Chapter 1:
How IT Teams Can Create 3D and AR Roadmaps

Many IT teams in the manufacturing industry today are being asked to spearhead 3D and Augmented Reality (AR) initiatives for their organizations. However, they often lack expertise in these relatively new technologies, making it challenging to plan workflows, select providers, or develop customizations. To address this, we’ve put together this guide to help educate IT teams on what they need to know about 3D and AR.

In the first chapter of this three-part guide, we’ll show you how your IT team can start building a roadmap charting a path to 3D and AR adoption. We’ll walk you through the essential elements you need to consider while developing your roadmap, including workflows, apps, and integration. Then, in Chapter 2, we’ll look at the basics of 3D and AR technology. Finally, in Chapter 3, we will provide an overview of the benefits of 3D and AR for sales and marketing.

Start by Mapping Your End-to-end Workflow

Before selecting software tools, a preliminary step is to map your workflow. This creates a framework you can use to organize your software selection, and it also helps you identify missing pieces and avoid committing to solutions that won’t scale.

Think of your workflow in relation to the business processes your software will need to support. You should consider as many potential end use cases as possible here along with any related 3D requirements for those distribution channels. These include:

  • Marketing processes, such as promotion on your website site, search engines, ads, and conferences where you might not be able to ship all of your physical products for display
  • Sales processes, creating simple to understand, interactive 3D presentations
  • Logistics processes, such as integration of production decisions with supply chain management and quality control
  • IT processes, such as content management of digital assets

In addition to identifying the processes involved, determine which team members are responsible for managing these processes. This will enable you to collect valuable input about procedures and apps that need to be factored in and plan the workflow itself.

Identifying the Software Categories to Automate Your Workflow

Once you’ve got a workflow map, you have a solid basis for analyzing your software needs. Here are some important software categories to think about:

3D Creation Programs

Before you can incorporate 3D into your marketing and sales efforts, your team will need to build 3D models of your inventory. Will your 3D designs be created in-house, externally, or both?

If you plan to create your designs in-house, you’ll need technology such as 3D design software to build virtual models or 3D digital scanners to capture data from inventory items. You’ll also need the in-house expertise to use this technology. Will you use a single 3D design program or multiple? It’s important to consider whether different design programs will work well together. For instance, are you designing machinery in Creo, but adding materials in Keyshot for final renders?

Your material creation is essential to think about at this point in the process. Without high-quality digital materials, the fidelity of your 3D models will suffer. You also want to make sure that the digital materials that are being built will be compatible with all of your potential end use cases. VNTANA highly recommends that materials follow a Metallic Roughness PBR workflow. You can learn more about that here.

Alternatively, you can work with a provider who specializes in these areas and already has the necessary technology. VNTANA’s platform makes it easy to upload your own 3D models or to reach out for help with 3D modeling services.

3D Collaboration and Feedback

3D modeling creation is a collaborative process, so you should consider how you will integrate your 3D asset creation into your collaboration software workflow. Some questions to consider include:

  • How do your designers currently share feedback?
  • Are they using tools like Miro or PLM?
  • Are they sharing actual 3D source files, or are they sharing screenshots?
  • Are they interacting with vendors in areas with poor Internet connectivity?
  • Is PLM your single source of information?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine how to integrate your 3D design process into your collaborative workflow and what software will be involved. Often, 3D collaboration suffers because the files are too large to share with multiple stakeholders in organizations. Having  a light optimized model is critical for efficient sharing and feedback. There are automated 3D optimization softwares out there including VNTANA’s patented optimization software, you can learn more about here.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

PLM software overlaps with collaborative workflow and also plays a broader role in helping you manage your supply chain. When evaluating the role of your PLM in your workflow, consider questions such as:

  • Does your PLM support 3D models?
  • Do you plan on storing 3D files in your PLM?
  • Do your vendors have access to your PLM, or is access limited to your internal stakeholders?

Answering these questions will help you determine whether your current PLM solution is sufficient for 3D and AR adoption or whether you need to explore new options. It also will help you decide how to integrate your PLM into your workflow.

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

Digital asset management is critical to an effective 3D and AR strategy. An effective content management system (CMS) is essential to ensure that both your internal team and your customers can find images of inventory items.

When evaluating your DAM, consider questions such as:

  • Where will you store 3D and AR files?
  • Does your DAM have a 3D and AR web viewer?
  • If so, what files does it support?
  • How will you store and deliver files that are too large for 3D viewers?
  • Will your DAM serve up assets to places like your website or is there a separate CDN?

Regarding this last question, 3D files are usually hundreds of megabytes, which tends to exceed the capacity of 3D viewers, requiring other solutions. VNTANA uses patented file compression and a built-in CMS system to support an efficient DAM strategy. VNTANA also integrates with may of the leading DAM solutions including Adobe Experience Manager and Nuxeo.

Go-to-Market (GTM)

Your go-to-market strategy defines how you plan to reach your customers and outreach your competition. Your GTM solution supports your go-to-market strategy by automating key processes. When developing 3D and AR assets, you’ll need to consider how you intend to leverage them for training, marketing and sales.

One way to approach this issue is by considering the nature of your market. Is your target market:

  • B2B (such as wholesalers and retailers)?
  • B2C?

Below are some considerations for each of these categories. For both B2B and B2C markets, you’ll also want to consider timing issues, such as the seasonality of sales cycles and demand peaks.

B2B Considerations

If your market is B2B, here are some questions you’ll want to consider:

  • Does your company already use specific B2B sales platforms?
  • Do they support 3D files?
  • What are the file types used?
  • What file size range needs to be supported?
  • Are there any other specific requirements?
  • Do vendors rework your assets as part of this process? If so, what is the cost, and what type of turnaround time is involved? This is very important as you assess the scalability of a solution.
  • Do the vendors have plug-ins for their 3D creation programs?

You may find it helpful to reach out to a contact on your B2B customer’s IT team to help you answer these questions and arrive at mutually beneficial solutions.

B2C Considerations

If your market is B2C, here are some key categories of questions to ask:

  • eCommerce: Load time is critical to make your 3D and AR files accessible to customers on smartphones, laptops, desktops, and other devices, as well as different browsers. A nice web viewer is not enough.
  • AR support: Many vendors may require new scans or reworks of your existing 3D assets. A tool that optimizes you files automatically can significantly increase your efficiency, saving you time and money.
  • Ad formats: Different social media platforms and Google have different model specifications. You may need a different version of a 3D asset for Meta, Google, Snap, & others.
  • Metaverse: In the current state of metaverse marketing, the reality is that almost everything is still being created manually and through agencies. The technology to support true scale is still emerging. This can create a bit of a red herring when leadership asks teams to look into this area, as there are not many options for using existing assets today. However, this will change as the market matures, and it doesn’t hurt to review your long-term needs when considering this area.

These are just some examples of questions to consider. Your workflow analysis may help you identify other considerations to take into account.

Planning Integrations

Integration considerations play a vital role in an effective roadmap. When choosing partners and solutions for any of the above app categories, interoperability and the ability to connect with existing infrastructure are critical. Users must go to multiple accounts, duplicate information, and waste time when this requirement is not met.

Consider whether your solution can pull metadata from Product Information Management (PIM) and PLM apps when planning integrations. This functionality can streamline your integration process, simplifying your roadmap.

A headless architecture is critical for 3D as it will need to be a part of so many different platforms throughout the lifecycle of the product. Make sure that whatever tool you are using to manage 3D has a robust set of APIs like what can be found with VNTANA.

Start Building Your 3D and AR Roadmap for Success

Using the guidelines above to review your workflow, software, and integration requirements will help you develop a roadmap that sets your IT team on a path toward 3D and AR implementation. In Chapter 2, we’ll review some 3D and AR basics to help your IT team know what to look for when considering solutions to put your roadmap into effect. In Chapter 3, we will close out our guide by sharing the benefits of adopting a 3D and AR marketing