The Future Is Now: Manufacturers Strategically Embracing Technology

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As COVID-19 created an entirely new future for manufacturers, strategically embracing augmented reality has enabled them to thrive despite the challenges.

IndustryWeek – Keeping manufacturing operations on track to consistently crank out quality parts has never been an easy task. And, in many ways, it continues to increase in complexity as tolerances tighten and customer expectations intensify.

At the same time, the skills gap has steadily grown. With baby boomers nearing retirement, it has become clear manufacturing has lost its appeal. The writing is on the wall. Dramatic change is necessary to make manufacturing exciting again. The future is coming–and fast. 

Embracing a New Reality 

Like it has for many manufacturers, the pandemic has intensified the impact of the labor shortage for Rockford, Illinois-based manufacturer PBC Linear. “The biggest problem was finding new people and getting them up to speed fast enough and then keeping them,” says Beau Wileman, a design engineer tasked with managing the factory of the future initiative at PBC Linear. “It’s inefficient and expensive to have a manager step away from whatever he was doing and train them.” 

This situation led Wileman to explore the feasibility of deploying augmented reality, specifically Taqtile, as a means of reducing training time and lessening the need for manager supervision during the process. “We have since refined the process where 70% of training occurs through the headset,” he says.

Having AR technology in place means people like Tim Lecrone, director of research, development, and customer outreach at PBC Linear, do not spend an entire day training new employees who may jump when a higher wage opportunity surfaces in the Chicago area. Instead, the new operators watch basic instructions in the templates created and stored in the toolbox. There’s a job instruction for everything associated with a part cycle including load, unload, inspection, and downloading a program.