Complex onsite servicing and maintenance; knowledge-intensive training and operational problem solving: guess which technology is helping to ease technological resilience…

Countries in most parts of the world are currently moving into a phase where curbs are eased and offices near-fully reopened.

Even amid the global supply chain disruptions in food and gas the reopening of borders can only increase economic activity. Here in the Asia Pacific region, the good news is that the Economist Intelligence Unit portends accelerating growth: countries such as Indonesia are seeing accelerating growth while India is expected to experience steady economic momentum with GDP expanding by 7% over the next 12 months. In South-east Asia, the Asia Development Bank expects GDP to reach 4.9% this year and 5.2% in 2023. 

As one of the global hubs for manufacturing, APAC accounts for nearly 48.5% of the manufacturing output and makes up more than half the world’s population, and there is much pressure to boost output to meet increasing global needs.

However, are APAC manufacturers ready to capitalize on meeting that demand and move up the manufacturing value chain with higher-value, higher-margin products?

Challenges with digitalization
To answer that, we know that putting more boots on the ground to produce more does not always scale well. Technology can play a pivotal role in boosting productivity, but the use of technology invariably creates other challenges to be resolved.

As manufacturers embrace technology such as robotic process automation, 3D printing and digitalization to scale their production, technology can fail, and machines do break down.

How can manufacturers maintain and operate increasingly complex systems in a way that maintains the efficiency of production lines, and keep downtime to a minimum?

Finally, operating technology can be complicated. To succeed in the long term, businesses must address the perennial challenge of knowledge transfer, ensuring hard-wrought experiences, skillsets, and knowledge of system quirks are baked into the corporate memory.

This is where augmented reality (AR) can be used to boost knowledge retention and remote support. Typically delivered via smart glasses, AR offers next-level interactivity by melding the real-world environment with computer-generated perceptual information delivered using a combination of visual, auditory, and even haptic sensory inputs.

Augmenting digitalization with AR
Equipped with connected smart glasses and relevant integration, technicians and machine operators on the production floor can gain a direct line to internal or external experts to solve technical problems beyond whatever training and abilities they already possess.

A remote expert can see the problem and highlight specific parts of the video feed for further checks or guide the operator to a resolution. Because information can be transmitted directly to a built-in display, this can serve to overcome potential language barriers between the two parties—especially important given the diverse workforce in the region.

At one bottling company AR was deployed in dozens of plants and helped reduce line downtime by an 50%. In one instance, a technician on duty attempting to restart a vital piece of equipment had exhausted all troubleshooting steps to get it running. When the case was escalated to a specialist engineer more than 600km away, the fault was fixed and the manufacturing line was restarted within 30 minutes: averting a potentially catastrophic outage. 

Another example involves the archival of AR sessions for training purposes. During an actual AR session, the correct sequence to perform various tasks on the production floor can be recorded by a trainer and stored for reference or for onboarding future technical teams. This visual knowledge base can be used to reduce training time as well as reduce human errors in complicated tasks such as technical servicing.

In the warehouse, AR can be used to help workers retrieve goods much quicker (hands-free) and with increased safety and comfort.

For sure, AR is not science fiction but a real-world technology that a rapidly growing number of regional manufacturers are turning to.