Field Service News in partnership with RealWear, and OverIT have worked together to produce a detailed 22 page Essential Guide to Remote Service. In this final feature in a series of excerpts from that guide we now turn to a case study from RailCargo Italia who revolutionised their workflow by implementing a sophisticated remote service solution...
In this final feature of the series, we will look at how Rail Cargo Group have not only improved their engineers workflow by adopting a remote services solution, but how they have revolutionised an entire industry...
Alessandro Borzacchi is the Innovation and Continuous Improvement Manager for Rail Cargo Group, the Italian subsidiary of the second biggest railway undertaking company in Europe.
Having been the senior project manager on the implementation of an augmented reality (AR) based remote service solution, one of the first to bring AR to the field within his sector, he has plenty of key insight into the benefits of introducing such technologies into a field service workflow as well as the pitfalls to avoid during such an implementation.
Speaking in an exclusive interview within the Field Service News Digital Symposium, Borzacchi outlined the project in great detail. Here we bring together the key insights from that interview:
The rail transportation sector is still largely paper based with wagon inspectors completing job sheets manually. It is also a potentially dangerous area to work in as there are constantly moving rail wagons within the environment.
Additionally, as assets are moving locations, if there are challenging issues, often the nearest subject matter expert can be hundreds of kilometres away.
Rail Cargo deployed the RealWear HMT-1 running OverIT’s SPACE1 AR application to drive to digitize their workflow, improve the health and safety of their Wagon Inspectors by allowing them to work hands free, and introduce the ability to have remote experts assist on-site inspectors with any critical issues.
- Improved health and safety for Wagon Inspectors
- Wagon Inspectors are able to immediately receive assistance of an expert to help resolve emergency situations
- Establishment of a knowledge-base by utilising remote assistance calls
- Identification and tracking of key metrics for better business improvement
“Immediately after working on this project, we started to see the potential of the solution,” explains Borzacchi. “We started to think about connecting all the carriers around Europe, around this solution and the data it can provide.
“Our vision is to be able to provide a damage report, produced in the field, in almost real time, and these being immediately shared among all the stakeholders across Europe. In our industry, this type of clear visibility would be a real game changer,” Borzacchi reflects.
As with so many digital transformation projects, the clear benefit of providing a safer workflow for their team in the field was one of the key drivers at the outset of the project.
“With regards to the safety of our field team, the ability to work hands-free in the field is priceless,” Borzacchi explains.
“A Wagon Inspector has to often work between two trains, has to work in an environment where trains that are moving, they have to go below the rail car, to do the maintenance. These are tasks when you need both hands, these are tasks where you need gloves. It is impossible to check a rail car, then take off gloves to fill a out the paperwork, it is just so impractical. So as a driver for us improving safety was critical, and implementing the SPACE1 solution, was a huge game changer regarding these issues.”
The remote expert aspect of the solution Rail Cargo implemented was another key benefit that Borzacchi enthusiastically spoke about during the interview.
“Another driver for the adoption was the ability to assist a technical inspector by remote experts,” he explains.
“There are many occasions where the ability to bring in a remote expert to assist the Wagon Inspector in real-time is needed, for example, in emergency situations.
“For the Wagon Inspector, being able to immediately have the assistance of an expert that is sitting hundreds of kilometres away and to get his feedback and get his advice on a solution can make a massive difference in how they can perform their job best.
“In the railway industry this is massively important, because there are some times where you need to find a solution within minutes and you can’t wait for someone coming from 200 kilometres Remote assistance is going to be solution that can really overcome this challenge.”
Borzacchi also outlined how the technology allows for them to begin building out a knowledge library that can play an essential part in both competence management and the training of new recruits, reducing the time it takes to get them working in an active and productive role in the field that brings value to the organization.
“Since we implemented the solution we have realized that we can now produce a lot of additional educational materials and a lot of operational productivity materials as well,” Borzacchi comments.
“We are able to create recordings of every call where a remote expert can help a Wagon Inspector in the field, for example. Also, we have created a lot of check-lists, captured many images.
“A lot of this can be used in our training and also in our competence management.”
Improved Performance Tracking:
One of the biggest beneficial outcomes of implementing the solution for RailCargo Italia was that they are now placed to introduce performance tracking metrics to be able to move along a path of continuous improvement.
“Before we implemented this solution, these were unstructured business processes because they were completely untracked,” Borzacchi explains.
“There were no metrics available so we couldn’t track anything. Now we can really start monitoring performance. We can now start tracking these metrics, and we can begin to drive value from these business operations.
“With regards to Augmented Reality, it is a very exciting technology. Yes, there is a lot of hype around such tools at the moment, but the benefits we’ve seen are very much real.
“Another thing I would add is that is going to help our company to attract new people into our workforce, it will add an attraction to this job position because the new generation will see our inspectors working with smart glasses in the field . This could really generate more interest about these positions,” he adds.
It goes without saying that there will be lessons learnt along the way when working with such an innovative project. What were some of the pitfalls that Borzacchi advises other companies following in their footsteps to avoid?
“There’s a huge process involving the end-users that are that are used to working in a more ‘traditional’ way. You need to be able to involve them in the development. So while you have to high-level plan of the solution, you still have to engage with the end-users. You have to convince them that it is going to be a win-win solution.
“You have to show them that this new way of working is going to be better.
“Better, for their safety, better for their productivity, and also that it will be better for their colleagues in the back office. There is no point in developing a solution, to go through that whole process and then have the end-users not happy about what you have created.
“It has to be a parallel development which involves gathering a lot of feedback from the end users. Don’t make the error of keeping them out of the discussion until the roll out. Don’t present them with the solutions without them having never seen it. Our approach was let’s develop it together,” Borzacchi adds.
“Another pitfall to avoid is to implement everything in the same time,” he continues.
“Start small, start with basic functionalities and start with a very simple user interface - then when you have feedback, when you have results, start adding other functionalities one at a time.”
Finally, what learnings can Borzacchi take away from the piloting and implementation process that could help others trying to introduce such a solution?
Borzacchi outlines a process that is based around small, and rapidly undertaken iterations. The beginning of the implementation process for RailCargo was to identify a vital member of the field team who was positioned to work with the project management group and provide direct insight from the perspective of the field.
“We started with a technical instructor,” explains Borzacchi.
“This was someone that had a tremendous amount of knowledge of the role and was a specialist in their job. However, they were also someone that was quite technology aware, so was someone who could see the benefits early on of what we were trying to achieve.
“We developed the first solution with him, taking on board his feedback while also getting marginal feedbacks from other users. In the second phase, we selected a pool of train inspectors, but also always keeping in mind about the technology awareness because it is going to be a little bit more challenging with people who are less technology aware.
“At this point, the aim to test the potential and to develop the first minimum viable product. We wanted to have a pool of inspectors who were able to give us feedback in a very quick manner,” he adds.
To find out more you can watch the full interview in the Field Service News Digital Symposium where Borzacchi expands on that future roadmap, while also further outlining the pitfalls to avoid and gives his advice for service organizations who may also wish to follow Rail Cargo down this innovative path towards the future.
This interview was undertaken as part of our development of our recently published Essential Guide to Remote Service. This guide offers insight into the important considerations field service companies need to be aware of when selecting remote service solutions suitable for their needs.
The guide looks at both the hardware and software considerations as well as containing a case study from Rail Cargo Group that looks at how they implemented such a solution which has revolutionised their industry.
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