How Augmented Reality Technology Can Strengthen Service Outcomes

10/04/2019 / Digital Transformation / Katia Loboda

Female engineer wearing lab coat and augmented reality (AR) glasses while placing computer chip on circuit board.

In the wake of the Great Recession, field service organizations (FSOs) have been suffering productivity backslides.

Technicians waste as much as 40% of the workday on non-value added tasks, according to data from McKinsey. That wasted time amounts to two of five workdays per week!

An aging and retiring generation of baby boomers and a growing reliance on independent contractors create further productivity challenges for field service companies.

To get ahead of this crisis, many service-centric organizations are beginning to use augmented reality (AR) technologies as part of a tech-focused strategy to bring new value to their operations.

AR Applications for Field Service Training, Repairs, and Communication

According to the Astea-sponsored report Emerging Technologies in Field Service, 67% of FSOs equip their technicians with augmented reality (AR) wearables so they can connect with critical knowledge while in the field. And 56% have used AR to reduce the time needed to complete service calls.

Using computer-generated video, images, graphics, or text overlaying actual physical objects, AR solutions turn training and work environments into a resource-rich reality for technicians. This technology has numerous applications for productivity improvements in field service.

Here are three of the most notable:

  • Male engineer using AR glasses to follow virtual coach’s instructions on a mechanical production line.Technician Training
    In today’s environment of increased staff turnover and dependence on contingent workers, FSOs must more frequently train technicians unfamiliar with their practices and machine models. This training eats into productive use of time, reduces first-time fix rates, and decreases customer satisfaction. But using augmented reality technology, rookie technicians can access on-demand training that includes realistic repair scenarios before they’re ever dispatched to the field. AR lets them see what internal parts will look like in practice, make on-screen annotations, and even receive live instruction from remote experts.
  • On-site Repairs
    AR-powered on-site repair assistance is one of this technology’s biggest draws. When technicians arrive at a job site, they can use a mobile device to scan a barcode or other digital identifier and download a machine’s internal designs. Then, with AR glasses or a headset, they can see what the machine looks like inside and out before they begin repairs. With both hands free, technicians can follow visual step-by-step repair guides so proper repair procedures are never in question.
  • Enhanced Communication
    AR tools can include chat, video, audio, and view-share functions. These capabilities connect technicians in training or in the field to back-office knowledge bases or senior technicians who can’t be with them on-site. For example: Using AR glasses, a technician making a complex repair could request a remote expert’s help. The expert can use the view-share function to see what the on-site tech is working on and guide him or her through the repair. This collaboration reduces errors and expedites job completion.

These AR capabilities go a long way toward helping FSOs achieve faster problem-solving, maximum equipment uptime, and improved customer satisfaction.

But the advent of mixed reality solutions makes AR even more valuable to field service.

What Is Mixed Reality?

Mixed reality takes the AR experience a step further. It provides virtual, interactive objects that respond to a user’s actions.

This immersive experience yields further benefits for virtual training and assisted repair. Thanks to mixed reality, technicians can not only see virtual repair scenarios but also perform them with interactive virtual objects. So any technician who has trained using a mixed reality solution will never be performing a repair for the first time in the field.

AR Brings Results That Count

Aberdeen research shows field service companies that deploy augmented reality technologies have achieved the following performance benefits:

  • 78% average customer retention rate vs. 67% for non-AR users
  • 70% average customer satisfaction rate vs. 62% for non-AR users
  • 14% improvement in repair time vs. 7% for non-AR users

Such top performers as GE and Boeing offer real-world examples.

A GE internal study revealed warehouse workers equipped with AR tools reduced picking and packing times by up to 46%, as reported by the Harvard Business Review.

Meanwhile, Boeing successfully used AR to reduce the time needed for certain repair scenarios by 25%.

Augmented reality technology is already having profound impacts on service delivery, and early adopters are experiencing key performance benefits in worker productivity, repair speed and accuracy, customer satisfaction, and customer retention. By making the right technology investments now, your FSO can secure a business advantage for years to come.

To discover more about how your FSO can benefit from leveraging AR and other emerging technologies, download the WBR Insights Report, Emerging Technologies are Driving Better Business Outcomes.

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