Why and How You Should Create Mobile-Friendly Technical Illustrations - Part One

Written By: Jeff-Coon
  • Service & Parts
  • 10/24/2017

If a person wants to pull up an interactive 3D animation on his or her smartphone, there are at least half a dozen apps that could deliver this experience –ThingWorx View being one of them.

To be fair, delivering mobile-friendly technical illustrations to field service teams isn’t as easy as sending a Snapchat. Still, I’d make the argument that technical communication teams should invest in this capability. Here’s why:

The demand for mobile-friendly technical illustrations is here

One of the reasons why smartphones and tablets are so popular among field service organizations is because of their geotagging functions, which actually facilitate quite a bit of automation.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that 70% of technicians will “use a tablet or hybrid device” by 2018, according to Fingent. While mobile devices have had a largely beneficial impact on field service operations (I’d consider a 63% increase in technician productivity a win), there are some issues mobile devices can’t solve:

  • Many field service organizations have trouble capturing and sharing accurate data in a prompt manner.
  • First-time fix rates still aren’t where they need to be.

Using mobility to consolidate information

Aberdeen Group found that the average truck roll costs between $200 and $300, depending on the industry. That means if a company schedules 400 service visits over a two-week period, and has a first-time-fix rate of 75%, it will spend anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 supporting those additional visits.

Anything could cause a work order issue: a technician doesn’t have the right part, the issue wasn’t described properly, and so forth. But what’s at the root of all these hiccups?

According to a study from Tech-Clarity, 43% of service leaders said their staff have to search multiple locations to gather the right service information: The parts they need to fix issues, where that part is in the supply chain, how to install that part, etc.

Here’s a solution to that problem: Suppose a field service app sends you a work order that contains:

  • A 3D technical illustration of a part.
  • 3D animations that demonstrate how to replace that part.
  • The location of the part in the supply chain.
  • Any supersessions that may have occurred over the part’s lifecycle.

This is only possible if technicians can view 3D content through mobile devices. Such functionality eliminates the need to exit the app and find work instructions elsewhere.

So the case for mobile-friendly technical illustrations is there, but what’s the most cost-effective way to create, manage, and deliver that content?

In Part Two, I’ll cover how to prepare your infrastructure for static and dynamic 3D content. If you want a bit of a preview of what I’ll be discussing, this infographic covers how to create engaging technical illustrations:

Creo Illustrate Technical Illustrations

  • Service & Parts
  • CAD

About the Author


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.