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Augmenting the User Experience: Augmented Reality Use Cases for Manufacturers

How can AR help solve your customers’ problems?

The emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) technology in recent years has been a boon for a wide swathe of companies, which have leveraged the technology to blend the digital world with the real one, creating captivating, semi-real-life experiences for users.

AR seems a natural fit for gaming, marketing, and e-commerce companies. But what if you work for a highly technical company that creates complicated machinery? Are there use cases available to you for this trend-worthy technology?

If your company manufactures anything technical—from printers to lawn mowers to jet engines—you may find that AR has useful benefits for your customers, even if you’re not creating the next Pokemon Go.

According to a recent PTC Whitepaper, “Companies universally recognize the importance and benefits of adopting AR for their internal use. In today’s business climate of razor-thin operating margins and mounting economic pressures, the race for efficiency is starting to receive a nitrous boost from AR.”

But are there scenarios in which highly technical companies could benefit from creating AR applications specifically for their end users?  According to the same report, yes—and the companies that embrace customer-facing AR see a significant ROI benefit. Indeed, “Companies developing for customers report having completed successful use case development at nearly three times the rate of those developing internal use cases (29% versus 11%)…With this significant increase in AR technology adoption, enterprises undergoing digital transformation cannot afford to wait. Whether for enhancing products, services, and solutions offered to customers or to drive operational excellence within the enterprise, AR provides new transformative capabilities that cannot be overlooked.”

Can’t afford to wait, but having trouble picturing how AR could help solve your customers’ problems? Consider the following use cases:

1. Overview and Orientation

Picture this: you’ve just bought a new car, and you’re trying to figure out where to put the oil. Your problem isn’t difficult enough to merit the help of a mechanic, but nor is the solution particularly intuitive. Rather than pore over your user manual or search online for the right technical documentation, how great would it be to download an AR app and do a walkaround of your new vehicle, so you can see exactly how to use it?

Whether your company creates cars or computers, an AR app that orients your customers to the product and its best practices can save your customers time and money, generate goodwill for your brand, and preclude them from making costly user errors.

2. Visualizing Concepts and Processes

Sometimes, it’s helpful for a customer to visualize a process that’s not visible to the naked eye. For example, if you create electric cars, your customers may want to understand how the engine works. An AR app that animates the flow of electricity through the system may be helpful as customers better learn how their car operates, and thus how to care for it. These types of AR use cases are already extremely helpful for internal audiences (e.g., technicians), but they can have applications that benefit the customer as well.

3. Complex Assembly and Repair Procedures

Have you ever been excited to make a purchase, only to experience sheer dread at the prospect of setting up your new device? This is another area where AR can help. Streamline the setup and repair process for your customer with step-by-step instructions, delivered visually with AR.

4. Inspection

You know how to find the brake pads on your car, and you may even be able to identify whether they require repair. But how can you ascertain whether you can fix them or need to replace them?

Enter AR. This customer-facing technology can, again, save time and money—and ensure your devices are always safe and functional.

How to Know When to Go Augmented

These are just a few of the many use cases your company might uncover that could prompt an investment in AR. But if you’re inclined to jump at the next available opportunity and assume there’s an AR solution for every customer problem, step back. Consider engaging a partner that understands your technology and can help you decide whether your end user’s environment will be conducive to an AR solution.

As an example, consider this: we worked with a client whose ships were stationed in the middle of the Indian Ocean. When these ships’ engines required repair, our client was forced to shoulder the enormous expense of flying an external technician to this remote location to complete the repair.

An AR solution seemed a natural fit. With the aid of an AR app, an on-ship person could walk through the repair in an augmented way without needing preexisting expertise. It sounded like a perfect solution.
But we knew that the ship’s environment would not actually support that solution. We knew that to use the AR technology, the ship would require a live Internet connection—which it didn’t have. We also knew that it would be unsafe to use an AR solution within the dangerous engine room.

Our technical expertise, coupled with our fundamental understanding of the end customer—the people on the ship—led us to conclude that the AR solution was not the optimal one, for both safety and logistical reasons. And that saved our client time and resources in the long-run.

We help our customers make decisions on how to make things faster, easier, and more efficient—not just trendy. If you’re considering implementing a new technology or system—whether AR, VR, or something else entirely—we applaud your initiative, and we invite you to partner with us to help you streamline the process and avoid potential pitfalls.

Do you work for a manufacturing company? What use cases do you envision for potential AR solutions to your customers’ problems? Leave a comment and let us know!

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