- Product Design and Development
Benefits: faster market growth, shorter production time and costs, rapid adoption of new product designs
Virtual reality is an excellent tool for fast and seamless prototyping. Advanced VR simulation means that manufacturers no longer need to spend inordinate amounts of time and money to create and approve one prototype. Engineers and designers can bring their ideas to life in virtual reality. With everything created in 360 3D, this process enables them to observe, edit, and evaluate their prototypes and spot potential errors or bugs in the design.
Ford Motor Company, for example, has been using VR in the development of its designs since 2000. With a VR headset, employees can look at a vehicle prototype and even sit in it, allowing them to experience it fully. In one year, Ford has managed to assess more than 193 prototypes using virtual reality!
Additionally, this use case is beneficial for aerospace manufacturing, where building full-scale models is extremely expensive.
- Product and Workplace Safety
Benefits: increased worker safety, better compliance with safety guidelines, safer products
Virtual reality can simulate pretty much any scenario you can think of, including production processes. By observing these operations in VR from the sidelines, managers and safety directors can identify potential hazards or dangerous maneuvers. Virtual reality also offers the opportunity to completely immerse a worker in their future workstation. Superiors can then assess the feasibility of a task or proficiency of the worker.
To expand with another example from Ford – this automotive giant reduced its employee injury rate at the assembly line by 70% through introducing virtual manufacturing. The company uses VR to certify new assembly processes before it even starts producing the first vehicle. Their VR software can predict the physical impact of building cars on their workers in over 900 simulated assembly task assessments for a new product launch.
Virtual reality is also a great way to reproduce various traffic and weather conditions to predict how a vehicle will behave and whether its safety features are up to par.
- Hands-On Experience and Training
Benefits: workers with improved skill sets, faster onboarding, better health and safety training, reduced training cost
Several research studies point out how there’s a growing skill gap in the manufacturing sector and a worrying reduction in workers available for these types of job positions.
With a VR training system set in place, your business can offer on-the-job training in an immersive environment that doesn’t disrupt the work of others. Your new employees can get an immediate and authentic sense of the processes and protocols they should follow; your current employees will get a chance to practice their new skills over and over again without fear of endangering themselves or their coworkers. Virtual reality manufacturing training doesn’t require any downtime, unlike traditional training. It reduces the risk of poor decision-making and errors on the job.
Hands-on virtual reality training useful in manufacturing can include practicing emergency drills, equipment and line changeovers, and more.
Benefits: infinitely faster factory planning, drastically reduced planning costs
Factory planning is the process of deciding where and how to place equipment, personnel, and tools and how to connect them for maximum productivity and efficiency. Factory floor planning requires complex designing, testing, and trials, and any errors or unexpected delays can lead to costly shutdowns. Virtual reality technology dramatically shortens and simplifies this process.
Before any changes or construction begin in the real world, your engineers can test production flows and factory layouts as much as they want in VR. They can add virtual workers or robots to test how they perform tasks. Even ergonomics can be tested in virtual reality to ensure that no undue stress is placed on your worker’s bodies.
Here is an example of how VR production planning looks like for a stamping production line: