AR drives efficiency in aerospace and defense manufacturing

Scott Montgomerie
Scott Montgomerie
POSTED October 8th, 2019

If you follow this blog, you’ve no doubt heard me say this time and again. AR for enterprise business is here. It’s no longer an emerging technology, or a novelty: businesses are using AR to overhaul processes, drive efficiencies, reduce manufacturing errors, and improve their bottom line. But, is AR mature enough for adoption in companies that are launching satellites and building new spacecraft? Absolutely. The technology is uniquely positioned to meet the highly specialized needs of the aerospace industry. 

Accuracy is mission-critical

In an industry like aerospace and defense, the acceptable failure rate number needs to be zero — or as close to zero as realistically possible. Augmented reality is the ultimate “measure twice, cut once” reference check. When done right, AR helps accelerate time-to-information when accuracy is essential. Technicians can access critical reference material that helps them make the right decisions — exactly when they need it. Without AR, technicians will spend a considerable amount of time examining diagrams, consulting manuals, or reviewing static guides and then doing mental mapping of these paper instructions onto the real world components of whatever they are building – which leaves a lot of room for error or misinterpretation.

An example of a company doing this well is Lockheed Martin. Since they began using AR in their Space Systems division to help manufacture spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion Spacecraft, they have realized significant ROI including a 95% reduction in the time it takes technicians to interpret drawings and text instructions.  

Create experts, share expertise

In aerospace and defense, your workforce consists of highly-specialized SMEs that live and breathe your intellectual property: designs, processes, equipment — all of which is highly proprietary. Augmented reality is an ideal way to build and share expertise with the people who use — and add to — a company’s unique intellectual property. The technology brings an inherent ability to more easily and quickly share expert knowledge, meaning you can use AR to maximize your investment in creating your company’s SMEs. 

As mentioned above, Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems division is using AR to to ensure spacecraft are built with the highest precision and accuracy. Beyond the reduction in time-to-information, the team has also experienced an 85 percent reduction in overall training required through the use of AR. In fact, Lockheed Martin has seen a 42% improvement in overall productivity as a result of their use of AR instructions created with the use of our WorkLink platform.

But AR platforms go beyond contextual overlays to deliver work instructions to technicians in-the-moment. Integrated platforms, like ours, can also connect technicians with an SME to communicate real-time instructions or help troubleshoot an equipment error. If you can record AR-supported remote assistance, training and troubleshooting sessions, they become valuable, reusable assets to help others gain expertise in a scalable way.

Security is everything

For any company working in the aerospace and defense sector, security needs to be unassailable. If you’re evaluating a new technology, it first needs to conform to your organization’s specific, stringent security protocols. Partner with IT early to ensure the AR technology you’re evaluating can integrate into your organization’s existing infrastructure. It’s also important to find an AR solution that works with the hardware devices that are already governed or approved for use within your closed systems – whether that’s wearables, smartphones or tablets. Despite some misconceptions, augmented reality is enterprise-ready and has reached a maturity stage to meet even the most rigorous security protocols and keep your data and proprietary content that AR often leverages – such as 3D or CAD models, as well as detailed manufacturing instructions – safe.  

What augmented reality does best: solving real-world business problems

Due to the success of their Space Systems team’s initial deployment, Lockheed Martin is now expanding their use of AR into all four business units of their organization across a variety of use cases. If you’re looking to get started with an AR project at your company, partner with leadership early and ensure your AR project fits within all existing information security protocols. Find a use case where AR can help your specialized workforce do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Focus on a single process where you can use AR to speed up critical time-to-information or reduce downtime. Measure the value and evaluate ROI. Once you see value, expand and repeat across other manufacturing applications or even extend to new business units that could benefit from the technology.

Still not sure where to start? This free eBook is a great guide to identifying the perfect use case.