Virtual Reality in Supply Chain

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Virtual Reality in Supply Chain-Driving Innovations Across Industries

By Ranganath Jois, COO, MetaCog Solutions.

Virtual reality technology has evolved tremendously since its inception in the late 1950s. The last five years, in particular, have seen an incredible uptick in both capabilities and use of VR devices; they have shifted from niche devices primarily for hard-core gamers to devices with more widespread adoption and applications for both consumers and enterprises.

Given the significant technological improvements of the last five years, virtual reality is being leveraged for supply chain operations, driving innovation across industries. Trends show that the adoption of virtual reality devices can help organisations with product and process design, virtual collaboration, and experience-based learning.

Forrester predicts that the adoption of mid to high-end VR headsets will be $52.3 million by 2020, increasing substantially from today’s market of approximately $11 million.

Many large companies are pouring money into both hardware and software development, and it is only a matter of time before more barriers continue to fall and the full enterprise capabilities are realized. Traditional PCs and smart phones will continue to provide competition as they take on increased capabilities around reality. However, as VR applications continue to expand and prices continuously decrease, the VR market alone could reach up to $48.5 billion by 2025.

Value drivers of VR in the supply chain

Through our research, we believe that the successful adoption of VR applications in the supply chain depends on the alignment of technology value drivers with a company’s use cases, operational needs, and organizational readiness, not just a broad-based approach built on the current popularity of the technology.

  • Interactive Visualization –  The VR-enhanced designs allow for visualization capabilities previously unavailable; this allows product engineers, architects, and designers to rapidly shift through multiple designs and evaluate them on the spot.
  • Virtual Presence – Globally scattered teams can now collaborate more efficiently thru a shared visualization or interact through virtual avatars leading to enhanced virtual collaboration through real-time simulations and immersive “games.” These interactions not only drive down costs but also give manufacturers and suppliers further insight earlier in product and process development, especially important across distributed supply networks.
  • Big Data Visualization – These are transforming the supply chain from product development all the way to the end customer. Leveraging interactive 3D data visualization not possible on 2D screens will assist with complex decision making and help companies see the inter-dependencies and impact of certain decisions on operations.
  • Hi-fi Virtual Reality in unsafe conditions – This will have a great impact on human resources within supply chain organisations. Many industries have difficulty preparing employees for high-risk environments. VR can help engineers quickly make the best decisions possible in safety-critical environments: for example, to identify, prioritize, and analyse situational variables indicating an oil well is about to enter a dangerous condition or that a machine is about to fail.

AR and VR technologies have come of age to delivery stunning advantages to industry, consumer and the community in a grand scale. The current applications themselves look highly futuristic, and hence it is anybody’s guess what the future has in store for us especially with respect to AR and VR solutions.


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