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VR & AR: The New Supply Chain Reality

You’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of buzz about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the technology industry. While there have been attempts to deliver these technologies in the past, it seems like now is the time that they will start to have a real impact. Google Glass helped people to start to imagine what could be possible, and currently products like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Microsoft HoloLens are taking things to the next level.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

When imagining what type of content is best suited for VR and AR, many people automatically think of gaming, and that’s not surprising—gaming is a natural and obvious fit. But limiting these immersive and augmented experiences to gaming misses the point. Just consider how travel experiences, real estate tours, education, and even business could be improved through this new enhanced reality. The supply chain itself is a perfect environment for VR/AR, as demonstrated in the following scenarios 

Product design, manufacturing, & engineering

Instead of designing products on paper or a desktop CAD program, an immersive 360-degree virtual space will make you feel like your design is already in the room with you before a prototype is even manufactured. You’ll also be able to fine-tune designs in a way that’s just not possible with other tools and provide 3D augmentation for field engineers and quality assurance (QA) personnel.

Training

Before your employees even touch a new piece of equipment, they can already be experts in how to use it, thanks to VR/AR. This technology makes it possible for them to go through the motions of operating a new piece of equipment or heavy machinery without needing to worry about the effects of any mistakes. A great example that exists today is the forklift simulator from FL-Simulators

Photo courtesy: FL-Simulators

Photo courtesy: FL-Simulators

Assembly line & picking

Augmented reality glasses or headsets could assist workers in identifying the condition of items coming off of the assembly line, and when it’s time to pick items for orders, they can direct them to the right items and offer helpful order details that are always in their field of vision.

Delivery

Drivers have a lot of items and tasks to manage as they work through their delivery route. However, a display that frees up their hands and enables them to see a list of their stops, how to get there, and which items go where can greatly increase productivity with proof of delivery.

Management

The responsibilities of company managers and executives often require them to be away from the manufacturing line or warehouse, which can cause them to feel detached from the people and processes that they’re supposed to oversee. With virtual reality, these corporate leaders can be transported in real time to the middle of the action to keep an eye on what’s going on in a hands-free way, whether they’re across the street or across the world. 

Even with current technology, these scenarios are very real. As headsets continue to improve over the next few years, it won’t seem so unusual to be using VR/AR in the supply chain—just like it’s not unusual to see advanced robots in the supply chain anymore.

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