AR in the supply chain : collaboration or substitution ?
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
The Augmented Reality (AR) became popular during the 21th century in France and abroad with the democratisation of VR (Virtual Reality), MR (Mixed Reality), XR (Extended Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies. This one is used in many companies supply chains.
AR (Augmented Reality) is the insertion of digital content in a real environment. It’s different from the VR (Virtual Reality) which is only composed of virtual objects and environments. The question is nowadays, can we talk about collaboration or substitution when we talk about AR (Augmented Reality) technology insert in the supply chain with workers?
The Augmented Reality (AR), and its technologies
The Augmented Reality is a new technology developed, first, to insert a part of reality in video games. AR (Augmented Reality) like others virtual technologies can be set up on VR devices but also in robots. They began to be used in some companies’ warehouses to simplify employees work but also as solutions to companies to simplify their processes of all kind. Light&Shadows, for example, offers virtual solutions for companies from their industrial processes to their marketing ones. The solution offered to Saint Gobain is a veranda configurator allowing clients and sellers to change their experience. Sellers have access to a new tool to sell products and clients have a new experience when choosing their veranda. To see this project: https://light-and-shadows.com/projet/saint-gobain/
The AR and its uses in the real world
AR devices and robots can integrate AR and that’s why industrials began to use it in their warehouses. They are the future of the industry/warehousing because:
- First, they do not represent salary expenses; only the initial price is significant. But AR is a long-term investment which means a better profitability for companies.
- It is time saving devices; AR can be programmable. Industrials will be able to determine the work areas of robots. By doing so, we can see a production increase and a reduction of human’s error rate.
AR (Augmented Reality) can be used by employees themselves to perform tasks faster and without being disturbed by their environment. DHL tested AR in their warehouses to delete paper orders and facilitate orders preparation. To see their experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKhhJxIbiuM (Source: Cerasis.com). It shows us the benefits for employees to use these new technologies. It allows better working conditions for them, they do not have to move in the warehouse and taking risks trying to reach a product on the shelves. Robots can make shelves move: the company Alibaba used Robots in their warehouse of China.
But technologies have its limits. As every electronic device, robots or other AR (Augmented Reality) devices need maintenance to work properly. This represents an additional cost for companies.
This situation allows a cohabitation between human workers and robots.
A question remains: Are robots making more people work? Using these new technologies in their supply chain, allows companies to stay in the innovative race but also to stay at the best level of productivity. Are robots and AR really replacing the work force, or should we see this technological progress as opportunities for a more productive and collaborative environment ?