Oct 31, 2018 • Features • Augmented Reality • Future of FIeld Service • Remote Assistance • field service • field service management • field service technology • Service Management • Small Medium Enterprise • SMB • Managing the Mobile Workforce
The potential for Augmented Reality being utilised in field service delivery can be leveraged just as effectively by smaller and medium-sized businesses as it can by their larger enterprise sized peers. Kris Oldland reports...
The potential of Augmented Reality within field service has been discussed for some time now, but as often happens with emerging technologies we tend to see early adopters come from enterprise rather than SMB sized companies.
Indeed, with the need to invest in expensive additional equipment plus the applications to power these devices surely this is one area where larger organisations can gain a competitive advantage?
Ultimately, the answer here comes down to a matter of perspective.
The intrinsic value of AR is that it can allow an organisation to dial in the expertise within their organisation directly to the customers’ location.
In any service contract, the true inherent value is within this expertise. Let’s take an example of a faulty widget which is stopping an organisation from being able to operate at an optimal level of productivity.
"In any service contract, the true inherent value is within this expertise..."
Do you think that the customer – who is facing this loss of productivity, cares whether that experience, which will enable them to get back up and running, comes in the form of a well presented, corporately branded field service engineer on site or if that experience comes in the form of a remote expert able to guide either an in-house maintenance engineer or a locally sourced third-party service engineer, step by step on how to get the widget back up and running?
Of course, from the field service provider’s perspective, there are numerous benefits of getting their engineer on site. One of the significant benefits being the all-important face to face interaction with the customer, but if we are talking about reducing the time to get that customer back up and running from days to hours, or even hours to minutes – then what value could that add to the service contract in the future?
Another scenario could be that the fault may be a relatively easy fix.
One which for the experienced engineer with a relatively standard technical skill set could be easily performed – yet as the majority of service directors will attest to the cost of getting that engineer on site is the biggest red line on their P&L.
How much would your company save if you could hire a local contractor, on a day or maybe even hourly rate, with the same broad technical skill set to attend the service call and be able to reduce the time he is onsite to an absolute minimum by allowing an experienced engineer, who can see what the onsite engineer sees, guide him through the repair, using digital annotations, to make it explicitly clear what actions to perform in order to provide the fix?
The key question here is, of course, how many such occasions, in which you avoid that expensive truck roll, would it take to pay for the device and application licence? Remember, the key selling point for AR, as with mobile, is on delivering a tangible return on investment (ROI).
In fact, let’s stay focused on ROI and those dreaded red lines on the P&L.
"The transitory life of the field service engineer is one that is hugely appealing but as your engineers grow older, they may be less inclined to travel so frequently, with family commitments taking preference..."
Retention of experienced field service staff and the training and development of new entrants into the field workforce are of course two other major areas that field service directors need to pay significant attention to.
Again AR can play a major role in both of these critical areas.
The transitory life of the field service engineer is one that is hugely appealing but as your engineers grow older, they may be less inclined to travel so frequently, with family commitments taking preference.
Traditionally, the only real means for such engineers to find a work-life balance within an organisation that was better suited to their changing needs was often management – but not all engineers, make good managers.
AR can allow a company to provide their more experienced engineers with the opportunity to find that better work-life balance, negating the risk of all that valuable experience and knowledge walking out of their door.
Similarly, it can take many months and in some sectors years for a company to be comfortable sending out a new engineer to client sites.
Whilst such training programs are admirable and often essential in terms of maintaining brand reputation, they can be a huge drain on resources.
AR can allow companies to dramatically cut the time needed for development and send their new recruits out into the field sooner – but with the safety net of being able to dial in an experienced engineer into the site remotely to help them when the going gets tough.
AR can even open up exciting opportunities for SMBs to expand into territories that would absolutely have been cost prohibitive for them to do so in the past.
Again, if your true value is the knowledge, expertise and insight within your field service organisation AR is the perfect tool for transmitting that value in real-time to anywhere in the world.
Ultimately, every field service organisation, big and small, will today empower their service engineers with a mobile phone and many AR solutions will run on such devices so even the need for investment in actual hardware is nonessential, making AR an extremely realistic introduction for even the smallest field service operation.
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