Implementing AR in manufacturing companies: barriers that need to be overcome

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Augmented reality (AR) Implementing AR in manufacturing companies: barriers that need to be overcome

Published on 13.01.2022 by Prof. Philipp Rauschnabel, Professor of Digital Marketing and Media Innovation at the Bundeswehr University Munich

Numerous predictions reveal that the use of augmented reality (AR) will revolutionize the manufacturing sector in the near future. As part of the “AR in Manufacturing” project, we investigated the barriers that still need to be overcome in order to successfully implement AR applications in manufacturing companies. The project was promoted by AREA (Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance), the world’s largest non-profit organization for enterprise AR.

Augmented reality (AR) allows digital information to be integrated in users’ field of vision in a realistic way and in real time (in German). Some companies have already started introducing AR as a corporate tool. Companies are expecting higher levels of efficiency as employees will be immersed in virtual work-oriented information (for example, by using tablets or AR glasses). Numerous studies also prove the positive effects of AR on productivity, quality and security. However, AR projects at most manufacturing companies are still in the proof-of-concept phase, and companies face significant challenges with regard to successfully implementing this innovative technology. For this reason, we made it our goal in the “AR in Manufacturing” project to identify barriers to the implementation of AR in manufacturing companies and to define approaches for successfully introducing AR applications.

Our results from qualitatively collected data with AR managers from globally active companies show that, in addition to strategic hurdles such as technology, infrastructure and change management, user acceptance in particular is a highly relevant factor for the successful introduction of AR in companies. This is because the probability of this technology increasing efficiency is dependent upon employees accepting and, ideally, even requesting it. Building on this, we undertook a quantitative study involving 263 employees in manufacturing to investigate barriers to implementing AR and identified 11 specific and measurable factors that lead to rejection of the technology:

  • Psychological risk: the extent to which employees expect AR to have a negative effect on their psychological well-being.
  • Data security issues: employees’ fears that AR could harm their employer by allowing third parties access to sensitive data and information.
  • Fashion risk: employees’ perceived risk that wearing AR technology will negatively impact their visual appearance and, in extreme cases, even make them look silly. Fashion risk is particularly relevant to wearable AR technology, such as AR glasses.
  • Fear of job loss: employees’ fear that AR applications may be so good that they could easily be replaced by another person, in particular a person with little (or no) specialist knowledge.
  • Hygiene risk: the extent to which employees perceive a lack of hygiene associated with the use of AR devices (particularly AR glasses worn by more than one user).
  • Loss of competence: employees’s perception that being guided through all (new) tasks and processes by AR will lead to a deterioration in their own competence. In other words, employees fear that they will forget valuable skills.
  • Loss of routine: the extent to which employees fear that AR will cause them to become less flexible and force them to change their personal work routines.
  • Paternalism: employees’ perceived fear that AR will infantilize them, i.e. they are concerned that the information presented to them will be too simple and obvious.
  • Risk of distraction: employees’ perceived fear of being distracted from real dangers, which could lead to accidents and injury in the workplace.
  • Risk of information mistakes: employees’ perceived fear of being given “false” information, e.g. false, irrelevant or too much information (simultaneously).
  • Surveillance/privacy issues: the risk perceived by employees in manufacturing that AR can (1) pose a threat to their privacy, (2) pose a threat to other people’s privacy (e.g. colleagues) and (3) make them feel like they are under constant surveillance.

For each of these factors, a greater perception of risk is associated with greater resistance and less acceptance of AR. Furthermore, we have found that users who had already had some experience with AR rated most of the factors as less of a risk.

The results of our study indicate that employees should be involved early on in the AR implementation process and receive appropriate training in order to minimize their concerns about AR and, in doing so, increase their willingness to use it. In order to increase the acceptance of AR among employees at the outset, we recommend that managers consider the following aspects:

  • Start with an AR knowledge assessment. Either in a standardized way – our data can serve as a benchmark – or in an informal way, if appropriate. You should understand what knowledge, concerns and hopes your employees have about AR. In many companies, concerns and lack of knowledge will (still) dominate.
  • If this is the case, you need to raise awareness among your employees about AR. Hold training sessions, show fun apps or let employees come up with their own ideas in workshops. Regardless of whether these concepts can be implemented later on, you can make AR more attractive to your employees.
  • Involve employees who will be using the AR applications in the future. Identify concerns and practical challenges in the field. Be there in person when the first prototypes are tested and take any feedback seriously.
  • Many employees will certainly ask for more information, but this does not mean that more information is always better. Providing excessive information may make employees feel patronized or distract them from actual dangers, which ultimately leads to resistance. This reaction is paradoxical as it contradicts the statements of many people. Therefore, you should guide the first users through the initial steps in AR.
  • The results of our study show that the fear of losing one’s job is a factor for which the rating does not decrease with the use of AR (in contrast to the other factors). Therefore, companies should clearly communicate how the use of AR will affect job security and dispel employees’ fear of being replaceable by technology. It is worth noting that people have more fun in their jobs when AR is used. One reason for this is that some less engaging tasks (for example, reading type designations) can be simplified or even done away with.


Schein, K. E., & Rauschnabel, P. A. (2021). Augmented reality in manufacturing: exploring workers’ perceptions of barriers. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management.

Katrin E. Schein

Katrin E. Schein is a Research Assistant and PhD candidate for the Professor for Digital Marketing and Media Innovation at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. She is involved in research and teaching connected with the implementation of new technologies, especially augmented reality (AR). Her focus is on the effect of AR on consumer behaviour and user acceptance.

Portrait Katrin E. Schein

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