Q&A with Dijam Panigrahi

COO at GridRaster

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What is GridRaster’s role in the manufacturing world?

GridRaster Inc. is a leading provider of cloud-based XR and 3D AI solutions that enable captivating, high-quality AR/VR/MR experiences on mobile devices for enterprises. Collaborating with manufacturers in aerospace, defense, automotive, and technology to launch and scale AR/VR/MR solutions, the company leverages a cloud-based strategy incorporating distributed edge computing, low-latency remote rendering, 3D artificial intelligence (AI), and DevSecOps-based agile deployment to assist clients in overcoming performance, scalability, and legacy project constraints.

How can robotics and virtual technologies help with labor shortages?

Even if every skilled worker in the country was employed in manufacturing, Forbes reports there would still be 35 percent more job openings than workers capable of filling them. By 2030, Deloitte predicts the industry will be short by more than 2 million workers.

Robots and AR/VR technologies also reduce recruitment costs and labor rates for gear manufacturers, which often range from $15/hour to $60,000/year or more for a single employee. Depending on labor rates, a high-volume system can generally pay itself back in one to two years. Plus, by taking on laborious tasks, robots and AR/VR technology solutions can improve retention, saving costs associated with employee turnover and training. Robotic systems and virtualized AR/VR solutions can handle repetitive tasks traditionally done by human workers, freeing them for more complex tasks.

How can gear manufacturers take advantage of AR/VR in their production needs?

Manufacturers should be cautious in how they design and deploy these technologies, because there is great difference in the platform they are built on and maximized for use. Even though technologies such as AR/VR have been in use for several years, many manufacturers have deployed virtual solutions that are built upon an on-premise environment, where all the technology data is stored locally. This buildout was more common a few years ago and was considered the de facto platform for this type of technology.

On-premise AR/VR infrastructures limit the speed and scalability needed for today’s virtual designs, and it limits the ability to conduct knowledge sharing between organizations that can be critical when designing new products and understanding the best way for virtual buildouts. Manufacturers are overcoming these limitations by leveraging cloud-based (or remote server based) AR/VR platforms powered by distributed cloud architecture and 3D vision-based AI.

As these virtual environments become richer and larger, the problem continues to compound. This cycle is repeated for each of the different AR/VR hardware platforms, making it difficult for any enterprise to move from experiments and pilots to full scale deployable solutions, thus stunting the speed of innovation and effectiveness

The device limitations also severely restrict the capability of existing AR/VR systems to generate and work with very fine mesh with large polygon count models and point clouds, which is essential to collocate and precisely fuse the virtual objects on top of physical objects in the real world with complex surfaces, and varied lighting and environment.

Manufacturers are overcoming this great challenge by partnering with providers of cloud-based (or remote server based) AR/VR platforms powered by distributed cloud architecture and 3D vision-based AI.

How can these technologies increase efficiency and productivity in gear manufacturing?

Even before becoming a customer, virtual technologies driven by AR/VR can help build the right relationship today for gear manufacturers and their prospects or clients. The pre-sale phase involves initiating contact with a prospective customer, identifying their unique needs, formulating an offer, overcoming any objections and closing the sale. For example, a gear manufacturer can now offer virtual designs and blueprints to a piece of equipment for a potential customer in a specific industry.

Companies and their gear-manufacturing partners are now developing virtual and AR-enabled self-service tutorials and guides that help customers find everything they need right at their fingertips. Enhanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)-driven solutions are also being used. Through smartphone devices, customers can quickly access an entire product center.

The critical component in all of this is cloud technology, which enables gear manufacturers to access product designs in real-time.   

Where do you see the future of gear manufacturing as these new technologies are implemented?

The future of robotics and automation for gear manufacturers may be found in “cobots.” Cobots are designed to operate safely alongside human workers and enable human-robot collaboration. Cobots, just like traditional industrial robots, consist of a mechanical arm that can be programmed to perform various tasks in a gear production factory setting such as material handling, assembly, process tasks, quality inspection, and packaging. This allows its human co-worker to focus on other tasks that require greater dexterity and cognitive abilities than the cobot, which focuses on repetitive tasks.

Cobots are highly suitable for gear-manufacturing operations, but too many manufacturers are investing in cobots without a comprehensive plan of action. Targeting the wrong cobots for operational needs is leading to a lack of expected ROI — cobots, despite being highly versatile, are coming with strict specifications and limitations, which must be understood and respected. 

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