Last week Upskill hosted its latest webinar “Powering Your People: Top 5 Real World Industrial Use Cases for Augmented Reality.” By far, our most popular session to date, the goal of the event was to provide operational and IT leaders with several new, tangible examples of enterprise wearables in use across an array of functional areas, including in a plant environment, within a warehouse and in the field to support service techs on the job. The customers covered included GE, Coca-Cola, Bureau Veritas and a major multinational device manufacturer.
We sat down with Upskill’s Aaron Tate, VP of Customer Solutions, and Chris Delvizis, Senior Director of Product, afterward to recap some of the top questions asked by our audience during the webinar.
In your experience, what kind of use cases have you found to be most effective for augmented reality?
Aaron: We’ve found that the most successful implementations of AR on smart glasses focus on simple, practical use cases that can provide quick value capture. Below are just some of the strong scenarios for AR:
- Complex or highly variable hands-on tasks. For example, assembling the wiring for a wind turbine’s top box at GE Renewable Energy is very complex — so complex that even veteran technicians that have been performing the task for years can’t memorize the full process. With Skylight, technicians now receive hands-free wiring instructions in the viewfinders of smart glasses versus having to constantly go back and forth to paper manuals to verify wire numbers and associated insert locations–saving them more than 30% in production time.
- Knowledge capture and sharing. Wearing smart glasses connected to the Skylight platform, veteran technicians record instructions and insights as they repair equipment — all to be shared with other workers. Knowledge sharing can also take form in real-time when you have situations where workers need to call in experts to support them through a task. Products like EyeSight can vastly improve efficiency by enabling live video streaming, collaboration and annotation, resolving issues much more quickly. Field service organizations are particularly well positioned to use this technology. The reality is that the need for better knowledge capture, sharing and collaboration is ubiquitous across all sectors and industrial functional areas.
- Distributed or transient workforce. New or seasonal employees often need more hand holding during complex operations. With augmented reality, users can build and assign step-by-step instructions with Skylight and easily push them to select users. In logistics, this requirement becomes particularly acute right before the holiday season. Companies using smart glasses are seeing a marked improvement in new and seasonal staff ramp time.
- High compliance situations. We work with one of the largest power generation and distribution providers, for example, to improve employee safety, reduce down time, and track compliance with AR. Using Skylight, they scan codes on equipment to ensure accurate task completion during important inspections and get a second set of eyes on the job which leverage remote expert resources.
There are a lot more examples; I’d encourage you to watch the webinar for insight into additional use cases!
We are constantly looking for ways to better utilize our field service workers, particularly when they are geo-based. Is there a way to be able to enable workers to service multiple jobs or customer issues regardless of their own expertise area?
Chris: Absolutely! This is one of the fundamental benefits of “see what I see” video calling technology. We’ve seen multiple customers who are able to deploy a generalist technician or even newer, more junior technicians into the field and now they have a lifeline back to an expert. We’re working with a customer now that has more orders, and a substantial backlog, than staff to support installations. They are using this “see what I see” functionality to send new hires out into the field sooner and support them from experts remotely.
My company has quite a few procedures and work instructions in place. Most are in PDF and Word Document format. Will these all have to be converted to be able to be used?
Aaron: We get this question a lot. As long as those files have a hierarchy and way of showcasing the process to a worker, we can present them as workflows to the users. But there is some manual process to establish the pattern of information for the workflow. The time saved and overall productivity gains from workflows on smart glasses far outweighs the time it takes to digitally translate a customer’s processes.
Taking into account product lifetime and time-to-market are shorter and shorter, how flexible is your software in order to quickly adapt to the new products or processes?
Aaron: The flexibility of the system to adapt to workflow changes is critical. As part of our connection into your systems, we connect our Skylight platform to the representative data set of record, like your MES or WHS. From a configuration management standpoint, we’re pulling workflows and data from that source directly. We don’t store information or metrics on Skylight, so as workflows change or if there are mechanical engineering changes, these changes are automatically reflected in the workflows presented via smart glasses to the workers.
How do you combat resistance from workers who are asked to use these devices? Is that in fact an issue?
Aaron: What we’ve seen is that initially when you introduce a new technology there’s always going to be different reactions. A lot of the customers we work with through our pilot engagements and production rollouts will start to deploy the technology to workers who are not the most technology savvy to intentionally test if the solution will be successful. One of our customers said, “It it will work there, it will work anywhere.”
Chris: It’s important to open up those lines of communications with the end-user as soon as possible and make sure they understand that the technology is not intended to replace them, it’s intended to help them do their job better. There is a great piece our CEO, Brian Ballard wrote about this recently. I encourage you to check out the article.
I have a few ideas for use cases but I’m not sure which one is most viable. How do I select just one? How do I get started?
Chris: There’s usually not a shortage of ideas for use cases; the key is to not get decision paralysis. Pick the first “winner.”
The next step is to identify a partner who can help you go from initial ideation to production to full scale deployments. At that point, we recommend bringing in your IT team for a seamless integration. Your next step is to work with your partner and internal stakeholders to identify key performance indicators and metrics that you hope to impact. Do you want to improve safety? How do you plan to measure that? Or is a reduction in travel costs or equipment downtime the metric you want to focus on?
Aaron: Now is the best time to start! We’d be happy to talk through your use cases and arrive on one that provides the best starting point.
If you’re interested in diving a little deeper to see how Skylight works, contact us today. We also have several case studies that were not discussed on the webinar that can provide you with more ideas on where to get started. We encourage you to share these with your team as you generate excitement around deploying AR in your operations.