Having worked with customers over the last 5 years on the development of remote assistance implementations using smartglasses, I have witnessed the benefits and the challenges brought by this breakthrough innovation and some interesting company behaviours. This leads us to the question ‘How should Remote Assistance solutions (RA) be approached efficiently by industrial companies?
1. What is RA?
Let’s make it (and keep it) simple: it is an optimised communication scheme for an expert to support a field technician or engineer. It is quite straight forward and potentially very efficient for maintenance departments to cut travel costs, increase technician’s efficiency or make up for the lack of skilled people.
Maintenance departments are the main target, and although many other departments can eventually use RA, field service support has already proven the validity of using this type of technique. Maintenance in industry is a key competitive differentiator and any financial gain can heavily affect company’s bottom line.
“Keeping it Simple” is a key factor for success, because it is revolutionary. For the company, for the expert and for the technician. It is also a learning curve that will be continuously modified to suit the needs of the user. There will be always time to add many different types of add-ons to the application at a later stage.
2. “Let’s really go for RA”
Working on smartglasses, I have always been interested in the actual applications used in the field instead of make-believe applications advertised by influencers.
The beauty of RA is that it is a solution to a problem and it has a reason to become a star application. It means live support for a technician to complete his work. It means fulfilment for the expert who is helping. It means creating purpose for the whole organisation. It makes all contenders save time and money and company gains knowledge on how to put the application into practice. It is therefore easy to build a business case to convince a board of directors why RA is important.
However, to reach the full efficiency of such deployment, a clear strategy and action plan are needed. Internal objectives, ROI targets and thorough planning must mandatorily be set up to include all required departments such as IT and finance.
I am surprised to see sometimes major companies choosing a trainee to investigate this area, meaning that the projects often disappear when the internship ends. Maybe it is a way to minimize the investment but resulting in the project being abandoned, wasting time and money. No one would ever let a trainee supervise the implementation of a new ERP. RA is as much more challenging.
There is no doubt that a company dedicating actual resources, time and money will be more successful in using RA. They are the ones who have done the maths before starting the project. They know the ROI and understand exactly how it will make them save time, costs and other resources on a large scale, but most importantly they gain valuable experience by making their people use the solution.
For instance, smartglasses are probably the best vector for RA bringing the full efficiency of a hands-free use. Using glasses instead of paper-based documents might not be natural for a technician, but a well introduced and managed scheme can be a blessing and initiate a learning curve, eventually beneficial for all.
3. So what are you waiting for!
It would be a lie to say it is a plug and play scheme. Buying the hardware and the software is just a starting point. It requires a bit of infrastructure adaptation, teamwork, efficient training and a lot of internal and external lobbying. It will take time, resources and energy but it is worth it in the long run. The planned ROI proves it. But once an efficient trial is on the field and deployed, it cannot remain the duty of a single department and a few elected technicians who may use RA randomly. It must be a company strategy, enforced by managers at all levels.
There are a lot of experienced companies in this area that can support businesses and make it happen, not only hardware providers, but software application developers, specialised resellers and consulting companies. We all have already done the job for some major groups and jumped through the hurdles. We can help all industries ready to implement RA.
This needs to start now. RA needs to be put into the limelight by the company. If they embrace the challenges now, it will show some greater benefits like increasing company attractiveness, improving specialist’s retention and engineer’s recruitment. These are all very strategic areas for industrials which should not be in the least bit neglected.