In a world of connected field service, new exciting opportunities are being created by new technology such as Augmented Reality. Michael Murphy, VP International Operations, Librestream Technologies explains…
The Field Service industry is in the midst of digital change – investments are being made in different digital transformation technologies to help expand their service offerings to customers.
According to Forrester, 32% of enterprises are focusing on digital transformation, and in two years, that number will increase to 49%. Augmented Reality (AR) is one key technology that organizations are deploying as part of these digital transformation initiatives.
It is difficult to define AR as capabilities range from deployable now to future applications. The future capability can be considered ‘extreme AR’ – think of 3D digital models of assets that you can pull apart and manipulate. However, most organizations don’t have the content or infrastructure available for this form of AR even though this is the type of AR many refer to first.
In reality, the more deployed form of AR includes applications such as remote assistance and digital work instructions.
Within field service we are seeing this ‘deployable now’ AR gain significant traction. In working with industrial customers, we have identified three main drivers behind this growth: aging/ loss of experts, change in customer demands and service offerings, and ecosystem readiness.
These three drivers are propelling service organizations to adopt AR tools that can leverage expertise across a broad product set and customer base. Early adopters within industry have already proven results with performance improvements in first-time-fix rates, asset uptime, and overall issue resolution time. Embracing AR capabilities can be difficult if you don’t know where or how to start, and there are critical factors that can make the deployment a success or failure.
Here are the three main stages of successfully deploying AR technologies:
The first and most crucial step is articulating the problem or need – Are you experiencing a loss of expertise within your organization? Are customers demanding stronger SLA commitments? If there is more demand on your service organization, AR technology can help meet these demands.
Once the need and goals are identified, the next challenge is choosing the AR technology and vendor that best fits your needs. Ask if they have other customers like you. Can they provide you with best practice suggestions? Starting with applications like digital work instructions and remote expertise will expedite results as they are proven already. In addition to wearables, these solutions can be used on smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets, that your workers likely already have in their pockets.
Work with your team to figure out the potential use cases for this technology and document them. Creating a library of use cases will help a lot in the deployment stage.
The last important part of the ‘get started’ stage is getting the right people involved from the start. That means IT, project champions, and the executive buy-in. Having all these groups on board will help make the deployment a success.
Make It A Success
AR technology is usually a learning curve for new users. Making this technology deployment a success is key when users adopt the new tools. You will see the most benefit from AR when deployed in scale – if one user has the technology it’s hard to see it success.
Think of the network effect. If only two users have the technology, there is only one connection that can be made, but with 100 users enabled, there are 4,950 potential connections. The next most important step to success is in creating an achievable adoption plan.
Work with your team and your AR vendor to properly introduce and train on the technology. And communicate your use cases and successes to help with the adoption.
If users understand how and why the technology is being used, the chance of them actually using the technology grows.
Think About the Future
The future of AR within service is virtually limitless, and enterprise businesses are testing a range of wearables as part of various AR applications. While wearables add hands-free capabilities, they add cost to the initial deployments. Many enterprises are deploying test groups with wearables while enabling workers to use the applications on their mobile devices to expand the value.
Capturing field intelligence data and providing expanded analytics are also major topics within AR. Applications such as remote expert and digital work instructions capture valuable information from the field including IoT data. Solutions are also moving toward working with IoT sensors to grab valuable data in real-time or to record in step-by-step workflow.
Using the data you’ve collected from the AR applications, you can add to your predictive maintenance and service analytics. The field intelligence data you capture also must be available within your existing systems such as your ERP or knowledge management system.
To achieve this integration, connectors and APIs are a ‘big thing’ in AR – and ad-hoc or silo systems are no longer acceptable. Enterprises expect a completely integrated solution. Practical AR solutions are proven to improve performance, especially in the field service industry.
With AR the main drivers of the ageing workforce, ecosystem readiness, and the change in service offerings and customer demands,
service organizations are realizing the need for innovation and digital change.
As the industry continues to embrace the digital space, AR will become the norm within field service.