The role of a field service technician is not for the timid.
You’re at a customer’s factory, hundreds or thousands of miles from the home office, because a critical piece of equipment, made by your company, has malfunctioned. The floor supervisor is understandably uptight because this balky equipment has idled an entire production line. Using only the tools, parts, documentation, and knowledge you were able to carry with you, you’re expected to diagnose and fix the problem. Correctly. The first time. With an antsy floor supervisor breathing down your neck.
It’s no wonder that technical field service has high rates of turnover and burnout, even among highly paid technicians.
But all of this is changing for the better, thanks to augmented reality.
Augmented Reality and Remote Assistance
Augmented reality is revolutionizing field service. By viewing a customer’s equipment through smartphones or AR headsets, technicians can more easily pinpoint faults and maintenance issues and can view step-by-step instructions with diagrams overlaid on the image of the customer’s equipment. Augmented reality software for field service is making the field service technician’s job much easier, with higher productivity, more accurate diagnoses, and higher first-time fix rates.
Augmented reality software for enterprise field services can empower service technicians working in remote locations to connect with subject matter experts and management in real time via smart glasses, smartphones & tablets, and on the web. Interactive collaboration includes a shared “see-what-I see” field of view between domain experts and remote technicians; step-by-step procedures for preventive maintenance, the ability to share schematics, PDFs and photos, and APIs for augmenting industrial IoT real-time data from legacy automation systems.
Best Practices in the New World of Technical Field Support
Of course, it’s not enough merely to install an augmented reality remote assistance platform and turn it on. Properly setting up and operating the system will ensure a positive experience for both the field service technicians and remote support personnel, and ultimately a better outcome for the end customers. The following are some important best practices to consider.
- Expect diverse endpoint devices. Depending on your service model (in-house technicians or third-party contractors), you may need to support a wide variety of devices and platforms—different models of phones, tablets, and headsets, with different operating systems. The remote assistance system should support, and be tested on, as many devices as possible.
- Conduct a comprehensive knowledge capture exercise. In many industries, the top engineers and technicians are headed for retirement and taking their in-depth knowledge and experience with them. Much of that knowledge exists only in their heads and is not documented anywhere. It’s vitally important to capture that information and use it to populate the knowledge base of your augmented reality platform for remote assistance.
- Integrate with your service ticketing system. For maximum impact and efficiency, the augmented reality remote support system should be integrated with your service ticketing system so that a record of the interactive sessions can be linked to or embedded directly in the applicable service tickets. These sessions can also be an important source of content for your knowledge base.
- Make security a top priority. Your augmented reality field service system will contain a wealth of technical information that your competitors would love to get their hands on. Not only that, you will be transmitting and storing photos and video from customer sites, and this information could be valuable to their competitors. Ensure that the communications links, system access, and data storage are secure from hackers.
- Provide training, practice, and support. A field service technician’s first experience with the system should not be at a live customer site. Make sure the technicians in the field, and the subject matter experts at home, are fluent with the system and have practiced using it with your actual products and systems. The system should always be a helpful tool and not a hindrance to overcome.
Augmented reality is poised to transform field services and remote assistance. AR enterprise field service software can drive faster diagnosis and resolution, greater productivity, fewer repeat calls and escalations, reduced costs, and—best of all—happier customers.