Starting a business is challenging regardless of the industry. On average, 65% fail within ten years. But as daunting as those statistics are, manufacturing is even more complicated, with as high as 85% failing after 25 years.
A manufacturing startup is often more capital and labor-intensive than service, software, or app-based enterprises. Specific regulatory requirements for safety, sanitation, and other variables depend on the product manufactured. There is also the ever-increasing shortage of manufacturing workers. With these challenges, entrepreneurs starting a manufacturing company need all the help they can get.
Manufacturing startups can benefit significantly from Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies. These tools can extend reach to field service, enhance customer experiences with virtual tours and “see it in your home” features, and increase productivity across scarce technical skill sets.
Leveraging VR and AR in a Manufacturing Startup
Here are some ways entrepreneurs can use VR and AR in manufacturing:
Product Design and Prototyping
VR can create virtual models of new and existing products to allow testing before making a physical prototype. AR can overlay virtual designs onto real-world objects, allowing teams to visualize the final product. These capabilities empower fast iteration without the extensive R&D costs associated with traditional physical iteration.
VR can be used to train employees to operate machinery and equipment through realistic simulations, significantly increasing safety. For areas like welding, pipe fitting, and electronics, they reduce the need for the initial use of materials, reducing the amount of waste produced during training.
While manufacturing must be done onsite, engineering, design, and other functions may not. VR and AR connect remote team members and facilitate real-time collaboration. They provide a virtual “hands-on” experience while reducing travel costs, improving communication between team members, and allowing entrepreneurs to recruit talent well beyond the facility’s location.
Marketing and Sales
VR is highly beneficial for creating immersive experiences for customers, allowing them to visualize the final product and its features. This functionality can help entrepreneurs showcase their products and differentiate themselves from competitors. It’s especially critical for new products where a customer’s purchase decision may be influenced by the ability to “use” it or “see it in their home” virtually.
Maintenance and Repair
One of the most impactful uses of VR and AR is in maintenance. AR can be used to overlay virtual instructions onto machinery and equipment, making it easier for technicians to perform maintenance and repair tasks. It can also allow for the placement of markers on objects that an AR device can then scan. Advanced scanning systems like shape-recognition technology recognize objects by comparing their shape to a catalog of 3-D models.
Manufacturing startups often have scarce resources. It may be critical in those first years to focus on building product-specific engineering, design, or programming skills in-house. Using AR and VR for maintenance can delay or eliminate the need for a dedicated maintenance technician, so equipment is well maintained at a lower cost.
Beating the Odds
VR and AR provide can manufacturing entrepreneurs with a competitive edge. By utilizing these cutting-edge technologies, startups can reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve product quality.
AR and VR are just two of the emerging technologies that are transforming business, but there are many more. New business leaders may not always know where to turn to understand these technologies and how they apply to their companies.
The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College offers programs, training, and assistance on entrepreneurship, innovation, and R&D. We have the academic and business experience to help guide you in sourcing these technologies and optimizing your investment.
To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.