One of our takeaways from EWTS in Dallas last month was that it is not small, entrepreneurial companies that are embracing XR technology first, but rather large enterprises. The reason is simple: large companies have the luxury of innovation offices or teams charged with working with manufacturing engineers to implement process innovations.
Shelley Peterson, Emerging Technologies Lead and Principal Investigator for Augmented Reality at Lockheed Martin, joined Lockheed Martin in 2003 as a systems engineer. In 2011, while working at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale site, Shelley joined the business development team. In 2012, she shifted her focus to AR/MR, and soon after torque drilling implementations and augmented reality shop aids yielded astonishing reductions in labor, in some cases over 90%. Since then, Peterson and her team have overseen over twenty-five AR technology implementations.
Peterson’s insights at the Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit in Dallas last month led to subsequent conversations about the secrets of Lockheed’s successes.
(1) Pick Projects With Measurable Metrics. “We felt that manufacturing was a great place to start because it’s an easy place to measure,” she began. “We can calculate how much time is being saved, and the other benefits of the technology.” Make sure it’s not because you can, but because value can be determined, says Peterson.
There are 57,000 cable harness fasteners in the Orion space vehicle that have to be placed with half-inch accuracy. With traditional methods, it took approximately 8 shifts to locate the position of several hundred fasteners. With augmented reality shop aids, 8 shifts has been reduced to 6 hours. Using the Microsoft HoloLens and Scope AR’s Worklink solution, Lockheed achieved an astonishing 93% reduction in cost.
“A great use case is not the only measure of an AR initiative. The implementation needs to be measurable. For example, you can’t prove error prevention,” Peterson continued. She believes this has been one of the main reasons she and her team have been successful.
(2) Don’t Rush. Peterson describes Lockheed as “working swiftly to bring successful solutions to Lockheed Martin Programs which make a significant impact” Paradoxically, going fast by itself won’t accomplish this. Her mantra is “observe, orient, decide, act to analyze and quantify the results on the shop floor teams’ decision-making process.” Peterson stressed they deliberate about each step, over and over, and carefully assign impactful technology to optimize key elements of that decision process.
( 3) Start Small. Pick initial hardware and software solutions carefully, and align the right technology to the challenge you are trying to solve. Make it easy to test and iterate things without asking anyone to commit to them. Operate in an entrepreneurial manner, focusing on the value the technology delivers.
(4) Keep It Simple. Work instructions and remote collaboration improve outcomes dependably. Make it easy to iterate. If a solution is driving a 50% measurable return, prepare it for scaling.
(5) Innovation comes from collaboration. Peterson rejects the idea that innovation is a top down or bottom up process. “It comes from all directions. Technicians, manufacturing engineers, management, and executive leadership all play a role in shaping the technology and all benefit from the technology when it is employed strategically.”
Lockheed has found virtually no difference between older workers and younger workers when it comes to process improvements. “They know the traditional approach better than anyone, and they really appreciate the optimizations that augmented reality technology delivers. The key is to make certain the end-user experience is truly an optimization from their viewpoint.”
We asked Scott Montgomerie, co-founder and CEO of Scope AR, what it was like to implement an AR solution with Lockheed. “Scope AR first met Shelley in 2015 at an office in San Francisco,”
Montgomerie recalled. Shelley then invited Scope AR to their manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, where they ideated using AR for manufacturing. “We hadn’t even launched the product when Shelley and her peers said ‘we want that.’” says Montgomerie. “It was very clear from the beginning that Shelley and Lockheed were very well aligned with ourselves in terms of what the technology could accomplish.” Over the next few years, they worked with Lockheed in a few different business units, gradually refining the product to suit Lockheed’s unique use cases. “Shelley’s commitment to finding new and impactful use cases to leverage Scope AR’s solutions was a huge driver for our success in working with Lockheed Martin. Her strong internal advocacy for Scope AR has allowed us to provide additional value to the organization much more quickly. In addition, her tenacity in measuring ROI has provided the most comprehensive and wide-ranging set of AR use cases across the manufacturing industry.”
As this catches on with manufacturing engineers we expect it will become central to a manufacturing process, not added to it, or enhancing it, but a new tool for getting things done better, faster and less expensively than they have been done before.