Previously, VR technology has been used mostly in video games, amusement activities and 3D cinema. With technological improvements, availability of more affordable VR headsets and advances in innovation, new trends have come up. VR technology is progressively being adopted in supply chain management in processes like product and process design, virtual collaboration, experience-based learning and improving efficiency, safety, productivity.

What is VR?

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, 3D, computer-generated interactive environment involving a experience totally different from physical reality. The user can incorporate visual and auditory inputs through aids such as goggles, simple head-mounted displays and 3 dimensional images. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items. Virtual reality has thus found applications in primary education, military simulation, astronaut training, flight simulators and driver training. Many large companies are now pouring capital for incorporation of VR technology in their business operations.

The case for VR in businesses

Skyline of Singapore | Aspioneer
Virtual reality will form the basis of the new future | Aspioneer

Businesses have already started taking advantage of VR to give an immersive digital experience to users. Organisation  such as

  • Volkswagen uses MARTA, a service manual that helps in completing a repair job using reality technology.
  • Marxent’s- Marxent Visual Commerce application powered by reality helps customers to choose paint, flooring, plumbing fixtures, appliances etc and then visualise the entire 3D object and then experience the entire space virtually.
  • DHL improved its warehouse efficiency by using reality in order picking through scene recognition of space. This helped in choosing the right size packages and placing them on the unloading site well before physically touching them.
  • Houston based Training Centre of Air Conditioning and Heating along with Brown Technical Media built eLearning products and full technician course to train mass number of trainees in virtual HVAC lab.
  • Yihaodian, China’s online grocery business allowed customers to shop and browse their virtual stores. Used with smart analytics, insights provided by AR and VR into a customer’s buying interests and likelihood of purchase makes it possible to pre-empt a sale and mobilise the supply chain accordingly. 
  • JAL uses Hololens to educate its trainee mechanics using 3D holographics in real world.
  • Uniqlo Magic Mirror allows customers to predict how a garment, in different colours, would look on them without changing it several times.
  • Canada’s British Columbia through its ‘Wild Within’ gives a virtual sightseer tour to promote tourism. The ‘Oculus‘ Rift VR headset and Taclim VR boots from ‘Cerevo‘ amplifies the whole experience.
  • Audi allows customers to use VR headset to configure their new Audi and experience their cars virtually, in real time. The technology is developed by ZeroLight, a technology company based in Great Britain.

How supply chains can utilize VR

A truck representing field of logistics | Aspioneer
VR can change logistics across the board | Aspioneer

In the age of globalization, supply chain management has become a vital part of many businesses and is essential to any company’s success. Intelligent supply chain management has the power to boost customer service, reduce operating costs and improve the financial standing of a company. While these are a part of the whole ecosystem, modern supply change management encompasses the strategic alignment of end-to-end business processes to realize market and economic value, as well as giving a firm the competitive advantage over their business rivals. Adoption of VR applications depending on company’s operational needs can thus be applied in following ways

  • VR can be used in design organisation in an establishment allowing engineers, architects and designers to view multiple designs immediately on the spot which would save time and thus boost supply chains.
  • It can contribute towards improving the general understanding of how workhouse machinery work, in order to give first-hand experience to workers rather than traditional classroom education or video tools.
  • VR can help in complete 3D visualization, of an operational site for instance, which is difficult to comprehend on a 2D screen. This would facilitate in analysis and rapid decision making. This will improve efficiency and prevent any delays in supply chain operations.
  • VR can be used to keep employees prepared for safety-critical environmental situations within an industry say during manufacturing, maintenance or operational hazards. Examples for citation like increased oil level or complete failure of a machine. Using of a VR headset that integrates a virtual view of the facility with real-time data from operational systems, technicians can assess the extent of the problem before they physically visit the site. This can significantly reduce the time required to complete the maintenance, and more importantly, ensure that technicians are better equipped before performing the work.
  • VR technology can be used instantly and at same time by multiple employees to understand a virtual space of the industry without even being physically present there. The common virtual platform created would help speed up interactions, reduce cost but also give manufacturers and suppliers further insight earlier in product and process development, especially important across distributed supply networks.
  • VR can be used to superimpose important information directly onto the windshield of a motor vehicle. VR can aid in navigation by giving information about alternate routes, blocked roads and traffic hitches. Also the goods kept on the back can be supervised by checking the virtual images on the windscreen without being physically present there. At the time of delivery customers picture stored in company database can be verified to the receiver by using facial recognition technology. This would ensure secure delivery rather than conventional method where identity is checked using ID’s or signature which can be easily forged. Again packages can be encoded with scan able codes for drivers and receiver. Which would give information such as package weight, contents, handling and stalking instructions.

At Aspioneer, we believe these some of many ways of VR can be implemented to enhance their supply chain experience. Businesses who wish to remain ahead of their competitors can put VR technology into practice, depending on their operational needs, to significantly improve their supply chains.

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