Virtual reality (VR) is already a hot commodity in tech-forward homes, and it’s rapidly gaining traction in larger manufacturing businesses.
Now is the time for smaller and mid-sized manufacturers to look ahead at how virtual reality can and will radically change their CNC machine businesses for the better!
How Virtual Reality Is Taking Manufacturing Efficiency to New Levels
Pandemic-era restrictions accelerated the manufacturing industry’s adoption of new technology solutions, from robotics integrations that compensate for a reduced workforce to VR alternatives to in-person activities.
Here’s a look at how cutting-edge shops are leveraging virtual tools to improve manufacturing processes and stay competitive in a quickly evolving industry.
Training and onboarding
“When it’s done rewinding, can we watch the safety training video again?” said no employee ever. Instead of watching old VHS tapes in a cramped office, today’s machine shop trainees can don a VR headset and actually engage in their training!
At IMTS, we saw the VR difference ourselves when a vendor demonstrated their virtual training experience. Now, learning new techniques and new equipment is no longer risky. A novice machinist can’t get hurt in the virtual realm, nor can they crash your machine and cause costly downtime.
Another powerful solution is VERICUT, a machine simulation software developed by one of NTMA’s partners, CGTech. VERICUT simulates traditional and multi-axis CNC machines so you can preview your processes, improve manufacturing efficiency, and enhance operational safety. The software streamlines training and dramatically decreases setup time.
Repairing and collaborating
If one of your machines goes down in your shop on the West Coast and your repair person is in Detroit, that repair becomes a huge drain on productivity. The repair person now has to buy a plane ticket, pack up their equipment, and travel to your city just to figure out what’s wrong with your machine.
In contrast, VR technology allows machine shop management and repair professionals to collaborate virtually. Imagine solving an equipment problem in a few hours instead of a few days!
Design collaborations can also occur much more quickly now, thanks to VR solutions. Instead of wrangling multiple people’s schedules, engineers can connect virtually to review, modify, and approve a part design.
Reshoring and reinvigorating
NTMA advocates every day for US manufacturers, lobbying for policies that keep manufacturing jobs right here in North America and strengthen domestic shops. But when it’s necessary to partner with a shop in China or Germany or Brazil—or better yet, to serve a customer in one of those countries—virtual solutions put you in a much better position to collaborate. You’re more empowered to compete for that job halfway around the world.
NTMA members are using online quoting solutions like Paperless Parts to produce fast and secure quotes for customers in every industry from anywhere in the world. We’re talking about software that can immediately scan a 3D CAD model and identify possible design issues in only seconds.
Our point is that the leaders in this industry aren’t just manufacturing parts; they’re manufacturing efficiency in the form of virtual solutions. Even the smallest move to improve manufacturing processes boosts a shop’s competitive advantage.
Small Shops Need to Think Big—NOW
Big CNC machine businesses are almost always the first to adopt new technologies. But that shouldn’t keep your smaller shop from investigating ways to increase manufacturing efficiency.
The advantages of early adoption often outweigh the challenges of initially obtaining and implementing the new technology. Sure, you’ll need to navigate the initial costs, training requirements, and integration with your existing systems. But as an early adopter, you’ll be at the forefront of the industry’s success.
Shops that resist new technology are the ones playing catch-up later—and that’s an exhausting role to be in. So don’t wait for the train to leave the station. Don’t be that person chasing after the last car. Go ahead and board when the train pulls into the station. The long-term benefits of early adoption are too many to count.
Taking the first step
NTMA members understand the power of digital collaboration better than most. Of course, we value in-person experiences, but NTMA Connect is just one example of how a virtual community can provide ongoing, easy-to-access support and networking.
Your NTMA community is always available to help you make critical decisions. Find out what technology other shops are using; take advantage of all the NTMA resources like conferences and webinars and this very blog!
The more research you do, the more connections you make, and the more purpose-driven you are to improve the manufacturing processes throughout your shop, the stronger your business will be in the long term.
So go ahead. Get started. Get connected. Join NTMA!