Companies now seeing real cost savings from employing virtual reality technology - Joe Pacitti

Virtual Reality technology has been around a while now. Remember how ‘cutting edge’ it was? It began, initially for medical, flight simulation, automobile industry design and military training purposes, but the developments over the past ten years or so have offered considerable benefits to a raft of businesses.

Joe Pacitti, Managing Director, CeeD
Joe Pacitti, Managing Director, CeeD

Under the umbrella term ‘Extended Reality’ (XR), which encapsulates Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) there is a range of revolutionary experiences that companies are now applying.

Why is this important to Scottish companies? Essentially, this technology can help improve operational efficiency, process re-engineering and the time needed to train employees, all of which results in cost savings.

The good news is that help is on hand for small and medium sized enterprises in Scotland through the ADVS project – which has investment from the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and South Ayrshire Council – and is one of 12 projects supported by CeeD through the Advancing Manufacturing Cluster Builder programme.

Through VR simulations and AR programmes, companies can see their designs in-situ, allowing for interactions between product and environment, and any problems/challenges needing to be addressed quickly and cost effectively.

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One organisation which has become a standard bearer for the initiative is Chevron Technical Services and Aircraft Maintenance who wanted to improve their training and assessment methods for moving aircraft around the facilities. The ADVS team created VR simulations to explore the options for developing a bespoke training environment for drivers and spotters.

Another organisation, Gama Aviation, which operates the Scottish Air Ambulance aircraft on behalf of the Scottish Ambulance Service, urgently needed to adapt their helicopters to transport Covid-19 patients safely by designing and installing screens between their cockpits and cabins to keep pilots separate from medical staff and patients.

Combining the elements of laser scanning and manual 3D modelling, the ADVS team quickly provided an accurate, efficient and Covid-safe XR digital solution to a very practical problem. By creating a 3D asset of their helicopter, they enabled Gama’s engineering team to design a fit-for-service bulkhead solution and expedite it into service.

What kind of savings are achievable with XR technology?

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Restructuring the layout of even small factories is typically an expensive, time-consuming, disruptive, and potentially risky exercise. However, using VR technology here enables several virtual transformation trials to be carried out before the first physical piece of equipment is moved.

It also allows for mistakes that might only have been caught mid-way through the process (expensive in the real-world) to be identified and resolved with negligible time and expense. At a manufacturing cell or process line level, simulating the operations of the area allows for quick and cheap iterations of layout or process flow, with no disruption to operations.

Using AR to access automated operational procedures from a smartphone, tablet or AR headset for field technicians or on the shop floor can also boost performance, lower production costs and improve safety – with operation saving time of 35 per cent achievable.

Another area where cost savings can be made is AR/VR training. Not only is it more accessible and often delivered to a consistently higher standard, XR training has been shown to have higher retention rates than traditional classroom training, which can reduce training time by 70 per cent.

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If a business hasn’t yet thought about using XR, the ADVS team can help identify XR solutions to everyday challenges and support companies to achieve time and cost savings on live testing, development, and training. It’s another example of Scottish ‘can do’ reaching into industry to bring together technologies that make a telling difference to the world around us.

Joe Pacitti, Managing Director, CeeD

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