Enabled by technological advancements, the future of work is increasingly digital and automated. This transition may be initially costly but will shorten production cycles and reduce overall costs. The shift has stirred concern around the future employability of low and high-skilled workers.

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that 30% of jobs could be automatable by the mid-2030s, increasing to 44% among workers with lower levels of education. The emergence of generative AI has further propagated the issue, with some labour unions pushing for government regulation on emerging technologies and their potential applications.

The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the demand for remote and flexible working opportunities. As a result, companies must accommodate and provide more virtual and collaborative solutions to employees. Brands and manufacturers must consider how future work trends will affect their customers and tailor products to these changing behaviors.

How AR will help the consumer sector adapt to the digital workspace

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, remote and hybrid working became a reality and, for many, the norm. Many companies have invested in technologies to improve collaboration while working remotely and augmented reality (AR) technology has subsequently proved popular. AR has seen wide adoption thanks to its ease of use with standard smartphones — without requiring expensive hardware.

The technology can be used all over the consumer sector. It will become commonplace in the packaging industry as an effective training tool, with more than 75% of packaging companies expecting to be frequent users of AR by 2025 according to Packaging Europe. As machines and processes become more complex — with complicated assembly often causing stoppages, malfunctions and even injury — adequate training has become even more important. AR reduces the need to carry information around in one’s head, and its ease of access means that it is more likely to be used than an instruction book. It allows workers to learn and practice in a simulated environment, reducing the need for physical resources and minimising the risk of mistakes that could lead to waste. AR-based training programmes can also be updated easily, ensuring workers stay updated with the latest packaging techniques and sustainability practices.

The future of the foodservice industry

AR technology can also be used for training in the foodservice industry, but uptake in the sector has been relatively slow. Despite this, there are some recent examples. The smart glass provider NSF has created the EyeSucceed software to help food businesses reduce risk, improve compliance and strengthen their brands. The device provides remote, peer-to-peer training through the full-view lens display, eliminating the need for a human trainer. Elsewhere, the US fast-food company Wendy’s was an early adopter of this technology, using it at more than 200 restaurants from 2020.

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Foodservice companies deploying these solutions will see greater operational efficiency and improved profit margins. However, as long as the cost of AR headsets and smart glasses remains high, adoption will be restricted to large quick-service restaurants and foodservice suppliers with the financial capabilities and the demand necessary for success.