AREA members have a great deal of experience with implementing enterprise AR projects. We sat down with Niklas Rengfors, VP of Sales at XMReality, to learn how his company’s solutions and approach to AR introduction are helping to improve field service organizations with advanced remote assistance technologies.
What types of companies are using your solutions today?
We have the privilege to work with companies like Tetra Pak, Wärtsilä, Bombardier and Bosch Rexroth who have large, geographically dispersed field service organizations. Service professionals are called upon to perform routine service but sometimes they encounter situations that they don’t expect. Our systems can also be used to help those in two factories or two service centers visualize conditions and support one another using a live video enhanced with Augmented Reality.
What are the reasons these customers have chosen to work with XMReality as a supplier?
One important factor is that we focus on industrial users, mainly asset-heavy companies with a worldwide support commitment and provide all the hardware, software and services they need to deploy for remote assistance. Since our standard solution is truly “plug and play,” they can quickly begin to get experience and results. Then we collaborate with our customers in order to provide additional Augmented Reality functionality.
How has the employee performance in the workplace where you’ve introduced Augmented Reality been impacted?
We always work with a customer to put a business case together before we know the size of the deployment and the investment required. Working with service organizations, they monitor a lot of metrics. For example, they know precisely how much time they spend travelling, how much of the service they provide is under warranty, etc.
The most popular KPIs are
- First time fix ratio
- Travel costs
- Manhours to complete a task
- Uptime on the asset/machine
What is your company’s recommended approach to AR introduction? Are there steps or a model/method you follow?
It is very important to have a plan and to follow the plan when new technology is being introduced. We have developed our own methodology. XMWork is a project planning framework we provide for both proof of concepts and also roll-outs, on which we collaborate with the customer.
Do you get involved in the design of the content that will be used in the introduction project/pilots?
Yes, that’s part of our full turnkey service. It is important to align the customer expectation with the technical possibilities and sometimes the customer does not have the skills or tools in-house to make the changes that are required.
How is data prepared for your customer projects?
Once the customer identifies the data they want to use, in meetings and sometimes in workshops, they provide it to us. Our engineers will then modify and enhance it for use in remote assistance using our technology. Sometimes this involves breaking the information down into smaller parts. Sometimes we need to prepare an animation or illustration. It depends on the project and the data we are provided.
What is the profile of a typical user who performs the selected tasks using your product? Are they highly trained professionals?
The users of our systems are technicians and field engineers, so-called “blue collar workers.” There’s little training required for our solution so users don’t need special certification for that.
Do you study project risks with the customer or project leader?
Yes, it is important that customers share and decide the risk level that is acceptable. We see in some cases where smart glasses are worn and might require extra precautions. For example, the person using the glasses needs to detect potential danger such as forklifts in the vicinity. Also some technicians need to climb into machines so they must see where they put their feet. These are questions that typically emerge which we are evaluating project risks.
Do your customers perform user studies prior to and following the use of the XMReality system?
Absolutely! Customers prepare a business case to get funding prior to the project but then they must update these calculations once they have more experience with the technology and use cases. It is very important for us and the customer to study acceptance rates and we frequently help the customer in this study or in creating the business case.
What are the attitudes of those in the workplace where AR projects are successfully introduced?
It depends a lot on the personality and age of the user. Younger people tend to adopt new technology more quickly. Others are a bit more conservative when asked to use new technology. When the user sees the efficiency increase, though, even the more skeptical ones are eager to adopt this type of technology.
Considering the three ingredients of enterprise AR (hardware, software and content), what are the components of the system(s) you offer?
Core in our offering is the software. Customers are able to use their own devices but we also offer our own hardware, hands-free displays that we call “video goggles” and also tablets. For some, hands-free operations is of big importance, for some not. We can also provide accessories such as tool belts in order to improve accessibility of all the tools and technologies technicians require.
What are the greatest challenges you face in current introduction projects?
At this time, it’s quite a challenge to find and secure the right project sponsors. Then we have to support them to obtain project funding and a qualified project manager. We collaborate and consult a great deal to make sure everyone is comfortable with the project scope and that the solutions we offer will meet or exceed the expectation of the project.
What are the future plans/next steps for your company?
We are continually developing our Remote Guidance solution and also expanding the type of Augmented Reality projects we can do. Part of this requires our establishing partnerships with manufacturers of smart glasses so that the customer’s requirements are satisfied. We are always interested in meeting new potential partners and working with them to bring more complete solutions to our customers.