The Future of AR in Manufacturing and Secondary Packaging Automation

Published January 30, 2019

Recently, we wrote a piece exploring the topic of virtual reality (VR) in manufacturing and secondary packaging automation, wherein we discussed the exciting ways in which virtual reality is shaping the greater consumer packaged goods industry. Within the piece, we briefly talked about virtual reality’s cousin, augmented reality (AR), and promised an in-depth discussion of this topic in the future. Well, there’s no time like the present. And the future is now, so, today we’re diving into the world of augmented reality in manufacturing and secondary packaging automation.

Much like VR, AR is a term that you’ve undoubtedly been hearing in increasing regularity over the past couple of years. What first began as a technology that only existed in video games and movies is now a tool that is helping to shape the future of consumer packaged goods CPG) and secondary packaging automation.

At INSITE, we’re always investigating the newest advancements to enter our field. We take pride in embracing change to benefit our team and our customers. Lately, our team has been hard at work diving into the intricacies of AR and all this technology has to offer the secondary packing automation industry. In our investigation of this fascinating topic, we found quite a few facts and data points that we believe will help others within our industry.

What is Augmented Reality?

In 2016 a funny game called Pokémon Go took the world by storm. Swarms of teens and young adults, maybe a few adults as well, took to the streets holding their phones in front of their faces as they threw invisible Poké Balls at fictional Pokémon.

The game was simple: walk around with your cell phone on while staring at your screen. When you were notified that you had reached an area with a Pokémon, lift your phone and try to “capture” the augmented Pokémon that was being projected into your reality via your phone screen with your available Poké Balls.

While most within the secondary packaging automation and consumer packaged goods industries most likely were not swept up in the Pokémon Go fever, you most likely knew someone that was. A daughter, sister, nephew or grandchild? Pokémon Go is a prime example of augmented reality and the technology’s potential to shape our future.

At its core, augmented reality is what results from superimposing data, such as sounds, images, and text, over the existing world. Technically, versions of augmented reality have been present in our culture for decades. In the 1990s, fighter aircrafts used heads-up displays to track attitude, direction and speed of their planes. In 2013 Google unveiled the Google Glass, their first crack at making wearable AR tech. They later pulled the devices in 2015.

But since that time, AR has come very far. No longer is the technology limited to military use or unique looking glasses. AR is making a very real difference in many lives and industries around the world every day. Including the CPG industry.

Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality

You may be wondering what the differences are between augmented and virtual reality. To put it simply: virtual reality (VR) exists within its own world, while augmented reality (AR) lives within our world.

While both technologies have the capability to alter our perception of the world, VR takes us somewhere else while AR adds to our current world. With VR, you could wear a headset and be instantly transported to the top of Mount Rushmore. With AR, you could pull up your phone and point it at Mount Rushmore and get real-time stats such as measurements, temperature readings, or trail projections superimposed over what you’re seeing as you see it. One is a copy of the real thing, and the other is an enhancement of the real thing.

Why Industry Experts are Turning to AR Technology

While learning about Mount Rushmore and catching Pokémon can be entertaining, what use is AR in relation to secondary packaging automation?

At this year’s Rockwell Automation Fair, augmented reality was a hot topic. It was at this conference that Harpak-ULMA joined the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program as an OEM Machine Builder. With the addition of the augmented reality capabilities of PTC, ULMA was able to demonstrate a proprietary AR app which guided employees through maintenance or production activities through 3D step-by-step work instructions using available tablets, smartphones or glasses.

Harpak-ULMA’s CEO, Kevin Roach had this to say about the potential of AR within the packaging sector, “IoT, AI, machine learning, big data, predictive maintenance, and augmented reality are just a few of the ways that connected machines promise to improve packaging operations and reduce total cost of ownership but realizing those benefits will require nothing short of rethinking packaging automation. By forging closer ties with Rockwell Automation and PTC, we can create innovative solutions and deliver them faster than any company can working independently.”

AR is now widely viewed as the ideal way to meet customer demand while keeping operating costs low. This is especially true when it comes to the rise in demand for fresh, sustainable, and convenience items, such as grocery delivery services or subscription box programs.

The Future of AR in Manufacturing and Secondary Packaging Automation

From training to order fulfillment, augmented reality is poised to make a major impact on the greater consumer packaged goods industry. Recently, a Global Market Insights report estimated the compound annual growth rate for AR between the present and 2024 at 65%. Experts believe that industrial applications will be the next wave of evolution for the growing AR sector, and we’re inclined to agree with them.

At INSITE, we pride ourselves on our dedication to staying on top of the latest trends and advancements within secondary packaging automation. We can’t wait to see how augmented reality may end up playing a part in the workings of our case erectors and sealers. Make sure to keep an eye on our blog for future updates on their exciting topic.

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