In the current situation, travel restrictions, office closures and social distancing have the potential to cripple business operations for many companies. Thankfully, laptop, mobile and business software technologies, allow most businesses to easily continue business-as-usual with employees moving to home office.
For the hands-on industrial sector this is not so easy. Although a one-man-show can often keep equipment running, specialists are often required if something goes wrong. In the past, these specialists would quickly be sent out to assist. The current travel restrictions, not only make this impossible, but pose a large risk for manufactures facing a downtime. In this article we will show how AR technology is being used to allow specialist maintenance crews to work remotely in times of crisis to resolve downtimes without the need to travel. We see 3 key ways that this can be achieved:
1. Enhanced Remote Assistance
Remote assistance is not a new concept, yet the current status is deeply flawed. We have all had an experience where something has gone wrong and we call or email a service provider for help. It is often difficult to describe a problem if you are not an expert, making it almost impossible for the service provider to diagnose a solution. This is usually when a specialist is sent out to help - only to discover that you missed a step, and the problem is solved in 5mins. This is a waste of everybody's time and requires vast amounts of unwanted travel time and costs.
Enhanced remote assistance, solves the problem in the first step with the initial call. Smartphones, tablets, and smart glasses make it possible to video call a specialist so that they can see and hear the problem themselves. This makes it much easier to diagnose the problem as they are not dependant on the mechanical or language skills of the person calling.
Once the problem is understood, it is possible to use Augmented Reality to guide the worker through the fix by placing pointers and digital overlays on the areas they need to work on. The approach works for both simple and complex procedures by simply adding a live visual aspect to a standard support call in a way that everybody understands (since we all use video calls in our daily lives).
Bottom line: Enhanced Video support allows specialists to understand and guide workers through problems, eliminating the need to travel to every support issue. This means they can work more tickets at a considerably lower cost with faster fix rates.
2. Eliminate the need for travel by empowering your workforce
For every machine or piece of hardware in our work environments, there is a manual or handbook explaining how everything works. The problem is that most handbooks and manuals are not written by the people who use them, resulting in unreadable formats, hard to find information, and complicated 2D & text instructions. These are the last things you need when you are trying to fix a complicated problem urgently - especially if you are not a specialist.
Whether on smartphones, tablets, or smartglasses, it is now a simple process to transfer all data from handbooks into visual step-by-step instructions that use Augmented Reality to show unskilled workers exactly where they should apply fixes on the real object. This way, you can turn to a smart device to help you solve a complex problem at work in the same way you would at home with a youtube video for a commercial product.
Bottom line: AR manuals translate complex manuals and handbooks into simple visual instructions so that anyone can fix an issue on their own - no matter how complex. Then if it is still not working, you can call support with enhanced remote support.
3. Find the problem before it happens with predictive maintenance.
While options 1 and 2 are the most practical solutions to reducing the necessity to travel for specialists - these solutions are reactive rather than proactive. The best solution to avoid specialist travel time is to eliminate or reduce the chances of downtime or errors with predictive maintenance.
Today many companies, such as ABB, are doing precisely this. Centralized controllers are monitoring sensor data to check any anomalies that may cause a potential downtime. If something is detected, they are then using enhanced remote support to check with on-site colleagues. If something needs to be maintained, the on-site colleague is then sent AR step-by-step instructions directly to their device to perform standard maintenance. A full value chain that dramatically reduces the risk of downtime ever occurring in the first place.
Bottom line: Prevention is better than the cure. Connecting to IoT data can help detect a problem before it happens. It is quick and easy to check and maintain remotely with enhanced remote support and Augmented Reality guidance.
Want to know more about how to empower your workforce with remote solutions?
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