latest service date and potential points of failure simply by looking at a piece of machinery; or
  • step-by-step video instructions automatically appearing while carrying out a repair.

AR also provides a cost-effective way of training technicians in industries where hands-on practice is difficult.

Airbus, for example, has overcome the challenge of having to ground aircraft for maintenance technicians’ training by using AR to their aircraft. Technicians can now practice complex maintenance and repair operations without the expense of costly aircraft downtime.

The importance of AR localization

These three examples represent just the tip of the AR iceberg. The potential value of this technology to manufacturing, and other industries, is enormous. However, if you’re thinking of committing significant resources to developing AR solutions for your business, there are some things you should consider first.

One fundamental issue is that of technological infrastructure. Wherever AR is to be used, the internet connection, for example, must be fast and reliable. Carrying out maintenance in remote or offshore locations, for instance, would require installing high-powered technology before any AR activities could take place.

A common drawback of AR systems is the language of the user interface (UI). In the modern, globalized manufacturing industry, it’s common for design to take place in one country, parts to be produced in another, and assembly to occur in a third country. The UI, however, if often not available in each country’s native language.

To overcome these language barriers, you’ll need to work with a translation and localization company that’s also well-versed in the technical complexities of augmented reality. Summa Linguæ Technologies (SLT) is at the forefront of AR localization.

SLT’s Solution Architect, Andres Vega describes the advantage of this specialist skill set:

Andres Vega

Solution Architect, Summa Linguae Technologies

"With SLT’s team of AR localization experts to offer help and advice, clients can be certain that the users of their AR will be able to access the technology in their local language and their experience will be consistent with the real environment and the experience of the native language users."

The matter of language is too-often an afterthought when implementing innovative technology—yet it’s fundamental to its success. Localization (the process of ensuring no nuance is missed or cultural difference ignored during translation) is essential when dealing with the kind of high-stakes AR examples mentioned earlier in this article.

AR is relatively new phenomenon, but the industry is becoming aware of the importance of localization. Increasingly, AR users are demanding their global software systems be localized. Beyond the user interface, it is also vital that training materials, safety guidelines, and compliance notices are localized as well.

If you want to engage with a partner that understands AR and has the experience and expertise to localize all aspects of your technology, check out our localization solutions today.

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