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HomeDigital PrintingWill ‘Augmented Reality’ be a reality in packaging ?

Will ‘Augmented Reality’ be a reality in packaging ?

28 December 2020: Augmented Reality (AR) represents a leap forward for staff knowledge transfer – employing digital visual overlays through a combination of both handheld and hands-free devices. It supersedes traditional approaches to operator training and maintenance of industrial assets. AR presents a powerful solution for producers seeking to alleviate the well-known upskilling issues associated with high labor turnover, productivity, and error proofing.

According to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, by 2025, almost 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become available, of which 2 million will remain unfilled. AR can help producers bridge the skills gap at the root of this major disconnect. It is reported that by 2025, three out of every four workers will be millennials who will be driving new workplace expectations.

While AR has not yet been widely employed in packaging markets, other industrial experiences indicate that real-time “active-learning” dramatically accelerates front-line staff learning curves and reduces error. Staff with little or no formal training can be rapidly up-skilled to perform nonrepetitive complex activities – the kind of work inherent in many unfilled manufacturing positions today. When a machine malfunctions or a tool change is required, AR guides the operator or maintenance worker visually step by step through task execution.

The’s recent report on “Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in Consumer Goods – Thematic Research” takes an in-depth look at VR and AR technologies in the FMCG space and retail, foodservice and packaging sectors. AR and VR technologies have the ability to transform numerous industries, including FMCG, retail, and foodservice, by creating new ways of marketing, offering entertainment, and staff training, and by enhancing product packaging to improve consumer experience.

The report states that competition is fierce among FMCG brands, and thus they need to find ways to stand out. One way would be to leverage solutions that can grab consumers’ attention, and offer them immersive, stimulating experiences. Therefore, the FMCG sector has a huge potential to benefit from AR and VR integration. AR and VR solutions can be incorporated at every step of the customer journey (during research process, in store, and during product usage). AR and VR technology can also be used for brand engagement through contents. Gamification, contents for best selfie taken with the product or most innovative product design could help brands reach a wider audience and a different customer base.

Retailers are investing in AR and VR to provide their customers with an enhanced experience when visiting their stores, or when shopping online, by offering them the chance to try out products virtually.

Harpak-ULMA has adopted Augmented Reality to its Packaging Platforms, as reported in October 2020. Harpak-ULMA is the North American arm of ULMA, a $1B industry leader in complete packaging line solutions for Food, Medical, Bakery and Industrial products.

The company is extending its platform capabilities to support Augmented Reality on its Rockwell Automation-enabled packaging solutions. The company has entered Beta-phase testing and is targeting commercial availability for its Augmented Reality (AR) option next year.

In 2018, Harpak-ULMA launched its strategy to produce smart, connected platforms that deliver packaging as an integral part of the manufacturing digital thread. These platforms enable emerging Internet of Things (IoT) software applications (such as AR) that leverage production data to digitally transform traditional plant asset maintenance and operational processes. However, simply enabling the utilization of such applications is insufficient to help producers realize value. The combination of skill sets required to develop AR content is not only atypical of producer staffing models – they’re in short supply altogether.

Harpak-ULMA’s Innovation Engineer, Alexander Ouellet, explains said that AR requires new roles such as UX or UI designers, graphic designers to create assets, and 3D modelers who understand how to turn an engineering data set into production-ready, user-facing graphics. “You also need IoT software architects to define AR experience data flows to ensure experience scalability. We quickly understood that it wasn’t enough to simply enable AR on our platforms – our customers want more than a toolkit. That’s why we are building out fully contextualized, solution-specific AR content. When our customers opt for AR as part of their purchase, we intend to provide a library of experiences for tool changes, maintenance, expert capture of training processes, and related device recommendations. We do the heavy lifting so customers can deploy a complete AR experience along with asset commissioning. We also anticipate that customers may request custom AR content, which will be accommodated as well.”

Kevin Roach, CEO of Harpak-ULMA, said: “While we believe our vision and role is critical to accelerating digital transformation of producer packaging processes, ‘it takes a village’ to bring these disruptive technologies to market today.”

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