Improving Operations and Training with Augmented Reality

This article appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Manufacturing is evolving at a rapid pace with the continued investment in Industry 4.0 technologies. Now those same machine-based concepts are being applied to human-based processes such as assembly and training through the use of augmented reality (AR).

Paul Ryznar is the CEO and Founder of LightGuide, a company that’s dedicated to improving manual processes for manufacturers through projection-based AR. The traditional training process, conducted through written manuals and guided by people, is now evolving through projected visual guidance platforms which increase efficiency and reduce waste.

After having spent decades in manufacturing working for companies like GM, Bosch and others, Ryznar realized a lot of waste and inefficiency occurs through unreliable processes that will ultimately produce inconsistent results.

“Quite honestly, it’s the pain of being head of operations or plant manager and missing profit targets due to the costs of poor quality involving scrap, inspection, rework or warranty costs,” says Ryznar. “All of those are non-value-added costs in factories because something wasn’t done properly the first time.”

It may seem counterintuitive that LightGuide is doing so much work to improve manual human processes while manufacturers are investing heavily in automation tools. However, roughly 72 percent of all manufacturing processes are still performed by humans and Ryznar doesn’t see that changing a lot in the future.

“Even though it tends to get a little bit more automated every year, it is still going to be people doing work in manufacturing for many, many years,” says Ryznar.

LightGuide’s vision for the manufacturing industry is to focus on the prevention of errors. Vision cameras are often used to identify mistakes, but they only check for mistakes after the fact.

“If a vision camera detects a mistake, you then need to spend time and money to rework that part because it was not performed correctly the first time. And, a lot of times, a rework increases the risk of a warranty claim,” says Ryznar.

A better solution is to prevent errors from happening during the manufacturing process. Using projected, AR-guided work instructions, a no-fault forward approach is created that ensures that each assembly step is properly performed before moving to the next step.

There are inefficiencies when it comes to employee training as well. Whether a new worker is being onboarded or an existing employee is moving to a new operation, in both cases somebody needs to be pulled off the line for a day or more. It can result in downtime and lost productivity.

“Now you have two people involved in the training. You have the person being trained and the person who is training them. That’s a lot of labor cost and lost productivity every time somebody needs to be trained,” says Ryznar.

LightGuide delivers immersive, interactive training on or off the line in a real hands-on production environment rather than in a simulation.

The LightGuide technology has also had significant impact for training and including people with disabilities, providing more accessibility in manufacturing work.

“There are about 1.3 billion people around the world with some form of mental or physical disability,” says Ryznar. “Augmented reality has proven to help people that were told they’ll never be able to work in a regular setting. That’s a very, very rewarding part of our business.”

At the end of the day, improving the accuracy and engagement level of training will not only help address inefficiencies but also help address the talent crisis. Ryznar calls it the “gamification of training.”

“It’s a fun way to learn,” says Ryznar. “Hopefully this is a way to capitalize on STEM programs and help bring even more people into this super exciting field of manufacturing.”

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