Many companies are so eager to improve their workflows and processes with AR technology, they forget about doing the right preparation and developing a strategy before getting hands-on with AR. We have seven simple steps that help you get started on your journey of creating the workplace of the future and providing impressive results for your company.
There is a plethora of new Smart and Augmented Reality devices hitting the market (ranging in price anywhere from $400 to $3800). Each one of these is surrounded by even more tangible benefits of incorporating Augmented and Mixed Reality solutions in your business. We see many companies so eager to improve their workflows and processes, that they purchase AR devices straight away. However, like with many things, AR devices are only as powerful and impressive as we make them. For AR/MR this means: Content is king!
In many cases, the momentum slows as you struggle to get started with the use case or are left flat-footed with a device that does not suit your business needs. This is always a tricky spot to be in, as you have already made the effort to convince managers and purchasing departments who are all waiting for results. Fear not, we have 7 simple steps that help you get started on your journey of creating the workplace of the future and providing impressive results for your company.
1. Starting with the problem
It may seem obvious, but this is the step most people forget about. Before committing to an Augmented Reality solution, it’s critical to identify the problem you are trying to solve. Skipping this step will inevitably lead to providing your company with a gimmick that will be picked up once and never used again - even though it may be extremely innovative and exciting to use.
To give a more specific example, when Daimler first considered utilizing AR, they immediately wanted to use it in a field that would not only improve a process but have a positive impact in the public sector. The emergency services were a clear choice, where Daimler identified that traditional printed safety cards took too long for first responders to identify rescue information about a vehicle involved in a crash.
(Rescue Assist Cards from Mercedes Benz)
Identifying the problem will ensure that you not only provide a re-usable solution but also a starting point on how to measure your results at a later stage. Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself when identifying areas of improvement:
Where in your industrial process are you currently wasting money? Where in the system are you really losing revenue and is this due to quality or supply issues? How can you improve quality? Where are your current bottlenecks?
To find out how AR is already being used to solve real life problems across industries like logistics, constructions, medical and e-commerce, check out this article on WEAREABLE.
2. Analyzing your work environment
The next step is to identify where you will be solving your problem as it will help you choose the right method to do so. You will notice that important factors about the environment will pop up here, including protective gear like gloves or helmets, lighting conditions, availability of internet connections etc. All those can have an impact on the device you choose as well as the feasibility of an AR solution.
In the Daimler case, the environment was a key factor. Conditions would vary at each crash site - whether day or night, damaged vehicles, rough handling of devices as well as specialist clothing of the emergency services. On top of this, the solution needed to provide the required vehicle information within seconds right at the scene of the accident. While work environments would vary, it was certain that the device would only be in use for initial identification of the vehicle and has to work outside.
Since every work environment is unique, here are some questions to ask yourself before getting started:
- Is your working environment indoors, outdoors or both? (This is an important factor as some Smart Glasses have sensors that won’t function outdoors)
- Are the working conditions deemed hazardous?
- How long will the technician be using the device? (Is it a series of one-minute intervals for inspection type purposes or full eight-hour shifts such as complex wiring or maintenance procedures?)
- Is a ‘hands-free’ solution a must-have?
3. Identifying the solution
For Daimler, once the problem and environment were identified, the solution was easy to see… their Mercedes-Benz Rescue Assist app needed to enable emergency services and first responders to view hazardous internal components of Daimler vehicles involved in a crash much quicker and more clearly than with the previously printed rescue cards.
(MB Rescue assist: Quickly and clearly identify hazardous vehicle components)
It’s important, to be honest in your assessment. Is Augmented Reality technology the best solution for the problem and environment it’s present in? If not, don’t worry - you have probably found an alternative solution in your assessment which is great! It is always better to identify this early rather than forcing a solution on your colleagues that is not ideal. Not all problems and environments are created equally. Even small factors such as environment humidity are important to consider.
4. Defining your ROI
In the Daimler case, converting physical manuals into a digital format in 23 languages forms a key ROI as it results in significant time and cost savings in the process of providing vehicle documentation.
A key proponent when choosing a pricing factor for Smart Glasses is that of having a clear ROI defined. As we mentioned earlier, when defining your problem, you should have also identified ways to measure the solution. The points to think about are:
How much money will the AR solution save you in the short/long term?
If it’s a long term investment, more robust devices should be considered.
5. Integrating with Legacy Systems
Do you have existing systems in place? It is important to consider compatibility and integration efforts to ensure your solution molds into your larger ecosystem. Ask yourself if it’s a prerequisite that the AR-driven solution integrates with your older system. You will also find that your existing system is most likely where all your 3D and technical data is stored.
For Daimler, the AR solution needed to connect to their existing PLM system as this is where all required 3D data and technical documentation is stored. Tapping into this will ensure the quickest and simplest creation of content for your AR applications.
Do you need to communicate with older systems?
If so, when is an upgrade planned in the near future?
Here are some examples of legacy systems you can link to, including 3D software, PLM solutions and content management systems.
6. Taking Safety Considerations
While certain locations such as the medical industry might require sterile environments, ruling out fan cooling options such as the Magic Leap, other industrial locations might require different safety or PPE ratings, ruling out the HoloLens. When it comes to safety ratings, not all AR devices are created equally - the traditional computing adage of ‘what’s more powerful is better’ is neither applicable here, nor the best approach when choosing AR devices.
The MB Assist App is used globally at crash scenes that can be hazardous which means it needs to be available on a range of different devices that are robust and fulfill local safety standards. For your own solutions you should ask yourself the following questions:
Are there strict on-site safety specifications/certifications required?
Is the working environment considered dangerous, such as that of an oil rig?
7. Considering Plug & Play
Cross-device availability and the fact that emergency services and first responders can use the MB Assist App without in-depth training are key in the Daimler use case.
(The MB Rescue assist app is available for iOS and Android devices)
The questions here is: Are you looking for a solution that ‘anyone’ on-site can pick up and use or will they need prior training on the systems?
- AR-enabled devices such as the iPhone X are already in most technicians’ pockets, making them ideal for quick easy-to-use remote service applications.
- More expensive Smart Glasses are less accessible and may require more training to be used effectively.
And there you have it. 7 simple steps that ensure you start with Augmented and Mixed Reality in the most sensible, and hopefully profitable, way. Follow these through and we are sure that you will not only make the right decision on the perfect AR device but also deliver a solution that can have a truly positive impact on your business and help you differentiate yourself from your competition.
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