VR NEWSMythbusting on the way to Industry 4.0

Five myths that slow down the use of virtual reality in mechanical and plant engineering

When it comes to digitization, Germany lags behind in international comparison. There are many reasons for this: sometimes it’s the lack of network expansion, sometimes it’s the complicated subsidy policy, but sometimes it’s reasons that have long since ceased to exist. These are myths that must be dispelled if we are not to lose touch for good. In plant and mechanical engineering, for example, there are five widespread myths that prevent the use of innovative technologies such as virtual reality.

On the way to Industry 4.0, a multitude of innovative tools are breaking through. VR meetings in particular are experiencing rapid hype – not least because of Facebook (or Meta). In digital workspaces, colleagues are supposed to interact and collaborate with each other as avatars – or so the idea goes. But digitization in the industry is progressing slowly. On a scale of 1 (at the very beginning) to 10 (fully digitized), the companies surveyed by Bitkom and TCS currently see themselves at a value of 5.9, which is exactly in line with the industry average.

So what is the reason that the mechanical and plant engineering sector has so far made little use of digital solutions such as VR? The answers to this question are many and varied, but they are accompanied by all kinds of myths. Berlin-based VR software developer WeAre knows whether these inhibitions are well-founded, for example with regard to the use of virtual reality. The company offers a VR conferencing system that is explicitly aimed at mechanical and plant engineering.

“We are often asked by interested parties in the initial contact what advantage a VR conferencing system offers compared to a video conferencing tool. On the one hand, this question shows that we have to dispel all kinds of myths. On the other hand, the purpose of a VR tool is not yet self-explanatory. After all, it’s not about replacing tools, but about expanding the existing digital infrastructure in the company,” says the founder and CEO of WeAre GmbH, Max Noelle. According to Noelle, one goal must be to close these knowledge gaps in order to dissolve prejudices and pave the way for virtual reality.

We have summarized and dispelled five common myths:

Myth 1: “We have no use for VR” (Use Cases)
One of the main reasons why mechanical and plant engineering has not used VR applications so far is the lack of knowledge about possible application scenarios. For example, there are simply no areas of application for virtual reality. While it may still seem questionable today whether a VR tool now brings striking added value to a classic discussion meeting, there is a high potential for innovation, especially in the manufacturing industries. A VR meeting tool can be used along the value chain in a resource-efficient and profitable way: Whether in marketing and sales, the design phase or ultimately in construction – workflows in VR help with complex coordination processes, plant inspections and enable processing and sales discussions directly on the 3D object. The functions go far beyond those of a classic video conferencing tool. Numerous tools such as rulers, X-Rays and proven collaboration tools such as whiteboards and speech notes are available and ensure interactive collaboration.

Myth 2: “VR doesn’t meet our security standards” (Security)
Time and again, security concerns are voiced regarding the implementation of new digital tools. Corporate IT departments in particular are critical when it comes to security. Companies are placing increasingly high demands on data protection, which VR product solutions must also meet. But what do you have to watch out for? First, it is advisable to look for solutions “made in Germany” that, in addition to security standards such as an ISO 27001 and DSGVO compliance, also operate their servers within the EU. It also makes sense to enter into an open exchange with the VR solution providers in order to coordinate restrictive specifications, e.g. with regard to IT guidelines. After all, even if solutions “out of the box” ensure simple and fast implementation, individual adjustments can help to jointly overcome possible hurdles.

Myth 3: “VR deployment costs us too much” (Budget)
The budget issue is particularly relevant for smaller companies. For example, 57% of machine and plant manufacturers are prevented from introducing digital tools such as VR by the supposedly high investment costs. There is deep-seated skepticism as to whether the tool will prove its worth and pay off at the end of the day. However, the fact check shows that in terms of hardware, all that is needed is a powerful computer and a VR headset with controllers. Here, hardware can even be rented at the beginning. The prices for VR software solutions are determined individually, e.g., according to the number of users and the respective subscription model. It is therefore all the more advisable to try out software solutions together with employees in order to subsequently assess the real need for software and hardware. WeAre offers free demos so that employees can get to know the features of the VR conferencing system and then receive individual advice.

Myth 4: “The executive suite doesn’t want to” (Management)
Management support also plays a significant role in whether VR solutions are considered in the company. This is because department heads as well as management often see no need for the use of virtual reality. This shows that comprehensive information about application scenarios and the benefits of the solutions is also required at management level in order to be able to identify significant advantages and make important and correct decisions. Best practices, such as the use of VR at SMS group, show that the use of VR in plant and mechanical engineering can massively save costs – e.g. by eliminating business trips and the construction of prototypes – as well as project runtimes. Nevertheless, such tools help to increase remote capability in the company and to adapt to Industry 4.0 as well as climate-neutral production and to be resilient and able to work even in crises such as the Corona pandemic.

Myth 5: “Our employees don’t need VR” (Acceptance)
The pandemic has clearly shown that work processes today are more dependent than ever on digital solutions that enable remote collaboration, for example. This does not mean that proven processes and workflows will disappear over time. it is simply a matter of taking the next step toward digitization. Acceptance and motivation on the part of employees is an essential factor in determining whether the new tool will ultimately be successfully implemented in the company and actually used. The advantages of a new technology must also be clear to employees and future users right from the start. For example, the use of VR creates an activating work environment and helps with complex and interdisciplinary agreements. In addition, designers can experience their plants, models or buildings in their original size even before they have been built. At first, such change processes always seem to be associated with effort and hassle. Many employees complain about their knowledge of how to use new tools in order to get started quickly and easily. In this context, “out of the box” solutions that enable intuitive use without extensive learning processes are particularly useful. To ensure that a VR conferencing tool, for example, becomes a sustainable resource in the company, employees should be involved right from the start, try out solutions themselves and communicate their needs.

Those who take the plunge into virtual reality win. This is also shown by the results of studies: More than three quarters of companies see their expectations for the use of VR/AR as having been met in full or to a high degree. In addition, the use of VR in engineering also offers a wow effect in visual terms, because at the latest when those involved in the project walk through their large-scale plant together for the first time and can see and work on models in their full size even before construction, there is the hoped-for aha moment.

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