Every day across the field-service industry, thousands of field-service technicians carry out operations such as repairs, maintenance, installations, and configurations at customer sites. After gaining an understanding of the issue the customer is facing, the service tech works to resolve the issue, yet after completing the job, most of the information related to the operation isn’t entered into a field-service enterprise’s system.
Even if a data record is created, it’s usually only limited to high-level details, leaving the enterprise unaware of a number of important details:
- The quality of the interaction with the customer
- The condition of the asset being serviced
- How the service operation was performed
- Whether best practices were followed
- How much time it took to service the asset
- Any potential future problems with the asset
Service enterprises track their field techs’ performance through service KPIs based on aggregate service outcomes. These include first-time fix rates, service margins, asset downtime, and customer satisfaction rates. During the past decade, sophisticated field service management (FSM) solutions have arrived to provide organizations with effective ways to track such KPIs. FSM technologies have transformed scheduling, work orders, and dispatches, and they enable field workers to have near-real-time incident information access through laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices.
However, providing field service techs with access to contextual knowledge about how to efficiently resolve an issue remains a challenge. This results in wrong diagnoses, lower first-time-fix rates, and customer dissatisfaction. Additionally, it does not enforce recording each key situational data point specific to the service at the time of operation. This results in manual and summary updates to the enterprise system.
For example, enterprise do not know or have a proof if the worker has performed a pre-requisites before a part replacement is being done, which can be detrimental to parts life. In another scenario, it can be a post-service verification; if the worker has missed the post verification, it may lead to a problem and repeat visit. As a result, the enterprise is deprived of critical operational information that is key in making KPI improvements.
The top concerns of a service organization are service efficiency, productivity, and improving customer satisfaction. Currently, FSM solutions don’t provide a means for improving service efficiency or worker productivity; nor do they provide a mechanism for capturing field information efficiently.
Given the above challenges, to improve the consistency of service outcomes, it is essential for enterprises to provide field techs with information about the assets they work on and how to service those assets in the most-efficient manner.
How augmented reality is benefiting field service enterprises and technicians
Augmented reality (AR) is an experiential technology where interactive digital content is rendered contextually over the physical object in the user’s field of view. The AR experience leverages computer vision technology to recognize the physical object / scene to identify the visual context. Based on the visual context, AR content is displayed right on top of the physical object.
The use of Augmented Reality tools is becoming more pervasive and helping to improve productivity and efficiency across industries, from manufacturing and automotive to education and healthcare. Augmented reality (AR) is transforming the way field service work is being performed. It delivers information that’s relevant to field operation tasks in real time, in a step-by-step manner, and – through smart glasses – within the user’s field of vision. This enables field techs to work more efficiently in a process known as knowledge-in-action, which can also be customized for the nature of the job being performed. AR not only bridges a field tech’s knowledge gap, but also ensures an enterprise’s collected data grows along with their field tech’s expertise.
During AR-driven procedures, technicians can collect data such as asset barcodes, physical damage, and health-related data as part of the AR steps, while also being instructed to follow safety and compliance standards. This ensures that data collection and process compliance occur at the time of a service operation, not as manual post-service data updates.
With digital integration software as part of this process, the collected data can be made available to the larger enterprise system. Based on the benefits AR provides, field-service procedures are transformed into digitalized workflows giving technicians a resource to guide them about how to perform procedures in a uniform manner and record the key field information at the same time. Enterprise can also track average procedure execution time, compliance breaches, and can analyze potential causes of repeat dispatch by looking into collected field data.
In the case of service issues, collected visual data can be examined to understand what went wrong, and corrective measures can be applied. With AR procedures in place, consistent and improved service outcomes can be achieved, such as quicker first-time fix rates and greater overall efficiencies.
Additionally, through machine learning over the collected visual data, potential part failure can be predicted, which can be proactively addressed and help to improve customer satisfaction.
The benefits of AR can further trickle down to other key areas. For example, in scenarios where the operation is complex and all troubleshooting options should get exhausted prior to a part’s replacement, real-time guidance can help workers perform the operation in the most efficient manner to save the part replacements, leading to inventory optimization and logistics gains as longer-term outcomes.
Furthermore, AR’s benefits aren’t limited to field service organizations alone. Images of faulty parts recorded during the AR procedure can play a key role in helping customers identify potential defects in their tech components through machine learning and analytics. They can then make improvements to component design and, ultimately, create better products.
While AR adoption is being used with field service, it’s poised to have a profound impact on the way businesses work, with a potential to unlock improvements across an enterprise’s operations.
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