While the COVID-19 crisis poses an immediate threat to our public health, it’s also straining key infrastructures—from government and healthcare to commerce and industry. We’ve been forced to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. And, as we look beyond the present challenges, additional long-term changes are certain. Municipalities will evaluate crisis response, contingency, and disaster recovery plans. Governments will legislate measures to protect public health and the economy. The healthcare community will reassess their preparedness for massive, fast-moving public-health threats. And industrial leaders will move to reinforce operations and supply chains.
From shortages of test kits and ventilators to empty shelves at supermarkets, the importance (and challenge) of maintaining day-to-day industrial operations has become all too clear. As the effects of COVID-19 disrupt every industry, manufacturers are racing to make supply chains more durable and agile. And those who support key infrastructures with products and services must also reexamine how they do business. Smart, connected products and service optimization are taking a central role during this pandemic—helping save lives and blunt the impact of the COVID-19.
The reasons behind service optimization’s heightened importance are two-fold. First, the complex machines that support healthcare and other vital infrastructures have become far too important to fail. Consider a medical diagnostic system used to analyze coronavirus tests, or a ventilator used to help patients recover. And there are countless other types of assets—from shipping fleets to agricultural machinery—that are critical to maintaining safety and stability.
The second reason to prioritize service optimization is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 itself. Ordinarily, remote resolutions, mean-time-to-repair, and first-time-fix-rates are used as service quality and cost metrics. Now, they are evidence of successful social distancing that prevent or minimize direct contact between service technicians and customers.
PTC knows firsthand how digital solutions help keep products and processes online, while minimizing downtime. IIoT Platforms like ThingWorx (offering connectivity, role-based user dashboards, and analytics) can deliver predictive maintenance to anticipate and prevent downtime. In the event that assets do fail, these same technologies can get machines back online ASAP. In a normal scenario, these solutions are used to improve customer satisfaction and reduce service costs; in the current situation, lives can literally be saved by getting machines and processes back online faster.
Much in the way that video conferencing supports daily business communication, the IIoT and AR are driving service solutions that can circumvent spatial barriers with remote service. AR platforms like Vuforia are improving service effectiveness and safety today through remote service optimization. Because remote service can be a public health game-changer during the pandemic, PTC is offering free subscriptions of Vuforia Chalk until June 30. Chalk is our AR collaboration tool—it combines video chat and real-time, 3D annotation to turn mobile devices into AR-superpowered walkie-talkies. Ordinarily, Chalk helps experts remotely guide novice field technicians to reduce service costs. During this outbreak, it’s being used to remotely assist customers and better prepare field technicians—helping to minimize time on-site, exposure risks, and disruptions to vital operations.
Companies are also exploring other ways digital solutions can improve service. They are developing AR-based training curricula, allowing experts to turn their skills into a shareable resource. And engineers are designing smart, connected capabilities into products—ensuring they last longer, provide more value, and facilitate better service. Many of these solutions will become key priorities as we enter the recovery phase of this crisis.
At PTC, we’re humbled to see our technologies being used to navigate the human and operational side of the COVID-19 crisis. And we’re proud to see our customers responding with determination and resolve, using the tools of digital transformation to meet challenges head on.
In the months and years to come, we’re committed to working with these customers to learn as much as we can, in the hopes that we can all be better prepared to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the new, post-pandemic future.