Augmented Reality and the Automobile industry – A pioneering Sector – Part 1

The automobile industry weighs heavily on global growth. Even if production has been impacted by the shortage of semi-conductors, and some areas such as Europe have suffered (-5.7% in 2021 vs. 2020), the total number of vehicles being produced, is still growing when compared to last year and in 2021 it represented more than 63 million vehicles produced in the world according to the l’ACEA. (The European Automobile manufacturers’ association.)

The automobile industry has always been proactive in terms of investing in innovation and still, according to the ACEA, is amongst the ten key sectors in the industry, it allocates almost 30% of its global spending, to the study and development, leaving well behind, the pharmaceutical and biotechnical sectors.

It is true that this industry was probably one of the very first to consider Augmented Reality as a promising technology. It has been well integrated into R&D and then in production processes for over a decade.

Many augmented reality solutions are used as effective tools to improve performance, efficiency and the yield in different sectors of this industry, which is constantly reinventing itself.

Let’s consider the automobile industry as a whole, not only the manufacturers, but also equipment suppliers, garages, training centres….

Let’s have a look at some real life uses.

 Ø Car manufacturers and equipment suppliers 

It is a highly competitive sector, and it is highly exposed to economic fluctuations with raw material costs, transport, but also the variations in vehicle demand. Manufacturers are facing growing competition in middle of range vehicles. The current situation is particularly complex for OEMs, with tension in the supply chain.

The current situation is particularly complex for equipment manufacturers.  Component supply issues are having a direct impact on vehicle manufacturing. On average, they account for between 60 and 85% of the cost price of manufacturing a vehicle. The rising cost of raw materials is currently having to be passed on.

Implementing innovative and easy-to-put in place solutions can quickly pay off for all levels of these organizations.

 The design

The use of AR can be used very early in the overall process. In fact it can be used right from the beginning in the design phase.

It can be included in the defining of new designs and prototyping, whether it be with the parts or vehicles. A lot of work is done around creating and sharing models.  These processes are expensive and need a lot of collaboration, based on the intensive use of 3D models.

Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality can facilitate the creation and management of these 3D models – especially remotely – thanks to collaborative tools and high-performance connected glasses. New solutions for managing teamwork, studying designs with the possibility of making modifications in real time and simulations can be numerous and non-destructive, through the use of digital tools. Therefore, errors can quickly be highlighted. The decision-making process is accelerated by not  having to travel, limiting the risk of error, and reducing costs.

 The Assembly Line

Factories need qualified workers for assembly lines and production lines in general. Whether it be to compensate for high turnover, a lack of manpower or simply to quickly train temporary workers before the summer or during production peaks, simple and intuitive AR solutions very often prove to be worthwhile.

These augmented reality training or work instruction solutions can be very simple. It can transform a current system based on paper manuals into a PDF version, which can then be used in a digital mode, adding mini videos or 2D/3D renderings where needed. One step further can be the creation of short videos, structured in a pedagogical way, or even the implementation of a complete training infrastructure with 3D content according to availability, and possibly of overlaying it onto the real-world examples. There are many “off-the-shelf” solutions that meet all these different needs.

These solutions can also be used for production lines either to optimize the assembly/disassembly processes, or on any operation involving any repetitive actions and therefore often more complex operations.

Although these solutions can be used with cell phones or tablets, the use becomes more efficient through connected glasses, and thus becoming a fully “hands-free” system.

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Spare parts management

Whether on the manufacturer or OEM side, the management of spare parts and related logistics can be complex, while some of the stages of the selection and shipping of these parts still remains manual.

Picking solutions can speed up the process, reduce errors and sometimes compensate for the lack of resources for inventory management and dispatch. These solutions are relatively simple to implement and effective in allowing employees to intuitively use them through connected glasses. All of this is integrated with the manufacturer’s WMS or ERP system.

All these applications have proven successful.  Renault, Peugeot in France, as well as Volkswagen, Audi, Seat have all started to implement one or more of this new way of working in their factories and have been doing so for several years now.

In the second part, which will be released next month, we will talk about real life usages like when the vehicles have been finished, the context and the advantages of using Augmented reality for all the different people involved in the product’s life cycle.