Customer Story: How UPS Saves Training Time and Labor Costs with VR

How do global enterprises use VR for smarter operations? Learn how UPS uses VR to improve their driver training, save resources, and improve their employee experience.
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Innovative training programs are fueled by cutting-edge technology. UPS, a veteran in the logistics arena, has consistently implemented smarter operational strategies. They have always embraced new technology in training and operations when it can save time and money while making the experience of their employees better.

Mark Gröb, Head of Immersive Technology at UPS, has helped drive VR technology to be a key part of training across the organization.

Since integrating virtual reality (VR), UPS has seen the following results:

75% reduction in training time, decreasing from 8 hours of traditional mentor-led training to just 2 hours.

No loss in training effectiveness despite the shorter duration.

Over the past 7 years, UPS has shown how embracing VR can drive better efficiency, training scenarios, and customer service, setting a benchmark for other enterprises.

Now, they use VR training– not as a neat new toy– but as an essential aspect of driver training. As it turns out, VR training is not only elevating training for employees, it’s also helping UPS gain a competitive advantage.

Building an XR Practice From the Ground Up

There’s a journey involved with adopting VR. As Mark describes it, there’s something called the “magic effect glow”: a surge of enthusiasm that any new tech initially ignites across various departments. The key here is to harness and channel this enthusiasm effectively, nurturing innovation and carefully building scalable programs.

When Mark came on board in 2017, UPS already had a solid foundation rooted in augmented reality (AR)–they had integrated automation, computer vision, and their DIAD device into their operations. But, they hadn’t yet looked at virtual reality technology.

UPS tasked Mark Gröb to explore VR technology with Integrad, their driver safety training program. It was promising, but it was essentially a proof of concept (POC) project. While it broadly proved what could be achieved with VR, it lacked scalability necessary for a multinational corporation like UPS.

One of the biggest hurdles to global deployment was the cost and complexity of the VR setups at the time. Initial setups were predominantly desktop-based, tethered systems that came with a hefty price tag and a negligible return on investment (ROI). At that point, VR seemed confined to limited use cases without a clear path to broader implementation.

Still, Mark pushed the team to continue exploring VR applications. The journey from initial concepts to deployable VR applications was relatively quick, thanks to the tangible benefits and clear value that these early POCs demonstrated.

Challenges with Implementing VR

Every proposed VR initiative needs to align with the broader objectives of an organization. Mark suggests asking hard questions before you start a new VR program:

It was obvious that VR could address a critical business need and enhance operational efficiency– shaving off hours of training time for drivers would save the company time and lots of money.

However, there were challenges integrating VR into UPS’s existing tech ecosystem, For example, in 2019, UPS was deploying PC-tethered VR systems at around $9,000- $10,000 per unit. But they needed a more scalable solution. UPS transitioned to all-in-one VR headsets, which reduced the deployment cost to about $1,500 per unit.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced in XR in the last 3 years is deployment. For enterprises being able to deploy the technology in a cost-effective way is incredibly important… Now, we have a defined, mature XR practice around training. And using technology like ArborXR, which I define as a self-support MDM solution, goes a long way to help scale.”

Mark Gröb, Head of Immersive Technology at UPS, shares on XR Industry Leaders.

For UPS, this was the turning point. It was a more accessible entry point into the world of VR, without sacrificing the immersive experience that made the technology so valuable for training and operational simulations. Now, Mark says the focus at UPS is on moving past the initial excitement and establishing clear processes so the whole team can effectively use XR.

Empowering Frontline Innovation

Following those early VR wins at UPS, departments that once might have viewed VR as peripheral began to see its utility, sparking a wave of requests for VR-based solutions in areas like health and safety.

To sustain the momentum through org-wide adoption, Mark recommends fostering a creative environment involving 4 key focus areas:

Using this strategy, Mark led the transformation of UPS’ driver safety training, expanding from a single VR experience to a comprehensive catalog of 12 distinct scenarios, each tailored to address specific aspects of driver safety.

They’ve moved away from only a conventional mentorship model, which involved in-person observation and training, and introduced VR training for their driver.

ups vr training
Source: UPS

Immersive experiences like this promote profound learning experiences directly related to specific job functions without the need for physical travel or one-on-one sessions.

Because of these results, UPS is continuing to invest in VR for other operational applications. And over the past four years, they’ve developed a robust XR practice focused on practical, field-based solutions.

Finding the Right VR Partners

UPS’ successful VR program wouldn’t have been possible without someone like Mark solving a core issue: how each device would be managed and maintained across locations all over the US.

Is it better to manually manage headsets? Shipping them back and forth between locations for every update, managing inventory in excel sheets, and having no visibility of what was happening in the headset was not a good option for UPS.

This wasn’t a decision Mark took lightly—he knew that the Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform they chose would go a long way to assist in making their VR programs scalable, reliable, and impactful.

“A lot of businesses right now are hesitant to explore MDM for VR because traditional MDMs are very expensive. ArborXR makes it very easy to explore VR in your operations because it’s not expensive as compared to traditional MDMs, and it’s very easy to use,”

Mark Gröb

Source: UPS

After considering all their options, Mark opted for external support, which meant evaluating all the MDM providers out there. From his personal experience, the traditional MDMs he evaluated were either expensive or didn’t offer enough support for extended reality (XR) devices. Fortunately, he found ArborXR, which allowed him to test out VR MDM without such a huge upfront financial commitment.

AR Mental Health Treatment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of American adults experienced a mental health crisis. Yet fewer than half of those sought and received treatment. On top of that, there has been a jump in prescriptions for anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications without any additional treatment.

AR is looking to change that. When used as a mental health aid, it can help individuals better understand and manage their conditions. And rather than putting a bandaid on the condition with medication alone, AR can be used supplementarily for techniques like:

The University of South Australia is putting this tech to the test. They’re exploring the ability of augmented reality to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a short-term psycho-social intervention for treating conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Through task-based processes, they’re finding how CBT empowers kids to identify and cope with the symptoms of anxiety.

Challenges of AR in Healthcare

But of course, revolutionizing the healthcare industry comes with a few hiccups. Along with its benefits, there are a few challenges to integrating AR with traditional medical technology, including:

Cost & Accessibility

AR devices such as headsets and smart glasses can be expensive, limiting their reach on a large scale. Paired with the high cost of developing AR applications and software, it can be difficult for smaller healthcare providers to adopt the technology.

Data Privacy & Security

Like anything that collects and transmits sensitive patient information, there’s a risk of data breaches and privacy violations. This risk, however, can be diminished significantly by implementing secure data management systems and complying with data protection regulations.

Regulatory Barriers & Ethics

AR apps and devices need to comply with regulatory standards set by the FDA. Plus, the ethics of patient autonomy and informed consent must be addressed.

Managing AR Devices

Existing device management solutions for companies using AR won't work for healthcare organizations. With charging and update requirements to prevent malfunctions and ensure security, most existing providers lack the necessary support for XR devices in these settings. Add in the need for maintenance, XR app management, and proper integration into existing healthcare systems and workflows… It all leads to the same conclusion: You need a dedicated solution for XR devices.

Final Thoughts

Looking ahead, Mark sees it as a fundamental component of operational strategies in corporate settings, where XR devices are employed to enhance user experiences based on context and need. Just imagine a future where UPS can use AR to instantly visualize the most efficient package loading patterns or where a customer can use VR to understand the journey of their package across the globe.

For those looking to take the leap into exploring immersive technology, Mark urges you to take a strategic, impact-focused approach. Ensure your VR program aligns with your organization’s broader objectives. Take some advice from a veteran:

“Slow down. Get away from the smoke and mirrors as quickly as possible—no matter what the technology is. Reflect on the technology based on your business… How can this trinket make your business better?”

The final decision should be driven by a clear understanding of how virtual reality can address specific business challenges—whether that’s improving operational efficiencies or enhancing the customer experience.

How is your organization using virtual reality in impactful ways?

We’d love to hear about it and see how we can help you scale. Schedule a time with one of our team members to learn more about how ArborXR can help you manage your XR devices, VR content, and user experience. Get started today!

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