How VR and AR are transforming manufacturing

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are ready for business, and some of the biggest opportunities to exploit these technologies lie in industrial manufacturing and design. PwC research reveals the use of VR and AR in product and service development could deliver a $360 billion GDP boost by 2030.

However, while the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 clearly supports the idea that technology can significantly improve design and production processes, it also highlights that one in four manufacturers are unsure how to implement them.

So, how can VR and AR technologies transform manufacturing? And where should manufacturers begin? 

Uses include speeding up time to market with rapid prototyping through to process improvements that enable greater productivity, efficiency and accuracy in the field.

Darren Jukes, PwC UK - Head of Industrial Manufacturing

Rapid prototyping and product design

Competition in the manufacturing sector means companies are under more pressure than ever to deliver greater innovations, in faster, more effective and affordable ways.

This is where VR and AR can make a real difference, by enhancing and augmenting existing product and service design and enabling entirely new techniques.

Automotive companies, for example, are already using VR to cut the time between initial design and physical modelling from weeks to days. This rapid prototyping and collaboration speeds up and enriches the creative process. The time-consuming requirement to build physical prototypes and then translate them can be reduced dramatically – or even eliminated completely – bringing ideas and innovations to life and products to market more quickly. We spoke to Dawid Dulak, Extended Reality leader at ABB, as the technology leader driving the digital transformation of industries, who gave the example of how specialists working remotely across the globe were now working together virtually using digital visualisations to create new products collaboratively, quickly and efficiently.

Driving process improvements for engineers and technicians

Our ‘Seeing is believing’ report on the economic impact of VR and AR also highlights how these immersive technologies can drive significant process improvements, with the potential to boost global GDP by $275 billion by 2030.

For example, engineers and technicians in the field can be fed information and access instruction manuals in real time using an AR interface, so that they can quickly identify problems and conduct repairs and maintenance. One of the key areas we’re seeing in manufacturing is the use of digital twins - digital models of physical assets - enabling technicians to interact with visualisations, collaboratively where necessary, that replicate local issues or products.

And in the logistics sector, smart glasses can display picking information for the worker, highlighting location and displaying product details and packing instructions. 

The use of VR headsets in training can also substantially reduce costs and increase the safety of employee training to replicate dangerous or expensive scenarios. All of these can create savings and efficiencies for manufacturers.

Time to get started

As our report title suggests, seeing really is believing when it comes to VR and AR and the best way of finding out how these technologies can help your organisation is to get stuck in and start using them. Dawid Dulak, reflecting on ABB’s experience of embracing immersive technology, saying, “There has been a lot to learn as we adopted VR and AR, but it’s been worth it to know we won’t be late to party once the technology really starts to take off”. 

Download our Seeing is believing report for five clear steps to get started. Explore the data, enjoy the AR experiences we’ve included using your own mobile phone, and read up on the insights and opinions of our technology and industry specialists. 

Don’t get left behind. Get in touch to discuss how VR and AR can help you, your people and your organisation.

Contact us

Darren Jukes

Darren Jukes

Leader of Industry for Industrial Manufacturing and Services, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7966 297 427

Jeremy Dalton

Jeremy Dalton

Head of VR/AR, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7701 295956

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