How Autotech is bringing Factories Out of the Dark Ages

Goodyear depends on more than 2,500 engineers to keep its complex production processes running optimally in more than 30 factories around the world. When business travel ground to a halt as COVID-19 spread around the world, Goodyear began using RealWear assisted reality wearable solutions running Microsoft Teams and quickly deployed the devices to all of its plants.

Now, when a factory machine breaks, front-line workers are connected to a remote expert within minutes, allowing engineers to see issues and opportunities first-hand remotely; with just a couple of voice commands, on-site workers can capture video, take pictures, chat and interact with team members working elsewhere. The wearables provide a hands-free conference experience for plant personnel so they can perform work as they receive instructions.

“Before we started using RealWear and Teams, I assumed I could only do my job on site. Now we can work remotely and reduce travel for ourselves and our vendors,” says Taylor Davis, an electrical engineer at the Process Development Center at Goodyear headquarters. “Instead of spending days traveling, I can be online in minutes with a subject matter expert to provide technical support or install a new piece of equipment. Microsoft Teams for RealWear is part of my everyday life to support my projects.”

Goodyear has also leveraged the devices to provide a 360-degree view of a machine that was being commissioned, so experts could guide the process; remotely tour and assess the damage at a factory hit by a storm; validate construction processes as design engineers built a new test facility; and host remote training to help workers learn equipment maintenance and operations skills while interacting with instructors in real time.

“I see Teams and RealWear becoming the way that we train people to produce the products, for today and the future,” says Dallas Olson, VP of Global Manufacturing and Engineering, Goodyear.

Goodyear isn’t alone in its adoption of assisted reality devices; an increasing number of automotive manufacturers are leveraging assisted reality in their factories to realize significant benefits.

From Newfangled Tech to an Integral Part of the Daily Workflow

While augmented reality got a slow start from pure hype to a nose dive into the trough of disillusionment, as Gartner puts it, Assisted Reality devices, including the recently launched RealWear Navigator™ 500, are already proving their value in real-world applications in several key areas, including:

  • Identifying defects and improving throughput: With no end in sight for a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips and other key materials, manufacturers are operating in a supply-constrained environment. This makes first-time yield more important than ever, because any rework required slows down the supply chain and limits production. Automotive leaders are tackling these supply chain challenges by using assisted reality devices to identify defects and improve throughput, including French car manufacturer Groupe PSA (now part of Stellantis), which equips factory technicians with RealWear assisted reality wearable solutions to improve productivity and quality during the vehicle assembly process.

  • Increasing the efficiency of field service and inspections: Assisted reality wearables give workers the real-time data they need when operating, inspecting or maintaining equipment. A number of enterprise applications are already in widespread use with wearables, including IBM Inspector Wearable, which offers AI-based object recognition. Workers can also access and view equipment manuals, multimedia files and complete documents as needed, streamlining processes.

  • Training workers in a safety-critical environment: Assisted reality devices have been designed to meet—and even exceed—worker safety requirements in extremely challenging and noisy work environments around the world. They can be used in the moment to help workers safely navigate these environments while doing their job, for example presenting a factory worker with safety information immediately before they use a piece of equipment, or before the fact, training employees on the hazards they may encounter in the factory.
  • Providing emote access to experts: When production stops due to machine failure, on-site technicians need immediate assistance to restart production. Peer-to-peer video collaboration helps experts provide assistance by telestrating remotely to pin-point the exact issue quickly, even in high-noise environments, while the hands-free nature of the devices allows technicians to troubleshoot issues in real time.

Deploying assisted reality requires an intentional approach—one that is firmly grounded in strategy. A key part of that strategy involves taking a measured approach; a successful deployment is one that doesn’t try to take on all of the potential use cases at once.

A Few Tips to Getting Started with Assisted Reality

  • Start with a small number of manageable tasks or projects and evolve their use over time—for example, leveraging them initially just for safety training or deploying the devices in one or two locations first and gathering feedback before standardizing across the enterprise.

  • Consider investing in developing digital workflows specific to your worker’s routines. By looking for high-value, low-risk routines, you can identify some low-hanging fruit and scale as needed. You can also develop content that systematizes work instructions, so you can provide workers with reminders in the form of  step-by-step instructions delivered using wearables.

  • Incorporate dynamic training for workers on the factory floor. Modifying training automatically based on the performance of the worker taking it reduces the amount of time needed to train workers across the factory. You can collect analytics along the way to improve and streamline the training you offer.

Learn more about how to create a successful strategy for deploying assisted reality—and gain a broader picture of the benefits assisted reality delivers across the automotive industry—in our white paper, “How Assisted Reality Wearables Are Disrupting the Entire Automotive Ecosystem.”

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