How AR increases technician efficiency

Hervé Lesage explains how new ways of information delivery can boost efficiency



One of the coolest technologies making its way into mainstream enterprise tool kits is augmented reality, better known as AR. It is a technology that provides an advanced version of reality in which the physical world gets amplified through the use of virtual elements and computer-generated images.

Augmented reality adds graphics to the user’s visual field, sounds and haptics to enhance the overall experience of the real world.

Many manufacturers have service teams or agents who would benefit from the innovative digital delivery of AR as a means to share information in the field. The need for reliable information in service is broad and non-negotiable, but forget unwieldy 800-page instruction manuals, binders and large paper maps. Welcome to visualising data and instructions in real time, like this example reported in Harvard Business Review.

“At KPN, a European telecommunications service provider, field engineers conducting remote or on-site repairs use AR smart glasses to see a product’s service-history data, diagnostics, and location-based information dashboards. These AR displays help them make better decisions about how to resolve issues, producing an 11 per cent reduction in overall costs for service teams, a 17 per cent decrease in work-error rates, and higher repair quality.”

Not only does AR make seasoned technicians more efficient when implemented in the industrial sector, but it also helps less qualified or less experienced personnel get work done with fewer delays and direction. In fact, younger personnel may prefer information in this way and according to the Governance Studies at Brookings Report, a whopping 75 per cent of the global workforce will be dominated by millennials. AR might also keep some information safer than printed formats.

AR pilot delivers impressive results

Service KPIs not only measure customer satisfaction, but also service efficiency. If you find a tool that improves that metric, you’re going to investigate, and we did. At Xerox, we piloted AR for one of our operating companies. The service team benefited from fewer on-site visits, while remote resolution rates increased by 76 per cent. When an on-site visit was required, the fix-first-time rate increased by 76 per cent. All this led to a customer satisfaction increase of 95 per cent. It all leads to improvements like these:

  • Alleviate technical skills gaps
  • Reduce costs and repair times
  • Improve fix-first-time rates
  • Enhance customer satisfaction

How AR helps field technicians

Greater product complexity increases demand for technical skills at a time when they’re already in short supply, as baby-boomer engineers and technicians retire without backfill. Customer expectations have also ratcheted up. The norm has become on-demand, 24/7 availability and nearly instant fixes when equipment is out of service. When equipment is down, employee downtime is a consequence – for your employees and possibly your customer’s employees, too.

So, how can industrial brands close the hiring gap to meet customer expectations regarding service? Outsourcing and managed services go a long way towards a solution, and AR is further changing the service dynamic. It helps field personnel by:

  • On-demand access to specific content to train ahead of a visit or use on site
  • Avoiding the need for a service call through improved customer self-help
  • Drastically reducing the time a service visit takes

To take advantage of these benefits, information needs to be structured for mobile delivery, rather than locked in a PDF. Optimising how content is structured and managed is essential for companies to take advantage of digital delivery and tools like AR. The upside is that restructuring content reduces creation and management costs in three ways:

  • Adoption of structured content as information and documents of all kinds (text, graphics, photos, audios, videos) developed in mark-up languages such as DITA XML or S1000D XML
  • Centralisation of content in a single repository instead of multiple silos to maximise re-use
  • Standardised templates to automate publishing and achieve a common look and feel for all output, whether digital or print

Imagining an AR future

It takes a combination of experience and intensive research on image recognition to create solutions that help customers and service engineers. Key stakeholders should be equipped with product information to drive customer satisfaction and business efficiency. And someday soon managed print service visits may include a technician with a set of AR goggles.

Hervé Lesage is senior global marketing manager for communication and marketing services at Xerox