Tech Is Revolutionizing The Field Service Industry

The field service sector have been upgrading the way the run their facilities with the help of augmented reality and virtual reality.

AR, VR, Technology
Photo By Gorodenkoff

Altering a user’s senses with a virtual simulation or a physical environment through overlayed images and sounds, these technologies are changing how companies deliver services to customers.

A data-driven, AI-facilitated world is something the field service industry is moving toward. In a study by The Service Council, 72% of respondents said they were already using or evaluating augmented reality (AR) systems to support their field service activities.

With the increasing use of AR and virtual reality (VR) in field services, industry players who aren’t evaluating AR and VR, or using IoT devices, may find themselves left behind. Particularly smaller operations, with 52% of small field service businesses still using spreadsheets and whiteboards.

Statistics show that the combined industry value of augmented reality and virtual reality will reach $300 billion by 2024. But how much has AR and VR technology impacted the field service sector and service providers?

What AR and VR Look Like In The Field Service Sector

Digital and automated management tools are deployed to improve a company’s field service activities. One of which is increasing the reliability of assets and avoiding asset failure. While this was previously driven by relationships between customers and providers, advances in technology coupled with the need for remote or distanced working is resulting in more efficient outcomes.

Increasing numbers of IoT devices are helping to handle more automated tasks with ease. Specifically, tracking and monitoring assets. So when digital devices within an IoT infrastructure capture and report on data with precision and accuracy, the need for human assessment is removed.

Since field service management is embracing IoT technology to improve processes and reduce costs, the use of these devices is setting the groundwork for AR and VR technology. And that’s because, to deliver benefits AR and VR tech needs a constant supply of accurate, precise, and reliable data.

Augmented Reality In Field Service Management

AR is on the rise in the field service management (FSM) sector with the use of technology such as smartphones, headsets, and even smart glasses. Technicians are using AR to give instructions to customers via video calls. By overlaying AR with live-streamed images, customers are taking control of asset maintenance by ‘self-serving.’ This is supporting faster and more efficient diagnosis, monitoring, and query resolution.

VR, AR, Technology
By ra2 studio

Virtual Reality In Field Service Management

VR is impacting the field services industry by enhancing remote working and upskilling technicians. For instance, to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, technicians used VR headsets to replicate what customers see and hear on-site. When machinery or equipment malfunctioned, field service professionals used VR to recreate the client’s environment, making it easier to guide them through resolution and diagnosis, and better understand the customer’s problem.

Benefits Of Using AR And VR

AR and VR are capable of bridging communication, skills, and instructional gaps between field workers and customers. Whilst removing barriers to inspection and diagnosis. In a world that has moved further away from each other, AR and VR are bringing companies closer to real-time diagnostics, faster resolution, and better training for technicians.

While AR and VR headsets are effective ways to improve field management, the exact device isn’t what offers the critical advantage. Many service organizations are using smartphones and tablets powered with AR or VR capabilities. So instead of walking around with cumbersome headsets, mobile technology is available for AR and VR as long as the device is able to handle voice, text, and video communication.

When asset data is presented to technicians via IoT devices, and integrations between AR/VR and field service management systems are smooth, the technology can enable a step-change in outcomes for customers and field management organizations.

For instance, the most popular use of AR and VR in field service is virtual guidance. This could be projecting holographic overviews onto a real-world environment to check how 3D models of equipment might assist with performing service functions.

Information Overlay And Knowledge Capture

AR offers the ability to overlay information in real-world situations. This offers benefits in remote instruction, whereby users receive instructions as they work to troubleshoot maintenance issues.

AR is also capable of capturing and retaining information to highlight the status of a problem or piece of equipment. Then, when future problems arise this information is available to all users accessing a knowledge base.

Better Training And Upskilling

By storing knowledge and sharing it with others, AR and VR are effective ways to upskill staff and customers in query diagnostics and resolution. They can record and reuse sessions that show techniques to staff they can apply in the field. They also record employees’ workflows, producing visual guidelines for their processes.

For more specific training, VR has the ability to mimic hazardous situations and place trainees in the center of them. Trainees can role-play unexpected situations within a virtual environment, helping them make the right decisions in real-life emergency situations.

To some, AR and VR may seem like an overwhelming investment. But when you understand the clear advantages and benefits it can bring, in the short and long term, it’s worth considering the benefits.

Field Service Activities Can Improve Through AR And VR

AR and VR have scalable, transformative capabilities that can change the way FSM businesses operate. They can also save considerable time and resources. Further benefits include:

  • Reduced travel costs for remote engineers and technicians
  • Accurate visualizations of assets
  • Faster response times and return to service following resolution
  • Decreased Mean Time to Service
  • Real-time diagnostics and analytics
  • Fewer errors due to accurate, real-time analytics
  • Simplified product assembly and disassembly
  • Improved customer Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Reduced downtime. For example, Unilever achieved a 50% reduction in asset downtime using AR technology.

Leveraging AR and VR in the field promotes a move closer to a remote or zero-touch working environment. With surveys suggesting over 70% of employees are shifting to a permanent work-from-home culture, ARs and VRs show the potential to improve all aspects of service provision in the field.

With a rise in zero-touch environments since 2020, the field service industry is driving faster query resolution, improved communication, better training, and more motivated staff.

AR and VR Tools After COVID-19

Back in 2019, companies were already starting to deploy AR technologies. Mainly to address a technician shortage. So, when the pandemic arrived in 2020, AI-based technology was ripe to bridge the working gap between customer and client.

While AI tools accelerated in use throughout 2020, zero-touch environments also emerged as frameworks for safe interaction between customers and clients.

Operating within a touch-free environment ensures everyone’s safety. But it’s the loss of after-sales care that many service providers had concerns about.

Put Customers First

Customers are more satisfied when engineers or technicians arrive to meet them on-site. Or, if they can’t, they’re happy to receive calls with instructional support, advice, and interaction with another person. So, how can the industry replace this critical and effective part of the sales process? Many have prioritized video conferencing as an effective means of aftercare service.

Aftercare is likely to follow a workflow, driven by AI-based technologies such as IoT-enabled devices. So, it’s unlikely these processes will include any human follow-up.

Instead, by recognizing video conferencing as the closest experience to in-person contact, field service companies can use AR technologies to communicate and uphold customer care. With the convenience of mobile app technology for remote service calls, this is a likely way forward.

Give Front-Line Workers Global Expertise

AR technology gives field technicians and facilities managers real-time access to data. Whether it’s the latest service manuals, historic notes, customer feedback, or directions to a project site, AR platforms improve service levels across the board.

What’s more, knowledge and information-sharing are much easier since a remote-working culture emerged. For instance, a service manager in the U.K. can connect with specialists in the U.S. to support them with expert-level fixes. This has seen lower-skill-level engineers arrive at sites and be competent in fixing problems the first time around.

Benjamin Fielding is the Research Editor at Comparesoft. Benjamin has a meticulous background in content creation and working in some of the most complex industries, he has built a great reputation around his work.

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