In the workplace, augmented reality (AR) is increasingly being used to deliver real improvements and cost savings. One of the areas where it is really proving its worth is in employee training and development. AR is proving increasingly useful as a tool for accelerating the knowledge transfer process and amplifying the impact of experienced employees. Think about this: Over time, employees build up knowledge unique to the organization. Unless that knowledge can be formally transferred, it risks being lost as they retire or leave the organization. New employees may eventually learn the same skills, but the time it takes to do so represents significant productivity loss—and potential scrap, waste, and rework along the way.
AR is an immersive, interactive experience which mixes the real world with digital content to create a new artificial environment. The major advantage of using AR for knowledge transfer is that it is less dependent on experts’ ability to teach. Building a repository of AR training materials—that can be used as teaching aids, as well as forming an immersive reference library in themselves—can harness the knowledge of more experienced employees, without displacing them from their usual role. Content creation can be handled by content specialists; teaching can be left to those best suited to it. And the resulting material can be used long after the experts responsible have retired.
AR-based training is delivered using a smartphone or other connected device. A mobile device or AR headset overlays information and virtual objects onto real-world scenes in real time. Users can interact with those objects just as they would in the real world.
By mixing digital information with the real world, users can see learning material in context, including how full-scale digital versions of real-world objects look or operate without the physical presence of the object. AR is proven to make training more engaging and increase retention of information.
Classroom-based training can provide the theoretical training service technicians need, but doesn’t adequately prepare them for the situations they will find out in the field. On-the-job training gives more real-world experience, but quality and depth of training is inconsistent and trained technicians often have to slow down if they’re training new employees while working.
Augmented reality training provides the best of both worlds when it comes to service technician training. Employees develop their skills hands-on and in real-life scenarios, using training materials that ensure a consistent level of quality. Technicians can practice tasks again and again under a variety of conditions until they’ve perfected them. And they can see first-hand what happens if they make mistakes, without risk of accident or impact on customers.
Augmented reality also has benefits once technicians are in the field. They can explore the layout and machinery at customer sites before they even arrive, saving time when they show up in person. They can even carry out test maintenance activities to familiarize themselves with the equipment they’ll be working on.
AR also enables technicians to work more efficiently when they’re on site. They can access ultra-realistic visual instructions which can even be followed hands-free using an AR headset, saving time and reducing the chance of mistakes. And if they encounter unusual or especially tricky maintenance issues, they can call on remote experts to assist.
Augmented reality-based training is a truly immersive experience, with learners actively participating from the outset. It significantly increases the amount of knowledge that is retained, reducing the chance of costly mistakes with customer equipment. It also shortens the time it takes to get service technicians out into the field. AR training can empower employees to be ready for the frontline in less than half the time it takes with traditional teaching methods.
There are real cost benefits of AR-based service technician training. The reduction in time to train means technicians are productive more quickly. Coupled with the use of AR for on-the-job guidance and top-up training, it significantly reduces the amount of time technicians have to be out of the field.
Employees take training seriously and it has a direct impact on both morale and retention. Staff turnover is expensive–losing a staff member costs up to twice their annual salary when you consider lost knowledge, productivity, and recruitment and training of a replacement.
The days of service technician training taking place in classrooms with dusty handouts are gone; augmented reality-based training has now become standard practice among market leaders in a range of industries. With a commitment to training shown to motivate employees to stay loyal, providing upfront and ongoing training using cutting-edge AR technology makes sound business sense.
Combining the real world with the virtual is already standard practice among the world’s leading firms. The widespread interest in augmented reality technology has predictably brought the cost down–meaning it’s now an affordable option for many smaller and medium-sized firms. In the field of service technician training, augmented reality offers the potential to produce skilled technicians more quickly and cost-effectively.