Augmented reality’s role in upskilling the workforce

Supply chain organizations are beginning to leverage AR to improve operations, reduce error rates, and train workers

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The rapid change of technology is driving the need for continuing education in supply chain. Once the domain of educational institutions, companies are increasingly facing calls to upskill their workforces.

A recent report, called The Great Potential, from global talent solutions provider LHH, found that 64% of workers believe companies should upskill and train for roles across the company before hiring externally. In manufacturing, 67% believe companies should prioritize internal development and placement, yet just 37% believe their managers would support such a change.

“Companies should empower managers to view their teams through the lens of skills,” the report said. “Employees want help knowing where their skills can take them next. Younger cohorts (50%) and workers older than 50 (53%) struggle most to see their skills as transferable between industries. Employers able to provide such guidance stand to gain: 58% say a prospective new career motivates them to build skills outside their day job.”

Of concern, though, is that the report found only 54% of workers believe their manager would support their move to another team in the company. That could be contributing to creating what LHH calls the “passive talent pool.”

To combat this drain on skills, more companies are turning to continuing education. Traditionally, education came in the form of classroom work and meant workers were away from the job for weeks at a time. Then, Covid-19 ushered in a new era of online and hybrid training, allowing companies to offer training opportunities within the confines of the job.

Now, technology such as augmented reality (AR) is taking that training to new levels. AR can offer immersive, interactive and practical training experiences.

VR headsets

Earlier this year, Reality Labs, a division of Meta Platforms, realized the highly anticipated Meta Quest 3 VR headset. There are several other virtual reality headsets on the market, and while they are traditionally associated with gaming, Pradeep Desai, chief technology officer for DP World, sees potential in supply chain and logistics training.

“AR technology promises to optimize operations, streamline processes, and elevate training and safety standards within the logistics sector,” he said. “Notably, VR-based safety training and technology have demonstrated substantial reductions in incidents and injuries, while AR’s remote collaboration capabilities empower experts to provide real-time assistance from anywhere in the world, saving time and resources.”

Among some of the benefits AR can offer are:

  • Interactive training modules
  • Real-world simulations
  • Enhanced visualization of complex concepts
  • Guided assembly and maintenance instructions
  • Real-time performance feedback
  • Remote assistance and collaboration
  • Gamification of training
  • Safety training
  • Inventory management training
  • Customized learning experiences
  • Visualization of supply chain data

“AR’s value extends to monitoring, visualization, and planning in global supply chains. It allows logistics managers to experiment with different strategies remotely, identifying cost-effective approaches and enhancing overall supply chain performance,” Desai said.

The ability to more effectively monitor supply chains through AR introduces the opportunity to educate the workforce in real time, with real-world examples.

Paul Travers, president of Vuzix, a company at the forefront of AR technology and smart glasses innovation, joined the In-Transit Podcast to discuss how AR could impact logistics operations. Travers explained how AR glasses will enhance operational efficiency and tackle the high turnover challenge in warehouses. He also noted the integration of AR with other technologies can lead to solutions that can streamline processes and facilitate rapid employee onboarding.

Real-time training

Extensiv, which offers omni-channel fulfillment, noted that AR offers the opportunity to train in real-time.

“The technology can be used to train and guide employees through a task and can provide manuals and other helpful tools at immediate disposal by voice command or movement. This not only increases efficiency but productivity. According to a study conducted by the ABI Research team, employees who use augmented reality are able to start producing results sooner than what has been possible with hands-on, human training.”

The ability to train rapidly can eliminate excessive paperwork and speed time to upskill employees, potentially improving retention. Some research suggests it also comes with safety improvements and lower error rates in warehouse and logistics operations.

“For example, AR can be used to train and guide warehouse workers through complex processes, eliminating the need for extensive hands-on training. It can also provide employees with instant access to manuals, tools, and helpful insights, increasing their efficiency and productivity,” wrote Dibyanshi Poddar, an MBA candidate at BML Munjal University in Mumbai, in a LinkedIn post on AR.

AR is among the latest technologies revolutionizing the world of training, and it’s role is only expected to grow as supply chains incorporate it into more aspects of their operations.

SC
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Augmented reality is offering new opportunities to train the supply chain workforce of tomorrow, and upskill the workforce of today.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Augmented reality is offering new opportunities to train the supply chain workforce of tomorrow, and upskill the workforce of today.

About the Author

Brian Straight, SCMR Editor in Chief
Brian Straight's Bio Photo

Brian Straight is the Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered trucking, logistics and the broader supply chain for more than 15 years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He can be reached at [email protected], @TruckingTalk, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 774-440-3870.

View Brian's author profile.

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