Lockheed Martin has leveraged augmented reality in manufacturing to reduce touch labor for the Orion spacecraft.
George Leopold, writing for EE Times, follows up his earlier reporting in regards to how Lockeed Martin is embracing augmented reality in manufacturing. Specifically, he explains how Scope AR’s content and the Microsoft HoloLens platform are working in tandem to drive major efficiencies in how engineers are preparing spacecrafts for critical missions.
In essence, Lockheed Martin is able to dramatically improve its manufacturing efforts through augmented reality by using ScopeAR’s virtual training manuals to assist in the creation of key spacecraft modules. For example, engineers are able to very quickly build modules such as fasteners, heat shields, and specialized meters. This has reduced the amount of labor required by engineers by more than a factor of 8!
In addition, the ability to put together and communicate information regarding workflow has been dramatically increased as a result of augmented reality in manufacturing. For example, the VR glasses can help a technician understand exactly where to fix a particular ship module, without having to interpret arcane and hard-to-read 2D and printed instructions. Rather, the correct location appears in the glasses — impossible to get wrong!
Lockheed Martin isn’t alone in its adoption of augmented reality in manufacturing. Other enterprises in the same ecosystem have recognized the potential benefits and ROI of streamlining tasks and enhancing training through the content provided by ScopeAR’s Worklink product. In fact, the scope of initiatives covered by AR continue to increase – PriceWaterhouseCooper reported that design and development may be the most popular use case, but it’s followed closely behind by workforce development, safety, and the operation of machinery. On some level, augmented reality in manufacturing can be seen as an extension of manufacturing strategy — sharing space in the same arsenal of tools such as robots and IoT, as well as three-dimensional printing.
Augmented Reality in Manufacturing and NASA is a Perfect Fit
The article concludes by unveiling some truly astounding stats with respect to what augmented reality in manufacturing has been able to produce for Lockheed Martin. There has been a fifty percent cut in the time needed to finish critical functions. A spokesperson for the enterprise says that important activities are able to be finished in half the time — and it’s all because AR, and the kind of content provided by ScopeAR, is not just science fiction; it’s being used by real people, and real companies, to drive critical business results and operations in the modern era.
The manufacturing industry has a long history of constant innovation. In this “man versus machine” industry, there has always been a precarious balance between innovation and having the right labor force to successfully drive these innovations. A new skills gap study by Deloitte predicts that 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs will be created in the U.S. between 2018 and 2028. More than half (2.4 million) of these new jobs are predicted to be unfilled.
“Why?” you may ask. As an aging workforce is soon walking out the
door, taking with them years of expert knowledge, the manufacturing
industry is now facing tremendous pressure to do more with less. Costs
of equipment, product assembly, and workforce training are continuing to
rise. At the same time, technology is driving an even greater need for a
skilled labor force as the complexity of machines and manufacturing
equipment is also increasing. These drivers are creating new challenges
for manufacturing companies to identify innovative ways to save time,
cut costs and ensure their more generalist workforce has the knowledge
they need to successfully complete their jobs.
Augmented Reality (AR) is proving to be one of the most impactful
technologies influencing the manufacturing industry, helping many
enterprises in the space overcome current obstacles. Workers can now
connect in real-time to get the expert help they need, reducing errors
and equipment downtime. Knowledge experts even have the ability to share
predefined AR-driven work instructions for common problems in the
field. AR technologies can also jump start training processes by
circumventing the need for large volumes of paperwork instructions or
user manuals. Workers can access intuitive AR content on-demand, which
is overlaid on top of a piece of equipment or machine in the real world,
dramatically reducing the time it takes to reach a certain competency
level or even learning a new procedure on the fly.
A perfect example of how AR is transforming the manufacturing world is with Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace company, and their current project of building the Orion spaceship. Historically, aerospace companies have been dependent on paper manuals (sometimes thousands of pages in length) to access detailed manufacturing instructions. As you can imagine, building a spacecraft takes incredible precision—it’s a “measure twice, cut once” scenario magnified to the extreme. Using AR, Lockheed Martin’s Space division technicians can now see digital information and assembly instructions overlaid onto components of the spacecraft. The results have been dramatic. They have seen a 35-50 percent reduction in overall technician time, a 90-99 percent reduction in the time it takes technicians to interpret drawings and text instructions and an 85 percent reduction in overall time for training.
Unilever, a British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company, is
another great use case where AR is driving dramatic ROI. They are using
real-time remote assistance AR technologies to connect workers on the
factory line with experts located in a different part of their
campus. This enables manufacturing factory line workers to solve
problems quickly and dramatically reduce downtown of essential
equipment. They have experienced a 50 percent reduction in overall
downtime and an impressive 1,700+ percent ROI relative to their cost of
using the AR solution.
A final example is with Prince Castle, a manufacturer of steaming,
toasting and smallwares technology. Prince Castle supplies the leading,
global fast food chain with food preparation and other kitchen equipment
such as toasters. When their highly specialized equipment becomes
inoperable, Prince Castle contracts with general contractors in local
markets to come onsite and assess the problem. Using an AR-based live
video calling solution, these general contractors can quickly and
accurately diagnose the problem and get immediate remote expert advice
to fix the equipment. As a result of adopting AR solutions, Prince
Castle has experienced an amazing 100 percent success rate in diagnosing
the problem on the first visit, a reduction of 50 percent of the
service trips needed to properly repair a piece of equipment and a 50-80
percent reduction in labor spend.
With a dwindling labor force coupled with an increased need for
highly trained and specialized workers, the importance of technologies
like AR will play an increasingly critical role in the manufacturing
industry. Early adopters have already realized they must transform
business processes to improve worker efficiency, reduce equipment
downtime and maintenance costs, and more accurately diagnose and resolve
support and repair issues—and that AR can be the answer to these
challenges. More and more manufacturers will realize the benefits AR can
deliver and its impact will become even more pervasive in the years
Scott Montgomerie is the co-founder and CEO of Scope AR.
XR Talks is a weekly series that features the best presentations and educational videos from the XR universe. It includes embedded video, as well as narrative analysis and top takeaways. Speakers’ opinions are their own.
Enterprise AR is a rich area of opportunity, given continually-proven
bottom line impact. In fact, it’s the largest XR sub-sector in the
outer years of ARtillry Intelligence’s latest revenue forecast. That’s mostly driven by demonstrable ROI in areas like industrial productivity and error reduction.
But despite that ROI story, there’s still lots of enterprise inertia and risk aversion, said Scope AR CEO Scott Montgomerie at AWE Europe (video below). We believe it will
take a while to get over that hump, but then adoption will accelerate as
we saw with enterprise smartphone adoption.
To accelerate that process, it’s all about case studies and proof
points. It’s also about moving enterprises past “pilot purgatory” says
Montgomerie. That happens when innovation centers in a given company
adopt technology but other constituents, like I.T. dept. and employees,
But it still starts with the case studies. And those are slowly building throughout the enterprise AR sector. Scope AR has been an exemplar in pulling together ROI proof points, including increased output, better accuracy rate in diagnosing problems, and reducing time for task completion.
For example, Scope AR’s WorkLink software for pre-authored AR instructions reduced Lockheed Martin’s “orient & decide” portion of a satellite assembly by 99 percent. This type of work is where AR shines, as it reduces the cognitive load that’s inherent in translating 2D manuals to 3D space.
“To put into common terms, think about IKEA furniture,” said
Montgomerie. “You have to look at those paper instructions, read weird
diagrams, and do mental mapping of those diagrams… Multiply the
complexity of that by a thousand and that’s the challenge we’re facing.”
Beyond pre-authored AR instructions, remote AR assistance (a.k.a “see what I see”) is proving valuable. Fast-food equipment supplier Prince Castle used Scope AR’s Remote AR to fix on-site equipment. It achieved 100 percent first time diagnosis rate and a 50 percent labor cost reduction.
“There’s about thirty things that can go wrong with these pieces of
equipment,” said Montgomerie. “Figuring out which one of those things
have gone wrong is really the key, and just with a phone call, their
diagnosis rate was terrible — about 90 percent failure in first-time
As we’ve examined,
Remote AR can also have macro-effects in an organization, such as
reducing impact from subject-matter experts retiring. Shifting them from
field work to remote AR assistance can delay retirement. It can also
optimize diminishing volumes of experts through telepresence.
“In the next five years, they’re going to lose 330 years worth of
experience just by having baby boomers retiring,” said Montgomerie.
“These guys have spent 35 years learning exactly how to maintain, fix
and operate equipment, and that knowledge is literally walking out the
Unilever realized this advantage, as well as the unit economics of lessened downtime. Using Remote AR, it was able to reduce downtime by 50 percent for an ROI of 1,717 percent. The benefit is having things fixed faster when you don’t have to wait for a human to travel to the site.
But again, ROI proof points only get you so far. It’s also about
setting the technology up to succeed by appealing to stakeholders
throughout an organization — business leaders, I.T. depts. and
employees, says Montgomerie. And that’s more about marketing than
Business leaders are the easy part, and are usually sold on the
merits of case studies like the above. Then comes I.T., whose job is to
be risk-averse. Montgomerie’s advice: Get them involved as soon as
possible. That may seem counterintuitive but it pays dividends
“I think it’s a common mistake — one we’ve certainly made — to do an
end run around I.T.,” said Montgomerie. “It’s easy to say ‘yeah, let’s
prove the value first and then we’ll worry about I.T. when we get to
scale. I.T. will screw you at that point, so you need to get them in the
He also recommends deploying AR through smartphones and tablets when
possible. The I.T. and data security pushback is lower with mobile
devices, given their tenure and trustworthiness in the enterprise.
Headsets like the Hololens conversely haven’t gained that level trust
from I.T. yet.
As for employees, it’s likewise hard to win them over. But successful
deployment requires their buy in. Resistance includes fear of new
technology and job security. Montgomerie recommends educating them on
how it benefits them, and enlist change-management pros.
“We’re talking about some pretty impressive ROI numbers here,” he
said. “If I’m a worker I’m thinking, ‘oh well, the company can still do
exactly the same on their bottom line with 50 percent of the workforce…
does that mean I have a 1 in 2 chance of keeping my job next year’.”
In a broader sense, Montgomerie recommends deploying AR where it works
best. It doesn’t work in rote and automated functions, where employees
are already fine-tuned. It shines in low-volume, high complexity
situations (like space shuttles), or high volume, small improvement
Put another way, don’t be a hammer searching for nails.
Act in a needs-driven way to deploy AR in targeted and optimized ways.
Scope AR took this path with aerospace, engineering and heavy equipment,
but Montgomerie believes there are many other verticals primed for AR.
“I think there’s an impression out there that AR is great for everything. I can tell you it’s not,” he said. “We’ve chosen key industries to go after… there are other industries where this is a greenfield — things like medical, construction, and logistics. There are some great use cases there.”
Lockheed Martin’s space division has partnered with Scope AR to support the manufacturing of spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion.
On September 14, Alice Bonasio, Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief posted
an article to TechTrends exploring Lockheed Martin’s expanding use of
Scope AR’s WorkLink, particularly the work done on their Orion project
using Scope AR’s WorkLink. Some highlights from the article:
“In a complex field where errors simply cannot be made, Scope AR’s
WorkLink Augmented Reality platform has tremendously helped our space
division build high quality spacecraft by reducing the time it takes to
interpret work instructions by more than 95 percent, as well as reducing
training time and errors significantly,” says Shelley Peterson,
emerging technologies lead, Lockheed Martin. “The ability to easily use
the product across platforms means that anyone on our team, including
our interns, can take advantage of AR to build and use manufacturing
instructions quickly and accurately.”
Over the course of their AR deployment, the team achieved an
astonishing 95% reduction in the time it takes technicians to interpret
drawings and text instructions and 85% reduction in overall time for
On August 1, in the Wall Street Journal, Sara Castellanos posted an article exploring Lockheed Martin’s use of augmented reality, particularly the work done on their Orion project using Scope AR’s WorkLink. Some highlights from the article:
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s space division is using augmented reality
headsets and software to speed up the time it takes for engineers to
learn about and conduct manufacturing processes on spacecraft, said
Yvonne Hodge, the division’s vice president and chief information
“This is a really exciting capability that can really accelerate us and make us more competitive,” she said. Before, for example, technicians used paper instructions or 3-D models on a computer in certain manufacturing processes of Orion. Now, instead of having to look through binders of data or content on the computer across the room, they can wear an AR device such as HoloLens, which overlays instructions for drilling or applying torque to specific parts of the spacecraft, said Shelley Peterson, augmented reality systems engineer at Lockheed Martin.
The time it takes for a technician to “ramp up,” or to understand the
drilling processes, has been reduced from eight hours to about 45
minutes using augmented reality headsets, she said. It recently took
about 2 weeks to conduct a manufacturing process which involved drilling
and inserting panels into the Orion spacecraft, Ms. Peterson said. That
process had taken about six weeks in the past, she said.