Training Employees for Automotive Assembly Using Augmented Reality Apps
September 28, 2020
Although the use of virtual reality and augmented reality training isn’t restricted to the vehicle assembly line, it is a good example of how these technologies are changing our approaches to learning real-world skills.
In the past, education would often follow a standard pattern of studying the theory and then applying the practical use on the job or under supervised scenarios. While this has, to some degree, worked for decades, there is a better way.
With automotive augmented reality training, there is no need for these learning processes to be separated. It can be a smooth transition from learning the theory, to seeing how it works, and practicing.
All of this is also done in a safe virtual environment, reducing risks and costs for employers. A lot of new employees (and their supervisors) can experience high levels of stress when the ‘on the job’ training starts. This is mainly due to the possibility that something serious could go wrong, halting production, or even causing an injury.
With Augmented reality, the training can begin in the virtual world, and that training support can even be overlaid onto the real world. This helps to increase confidence and avoid issues. It allows new staff to practice to their heart’s content until they feel confident enough to take on the job for real.
In this article, we take a look at the many areas augmented and virtual training can improve for automotive processes.
How can Augmented Reality be Used in Training for the Assembly Line?
Virtual reality and augmented reality allow staff to practice and fully develop complex skill sets in the safety of a harmless virtual environment. This makes it a useful way of training staff for almost any job but is particularly effective for automotive production training.
Many major car manufacturers have already jumped on this training approach, including famous brands like Volkswagen and Audi.
BMW wanted to improve its training program, and so contacted Capgemini. The aim was to get people trained up faster and to a high standard, but without needing additional staff commitments or delays in other areas.
The solution was an AR training app that “provided employees with access to individual, hands-on dashboard assembly practice before being put into the assembly line”.
It resulted in impressive benefits, such as reducing costs, reducing training times, improving staff job satisfaction, and more. The app was also created to be easily updated and expandable, allowing for more BMW training programs to be developed.
Learning from books is all very well and good, but augmented reality can almost literally bring learning to life.
The 2D diagrams and explanations in books are helpful, but with augmented reality, people can see the ‘real’ objects and interact with them in a quite natural way. Being able to move, pull apart, or even ‘explode’ and object into its individual parts can give a much deeper understanding of it.
If advanced enough, augmented reality apps can also allow students what happens when things are not aligned properly, or if parts of the process are skipped. This not only shows them how things work but why every part of the process is important.
Being able to see how everything fits together and works is more of a fun and interactive experience, which in turn leads to better knowledge retention in many students/employees.
The main and most obvious impact on safety is the ability for trainees to be able to practice potentially dangerous tasks in a safe virtual environment. This makes the transition to ‘on the job’ practice less daunting and reduces risk significantly.
VXCHNGE points out that “The factory floor has always been a complex and potentially hazardous environment, but AR technology could provide a new level of visibility.”
This is good for employers and staff, as fewer injuries result in less time off work and less expense on legal claims or compensation. Fewer claims can also result in lowered insurance premiums.
However, virtual training can also help to improve safety in other ways, such as practicing the procedures of worst-case scenarios. This enables staff to be prepared, without the need to shut down a facility or machine to practice the process.
We mentioned above that a safer environment could result in reduced premiums, but there are also plenty of other cost savings.
New staff can practice as much as they need, without taking up more time or focus from supporting staff members, as AR apps handle the training process.
Staff working with objects or materials do not need raw materials and resources to train. Materials normally required to train staff will largely no longer be needed, such as engine parts or panels that would be required to practice on.
The equipment is also not taken out of service for practice purposes, or the company doesn’t need additional equipment to be held aside purely for practice.
As staff get to practice virtually as they need, and can even get augmented support on the job, mistakes are reduced. Fewer mistakes lead to fewer production issues and lowered training costs.
Whether augmented or virtual reality is used, this immersive training approach improves training consistency and retention.
Once the apps are developed, the training is standardized. However, the experiences within the training are also highly personal, as each person can learn from their own mistakes and practice whatever they need to focus on.
It has been proven that virtual reality training programs lead to higher knowledge retention levels. The University of Maryland studied this in regards to virtual reality learning and found above a 90% retention rate, which is far higher than most traditional training approaches. This was put into content by pixovr.com who summed up the findings in the statement:
“At 90+ percent recall, VR training would score in the A-range, while desktop computer training, at a shade below 79 percent, would be stuck back in the C’s”
This is because learning is more engaging, interactive, and literally ‘hands-on’. However, should a staff member start to forget or feel unsure about something, with augmented reality training available, it is easy for them to brush up on their skills without needing to interrupt other staff members.
What’s more, training programs and ‘refreshers’ can easily be created and updated, allowing for the latest knowledge to be on hand and easily accessible. It can also be interactive, with staff from anywhere training with other staff members. This can be useful for collaboration or international business training programs.
All of this helps to create a consistently educated and trained workforce, increasing confidence, and lowering stress levels. Gamification of training can even make it fun, more rewarding, and far less stressful than learning on a live assembly line.
Another positive aspect of augmented reality training is that it isn’t limited to only being in the classroom. Augmented reality can be continued to be used on live systems, or ongoing with the correct headset.
It can add information and ‘advice’ to real-world equipment, used in the development of processes, and for assisting with new scenarios.
Augmented reality, for example, could be used to not only plan the layout of an entire automotive factory or assembly line but to also actually test that the designs work and see how effective it would be once operational. All of this, before needing to spend anything on materials or machinery.
The advanced high-level cameras used can also assist with the production process, highlighting where something could go or even if there is a malformation in a part that has just been produced.
Collaboration can be from anywhere in the world, allowing effective discussions, planning, and practicing implementation virtually by any employees, regardless of where they work in the world.
As far as making announcements is concerned, it can be as effective as mobile messaging, except that the recipients do not need to stop what they are doing and everyone wearing a device will get the message.
Even maintenance can be notified and lesser skilled or new employees guided through the process step-by-step virtually, ensuring machinery keeps running to optimum efficiency.
From providing tips and info to highlighting dangerous defects, augmented reality can improve efficiency significantly in both training and the live workplace. In effect, training can be a continuous augmented reality assisted process.
What are the Advantages of Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality for Training?
To summarize the aspects listed above and more benefits of virtual technology in training, the key takeaways are:
- Courses are not only standardized (instead of relying on different staff), they are also highly focussed and interactive
- Augmented reality and virtual reality incorporates numerous learning approaches, making them compatible and attention-grabbing for most people
- Learning is more fun than with only using books, especially when augmented reality tasks are gamified
- Training is often faster and yet also more beneficial to trainees
- Trainees feel more comfortable and more confident, as they can practice activities as many times as they need
- Retention of materials learned is increased
- For some jobs, this can even lead to muscle memory retention, allowing staff to work almost instinctively after training and without being on the assembly line prior
- Training can be undertaken as an individual or with other staff locally or from any other locations
- Training is safer for all
- Performance is tracked and feedback can be provided remotely, whether virtually or written
- Costs are reduced by allowing skilled staff to continue working while allowing new staff to fully train in a virtual manner
- Costs are continually reducing as more developers move into the field and hardware prices continue to become more mainstream affordable
- Easily accessible via any compatible device, often including augmented reality headsets and even compatible mobile phones
- There is no need to wait for a disaster, or to shut down machinery when worst-case situations can be rehearsed virtually
The possibilities of augmented reality training apps for the automotive assembly line are still unfolding. However, it is clear that this approach is effective and that it is likely to be adopted in many other sections, including outside of this sector.