How Augmented Reality in Field Service Can be Put to Use
Written by: Jeff-Coon

Most organizations don't have the means to deploy augmented reality tomorrow, but there are five use cases that are motivating many to create, manage, and deliver 3D content. A few are pretty obvious, but a couple are often overlooked:

1. Follow complex maintenance procedures

Technicians could pull up service manuals featuring interactive 3D animations to disassemble components or work on brand-name equipment with which they're unfamiliar.

Although the technology isn't quite there yet, AR headsets will allow field service engineers to follow complex instructions without having to refer to tablets, rugged computers, or smartphones. When graphical information is displayed over a physical environment, it's a lot easier for individuals to understand what they need to do to complete a specific step. Jim Heppelmann actually touched on this idea in an article he wrote with Harvard's Michael E. Porter.

2. Remotely assist customers

Field service technicians and customer service representatives will be able to walk customers through maintenance or repair procedures. If a car owner wants to learn how to change his oil, a remote technician could use an app such as Chalk to help the customer select tools, change the filter, and perform other tasks.

3. Train novice technicians

Given the issues the field service industry is having with the aging workforce, I'm especially excited about this particular use case.

Imagine hiring a novice technician with little to no on-the-job experience. You get a work order for a job that requires a relatively straightforward fix. When he arrives on site, he receives a repair sequence featuring a series of 3D technical illustrations, showing him how to replace the part with no in-person guidance. 

There will be situations when senior technicians will have to assist those new to the field, but if experienced personnel can deliver that assistance remotely, your organization can free up labor for more urgent or challenging customer calls.

4. View product lifecycle information

Assuming you have up-to-date, accurate service and parts information, your service team will be able to use augmented reality to confirm the following details when looking at equipment in the field:

  • Parts numbers, and whether they've been superseded by new designs.
  • The model and generation of a piece of equipment.
  • How that asset responds to environmental factors such as humidity, cold, or industrial environments.

5. Identify life-limited parts that need future replacement

I spoke about this use case in an article explaining how I think the IoT will impact technical illustrations.

Long story short, there are product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions that collect data from connected assets - aircraft, MRI machines, HVAC units, etc. Assuming those PLM systems manage the information within AR-accessible tech pubs, field service technicians will be able to see how many hours of service a specific part has left before it needs to be replaced, and schedule a work order based on that information.

The big question is, how do you actually empower your field service team to use AR on a day-to-day basis? On April 26th, I'm hosting a webinar that covers three steps service organizations can follow to endow their personnel with this technology. You can peruse the agenda below:

Watch on demand: 3 Steps to Bring Augmented Reality to Field Service

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Tags: Augmented Reality Digital Transformation Industrial Internet of Things Service Lifecycle Management (SLM)
About the Author Jeff-Coon

Jeff Coon is PTC’s Solution Management Director, overseeing PTC’s illustration tools. With 34 years of experience in field service, Jeff’s career began as an AH-1 Attack Helicopter Repairman in the U.S. Army. After his time in the service, he worked as a technical illustration specialist at Boeing for five years until he joined ITEDO Software as a technical engineer in 2000. In 2006, he was named PTC’s Principal Application Engineer for the company’s illustration tools, defining implementation strategies for Boeing, John Deere, and others.