Automation & Robotics

Augmented reality sets the stage for the future of manufacturing

Augmented Reality (AR) is gaining momentum in boardrooms and factories worldwide, revolutionising the way businesses operate. Once seen as a futuristic concept, AR is now positioned to unleash its transformative potential, enhancing productivity, safety, and capabilities across industries and manufacturing environments.

As the MENA region embraces digital transformation and with its digital economy surpassing $100 billion, AR emerges as a critical tool for driving efficiency, safety, and innovation in the manufacturing sector. Although widespread adoption of AR may not have happened as swiftly as predicted, the seeds of change have been firmly sown, creating a growing buzz around investment and opportunity in the region.

Companies of all sizes are now embracing AR. A study by IDC predicts that global spending on AR/VR hardware, software, and services will skyrocket from a notable $13.8 billion in 2022 to an impressive $50.9 billion by the year 2026.

The industrial sector is poised to lead this charge, with maintenance and training spearheading the commercial applications set to receive the largest AR investments. AR brings unparalleled advantages to the table, revolutionising the way employees train, maintain, and work with machinery and equipment.


AR's impact in manufacturing

Governments in the region are actively promoting manufacturing as part of their diversification strategies, aligning with various 2030 economic visions and technological disruptions. Manufacturing involves the creation and utilisation of machinery and equipment, encompassing mechanical, electrical, and electronic devices designed for specific functions and outcomes in various operations and activities. AR, along with Virtual Reality (VR), plays a vital role in the global manufacturing market, which was valued at $5.57 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.3% from 2022 to 2030, according to market research.

These highly compatible technologies offer an immersive 360-degree content view in a highly simulative environment, empowering manufacturers with actionable analytical insights. One of the most compelling applications of AR lies in process optimization, enabling manufacturers to visualise and analyse workflows, identify inefficiencies, and make data-driven decisions. This newfound visibility into production lines and inventory levels leads to improved efficiency, resource allocation, and ultimately, cost savings, aligning with the region's drive for operational excellence in the manufacturing sector.


Enhancing accuracy and precision

AR's impact extends beyond optimising processes; it has also revolutionised reliable manufacturing. In an industry where precision and safety are paramount, hands-on training without real-world risks is a game-changer. With AR, a technician can immediately retrieve machinery health status, its history of repairs, the repair manual, and safety alerts from a single device. This saves time and effort. Through immersive simulations, workers can practise operating complex machinery, handling critical tasks, and navigating challenging scenarios.

According to the World Economic Forum, as businesses embrace new technology, approximately 50% of current employees will require upskilling. However, AR offers a solution by providing workers with an immersive learning experience. Through AR, employees can interact with virtual objects in real time and receive audio-based learning. This "practice before performance" approach enhances workforce competency and the likelihood of accidents and errors diminishes significantly, instilling a newfound confidence in handling intricate machinery and tasks.


Boosting productivity and cost-efficiency

AR's transformative efficacy is well-evidenced by the world of luxury car manufacturing. Industry giant Porsche has spearheaded AR implementation through its innovative "Tech Live Look" programme. Equipping technicians with AR-enabled smart glasses, the programme allows them to collaborate with remote experts in real-time during repair processes. The result? A remarkable 40% reduction in service resolution times, showcasing the practical applicability and tangible benefits of AR in the manufacturing landscape.

Additionally, it is common knowledge in the manufacturing sector that product development demands considerable time and financial resources. Basic product costs can amount to thousands of dollars, with variations depending on manufacturing processes, production volume, and development duration. Traditional prototyping involves numerous assessments and revisions before prototypes are cleared for manufacturing. Nevertheless, AR offers an innovative alternative, enabling designers to visualise and test prototypes in a digital environment.


Streamlining operations and revenue

AR technologies are making significant strides in enhancing operations within manufacturing facilities. According to Deloitte's 2023 manufacturing industry outlook report, 12% of surveyed manufacturers are planning to leverage AR in the upcoming year to optimise operational efficiencies. By allowing technicians to visualise internal machinery components without disassembly, AR streamlines maintenance processes and reduces downtime. For instance, BMW uses AR to superimpose accurate holographic 3D models into real vehicle structures, enabling the assessment of diverse concept variants and assembly techniques for future series vehicles.

The region is emerging as eager adopters of AR in the manufacturing landscape, with Gulf nations pioneering a new era of digitalization. This proactive approach lays the groundwork for seamless AR integration. Moreover, considering the potential commercial value of AR is crucial. The examples above illustrate how AR technologies can be tailored to cater to specific facility, process, or end product requirements.


Unlocking limitless potential in manufacturing

Despite its immense potential, the adoption of AR poses some challenges for companies venturing into its implementation. Key issues include the need for content standardisation and high initial costs. However, with progressive governmental support and collaborative efforts between industry leaders and metaverse-as-a-service (MaaS) providers like Shaffra, these obstacles are likely to be overcome. Moreover, augmented reality is now poised for mainstream adoption, appealing to both corporate sectors and manufacturing industries. According to a PWC report, virtual reality and augmented reality are projected to contribute $4.1 billion to the UAE economy and generate over 40,000 jobs within the next decade.

The rise of augmented reality marks a new era of industrial prowess and innovation. As businesses increasingly embrace commercial AR across various sectors and manufacturing settings, the prospects of heightened productivity, enhanced safety, and expanded capabilities become increasingly tangible. The stage is now set for a future where AR reshapes our perception of possibilities, offering unparalleled opportunities for companies to thrive in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Stepping into this exciting new realm will unlock boundless potential for both the industry and manufacturing sectors alike.