This blog post was co-written with Claire Cavanaugh and updated with the latest information in August 2023 (originally published in Aug. 2019).
Industrial enterprises are under increasing pressure to provide competitive differentiation and improve customer satisfaction. And this pressure doesn’t subside after products and equipment come off the line. Product performance and uptime are key factors that can help manufacturers improve customer satisfaction and win market share, making aftermarket field service a critical component in industries like high-tech, automotive, industrial products, federal aerospace and defense, and life sciences.
Field service provides manufacturers with additional opportunities to deliver revenue and profit streams, but several considerations make profitability difficult to attain:
A successful field service model requires a combination of accurate service information and an empowered workforce. Service providers around the world are overcoming these common challenges by using augmented reality (AR) to deliver relevant service information and guidance that technicians need in real time, in the context of the physical environment.
AR allows service technicians to quickly perform processes, repairs, and the disassembly and reassembly of parts without pausing to refer to separate printed manuals. Instead of printing and distributing difficult-to-interpret service manuals, service providers can leverage mobile devices and hands-free headsets to deliver 3D work instructions that boost technician productivity. Overlaying real-time, up-to-date information onto physical equipment allows technicians to visualize previously inaccessible things, like machine data or components inside a product, before they perform a task. It also guides them through processes while they are performing tasks.
For new technicians, 3D work instructions ensure they don’t need to ask seasoned experts to step away from their own work to help. For tenured SMEs, 3D work instructions help accelerate service on new or updated products.
In the event that field technicians come across unfamiliar or unexpected equipment problems that require additional guidance or support, they can use AR to immediately connect with a remote expert that can help them. This ability to solve problems collaboratively and in real-time reduces truck rolls, limits safety incidents, and makes it easier for service organizations to scale their expertise and optimize high-value resources.
Organizations that have utilized AR-powered training experiences were able to accelerate ramp-up times and employee learning curves by engaging relevant learning and memory systems in the brain. And because AR is such an effective knowledge sharing tool, service providers can minimize off-site education and other costly activities with impactful on-the-job training.
AR training experiences can also be a valuable and engaging recruitment tool for digital natives: the incoming generation of workers who grew up in the digital age. While in-person training sessions can be limiting and create an antiquated perception of the industry, AR training experiences are an innovative upgrade with guided tours, work simulations, and virtual events.
Ineffective service manuals can have a ripple effect on field service performance and customer satisfaction. Inaccurate or difficult-to-understand information compromises technician efficiency, resulting in slow resolution times, repeat visits, increased equipment downtime, high part returns, handling costs and excess parts inventory, repair and maintenance delays, and ultimately, frustrated customers. AR-powered service, in contrast, accelerates efficiency, making repairs faster and building brand loyalty through happier customers.
AR enables service providers to deliver and maintain accurate service and parts information that field technicians need to be productive. AR authoring solutions allow expert technicians to quickly create scalable service work instructions that are easy for any technician to understand and follow from anywhere, sometimes eliminating the need for travel and truck rolls.
The ability to view 3D service instructions on a hands-free headset or mobile device enables service technicians to access critical and supplemental information in the context of the actual task they’re performing, which helps to improve repair times and first-time fix rates.
Augmented reality is providing industrial enterprises with millions in benefits and savings, driving workforce efficiency, and boosting customer satisfaction. For a detailed breakdown of service costs and the value that AR can bring to your business, read the Using Augmented Reality in Field Service to Reduce Service Costs eBook.