Updated: Mar 23
In our conversations with customers and industry partners as part of our ongoing video series called Manufacturing Strong: Connecting Our Community, we continue to hear how valuable virtual reality tools have become while organizations practice remote working and social distancing to keep our communities safe.
Manufacturers are proving the importance of virtual reality to leverage their in-house expertise from a distance, driving the new normal, and keeping employees and customers safe. Your teams can be together with customers, at a plant, on a job site, etc. without physically traveling there.
Here are some powerful ways manufacturers are using Microsoft Remote Assist and HoloLens to get the most out of virtual reality.
Tom McKee, CIO of Kennametal, told us his company’s investments in technology have been paying off – especially in light of having 6,000 employees working from home. The company is now leveraging virtual reality for training purposes with their employees, using the Microsoft HoloLens.
“It’s kind of funny, because a couple years ago I mentioned the HoloLens at an executive meeting, and people kind of snickered, like “Okay, what’s coming next the Star Trek transporter?” McKee said. “But now we have HoloLenses that our Customer Applications specialists want to use, our commercial teams.”
At their plant in Germany, employees are using a HoloLens with Microsoft Teams for operator training on new equipment, collaborating with another plant in China.
“It’s lit the fuse, and now people are asking ‘How can we get more of those?’” McKee said. “If nothing else the pandemic is showing us that this technology, augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, are here to stay.”
Remote Testing and Inspections
Aloi Materials Handling & Automation is offering virtual testing of their equipment for customers. They’ve set up cameras on and around their robotic equipment so customers can run factory acceptance tests. Much of their equipment requires these tests, which historically required Aloi customers to come in and work with the equipment before installation at their facility. Now they’re reviewing footage of these virtual tests – in some cases running the equipment on-camera for 24 hours.
“We do a lot of work with companies that are in a critical part of the supply chain, and their demands went up,” said Andrew Creathorn, Aloi’s President and CEO. “So our ability to respond to those customers was critical… The question was, how do we get the same results without the personal contact?
“It’s a complete change for us and something we probably wouldn’t have considered just two months ago,” Creathorn said.
With a mobile phone or HoloLens, field service reps are using virtual technology to assist customers.
With Microsoft Remote Assist, manufacturers are enabling field service experts to help customers through maintenance questions and needs when they can’t be there in person, said Ben Vollmer, Global Dynamics 365 Field Service Director with Microsoft.
“Field service is kind of the epitome of in-person service,” Vollmer said. “It’s accelerating trends they’ve already had in their business – things like the marketplace of vendors, remote assistance, or remote expert on call. Those are things they’ve been playing with, like those are neat toys, let’s go look at them. But all of a sudden, these have become critical tools.”
Usually Grundfos brings candidates in from around the world for an annual in-person talent assessment. Instead, they shipped headsets to candidates, used virtual reality in a virtual assessment center, and evaluated the candidates in this digital space as they normally would face to face.
“It’s more than you can get from just an online session,” said Mikkel Børlum Petersen of Grundfos. “It’s another great example of technology helping us in a situation like this.”
The Power of Virtual Reality for Manufacturers
Virtual Reality tools like Microsoft Remote Assist and HoloLens are no longer buzz words or trendy tech. They’re solving real-world challenges for manufacturers, continuing uninterrupted customer service, while keeping everyone safe. One of our customers shared their journey to modernized field service management with virtual reality during a recent virtual roundtable -- I invite you to stream the recording, where we discuss virtual reality, field service platforms, industry trends, and much more.