This blog expands upon one of the ten Decision Imperatives that are part of our recently published IDC Futurescape: Worldwide Manufacturing Product and Service Innovation 2016 Predictions report.
As part of our annual effort to highlight what we see as some of the pivotal decisions that IT leaders at manufacturing companies will need to make in the coming three to five years, my colleague Jeffrey Hojlo and I recently released our annual report, IDC Futurescape: Worldwide Manufacturing Product and Service Innovation 2016 Predictions. I want to highlight one of the Decision Imperatives included in the report for our IDC Community audience, which can also be found in our recent webcast, IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Product and Service Innovation 2016 Predictions:
Prediction 7: By 2017, 30% of Top 100 Global Manufacturers Will Arm Field Service Workforces with Augmented Reality Capabilities to Bridge the Gap Between Traditional Products and Connected Services
The manufacturing industry has its attention focused ahead to a day in the not-too-distant future when 30 billion or more "things" are connected, driving an unprecedented transformation in how manufacturers price and deliver products and services to customers. But, we're not there yet, and today, many manufacturers must find ways to offer enhanced after-sales services for products that aren't yet "connected." Customer expectations are high, and to meet them, leading manufacturers will invest in augmented reality capabilities that provide some of the benefits of connected services without having to deploy a fully realized IoT platform that can support an array of connected products and services.
In light of this, manufacturers are increasingly arming their field service workforce with mobile devices and video capabilities to deliver enhanced support. In addition to mobile, we are increasingly seeing the use of augmented reality applications in field service. AR provides an enriched means of communication between the field service technician and service engineers back at the call center or headquarters for guided repair when needed. AR also supports remote sessions between service engineers and the customer, which may run through some initial troubleshooting procedures to facilitate a repair or service event. In the next several years, the rise of AR for field service will continue as manufacturers offer more connected services for connected and non-connected products.
Among the IT impacts we see as a result of the interest in adopting technologies such as AR to support field service is the need to serve up a reliable, secure next-generation connectivity infrastructure that supports AR and includes mobile devices, video capabilities, and real-time collaboration applications. Service technicians need customer and product information at their fingertips while on a service call at the customer site. This includes access to as-maintained and as-serviced data, and it should be available to them both in the field as well as for service professionals supporting a service event from the office. These technologies also bring with them some new possibilities, including the potential for customers to act as "eyes" for the product with their own mobile devices. However, this brings with it new security requirements and data privacy considerations that IT will need to manage in the broader context of this capability.
Our guidance to manufacturers includes considering how to capture the video service call or similar content as a searchable asset in the service library to create knowledge transfer opportunities. Service managers should also evaluate how AR services impact standard maintenance or service agreements and make the necessary adjustments to reflect the new capabilities, including the possibility that these new capabilities can be monetized. And, from a workforce management perspective, manufacturers should understand the implications that AR and similar advanced field technologies will have on the existing workforce. In many cases, companies will need to begin exploring how to source talent that supports this shift toward a technology-rich field service experience.
The area of field service technology is receiving considerable attention from manufacturers across several manufacturing value chains, including aerospace and defense, industrial, farm, and construction machinery, and high tech. With increasing pressure to deliver exceptional customer experiences while maximizing efficiency, service organizations are looking for new technologies that can empower the field technician. Please share your experiences with Augmented Reality for aftermarket service with our community.