In an age in which many businesses rely on advanced engineering systems, the introduction of additional support infrastructure, which at first glance can appear to add complexity, can be met with a significant degree of skepticism by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and customers alike.
One such support technology, that is on the tip of many people’s tongues at the moment is Mixed Reality (MR) and its applications for remote support, specifically for the service of equipment and complex systems. The question from most leaders and executives when presented with this leap-ahead technology is “What can Mixed Reality do for my business?”
The process of merging the digital and the physical world, using a HoloLens 2 or another spatial computing headset, occurs through a MR software such as RemoteSpark. These technologies, intuitively understood by the human brain, create an environment that is designed to assist field workers in their role of not only repairing and rectifying issues but also of learning and building their confidence in a task.
The humans-in-the-loop always want to do the right thing. They can do that much more effectively using MR technologies; By connecting with experts, located anywhere on the globe, who can guide them through a task, or by calling up 3D, digital assets that guide the individual through a process.
This collaborative effect creates high tempo and impactful knowledge transfer. MR tools of this nature ensure that the right information is available for the end-user, while also providing an organizational confidence in which team members can trust that the workflow is accurate, timely and effective.
A user trial with 19 marine technicians using RemoteSpark was conducted in 2019. Eighteen of the users indicated that the MR solution would result in a highly significant improvement in knowledge transfer between a subject matter expert and a qualified but inexperienced technician.
Organizations and companies implementing MR also benefit from the immediate ability to fault find and thus increase accuracy in a wide variety of processes. This not only translates to increased productivity but also reduces risk to the worker by facilitating collaborative inspection. It also ensures that work is being conducted on the right piece of equipment and that repair workflows are followed accurately.
MR for remote support also ensures that subject matter experts or senior technicians no longer have to travel to site to support certain tasks. Traveling also exposes workers to avoidable risk, which in some organizations can be the leading cause of workplace injury.
Enhancements to quality and safety have driven the development of a wide range of MR capabilities, and wider adoption of the technology in the aerospace sector. This has been a main driver behind the adoption of MR by Airbus, as was clear during a recent interview by Barbara Bergmeier, head of Airbus operations at Airbus Defense and Space
“By having the right information at the right time in hands-free mode [using HoloLens], not only does quality increase, but also safety,”
Whether your business is managing a global fleet of equipment or delivering OEM service support to a regional customer, identifying the opportunities for cost reduction is a constant driver of innovation.
The ability to ensure higher equipment availability in itself is an effective justification for the adoption of MR, especially when unplanned equipment downtime is tied to loss of production or penalties for an OEM.
A highly significant and easily measurable area for cost reduction with MR remote support tools is the reduction in service-related travel. The ability for a design or technical authority at their main workplace to guide a qualified but inexperienced technician at the worksite is already having a profound impact on travel costs for companies that have adopted MR.
One Canadian engineering company working with a HoloLens 2 based MR system has identified that it saves approximately $6000 for every successful use of the technology. The average utilization is more than twice a month. This represents an ROI in excess of 9:1.
Very few tools available in the modern workplace have the potential to be as impactful across these areas outlined above. MR for remote support can be as important for a local diesel repair company servicing a client in remote locations with immediate technical support, as it is for the largest civil aircraft manufacturer ensuring consistent process in the hanger on their final assembly line.
The answer to “What can MR do for my business?” is, of course, context-specific but for most industrial users, the use case and its benefits are clear. Ensuring that a business, however large or small, is reaping the benefits of these MR technologies is not a distant pipe dream. Companies and organizations across sectors are profiting from it now. The next question to ask is perhaps “Why is my business not using MR yet?”