Using AR to Transfer Knowledge from Expert Maintenance Personnel
Industries reliant on heavy machine such as trucking/transportation, construction and mining are dependent upon operational equipment. Assets such as a truck or crane under repair can’t be utilized and impact that bottom line. Increased utilization rates can be achieved with more efficiency diagnosis and reduction in mean time to repair.
According to an ATRI study, repair and maintenance accounts for an average of 10% of the average trucking costs, or about $6.23 per hour, while on a fleet-by-fleet basis costs vary depending on age and vehicle conditions. The general shortage of diesel technicians continues to drive up maintenance costs. Fleet size plays a factor too, as fleets operating 5-25 units incur costs 37% higher on a per vehicle basis than fleets who operate more than 1,000 units.
Maintenance is not characterized by rote, step by step procedures. To the contrary, it relies upon effective and efficient problem solving by skilled or expert technicians. Those most proficient at problem solving are often those with the most direct experience. As the most experienced technicians begin to age out of the workforce, industries that rely on this wealth of knowledge begin to suffer.
Currently, the estimated shortfall for technicians could be catastrophic for the trucking industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the need to recruit 67,000 new technicians by 2022 just to meet demand and replace retirees. What’s not included in that number? An additional 75,000 new diesel engine specialists that are also needed. Overall, the trucking industry will need to recruit, train and replace over 20% of its maintenance workforce.
There is currently no solution to comprehensively transfer the knowledge of an experienced maintenance technician to those with less experience or new hires. There is also no mechanism in place to share that knowledge across the enterprise. It is not uncommon for a regional technical expert or manager to travel to different locations to onboard new hires, assist in diagnosing troublesome assets or perform training courses. The reliance on these roving experts increases the costs of maintenance.
“In the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place in industry due to the retirement of the baby boomer generation.”
Green, J. (2016, Jan 21). As Boomers retire, companies prepare Millennials for leadership roles. Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
There is typically a robust educational network that supports the acquisition of trade knowledge, skill, and abilities for trucking and heavy machinery maintenance that can assist in onboarding qualified new hires. Yet “qualified” does not mean efficient or effective, just meeting of a threshold of minimum quality expectation. Vendors or original equipment manufacturers may provide lengthy videos to refresh fleet maintenance staff on procedures or perform onsite instruction if required alongside new product.
Fleet owners invest in apprenticeship programs and on the job mentoring aligning an experienced technician with a rising professional. However, like the vendor videos the information transferred is transient and subject to rapid decay. There is no method to instutionalize this knowledge, make it accessible to the mentee after the transaction and frankly an expert technician isn’t a training expert. There is no framework that guides the communication between the expert and the apprentice, the mentor and the mentee. And lastly, any communication of knowledge is between those two parties. Nothing is documented or shared with others in the enterprise. An opportunity to capture and share is missed.
Technological solutions such as augmented reality, present a unique opportunity. Through head mounted displays a technician can access procedures, technical manuals, or diagrams. This is available today but requires investment in digitizing content. Information can be viewed hands free and serve as a direct reference. This content is typically procedural and won’t necessarily support efficient decision making. The technician still has to find the appropriate procedure. What separates the expert is the ability to diagnose potential cause and select the appropriate procedure with a high probability of success.
A solution is required to empower the experienced expert to share how to solve novel problems, not just with their mentee but across the enterprise. The process of authoring problem solving or troubleshooting procedures should be mapped as close to the expectations of those experts as possible and align with how that expert performs their work as part of a maintenance ecosystem. This means that the solution should consider how the technician consumes maintenance history, generates hypotheses of probable cause and action plans based on the symptomology.
Further, localizing this knowledge to the machinery and its parts could increase the efficiency of knowledge transfer compared to class room learning. The Microsoft Hololens, through its front facing cameras, allows content (eg. 3D models, steps, videos) to be placed in space. For example, an animation of a 3D part can be shown exactly where that part is in the vehicle and each step of a problem solving process can be placed where the step should be conducted.
A smart, heads up, augmented reality solution that empowers an expert or experienced technician to author their problem solving process and tribal knowledge and share it with the enterprise would allow transfer of knowledge to the next generation and help address the challenges associated with the aging/retiring workforce.
Design Interactive has been optimizing human performance at ludicrous speed since 1998. We develop innovative, engaging augmented and virtual reality training solutions and create biosignatures of human emotion, cognition and physical state that empower consumers. To learn more about how we can leverage technology to improve your business processes, contact us here.