A highly connected world of emerging technology paired with the necessity of social distancing have paved the way for modern technical support
In these unprecedented times, the necessity of social distancing coupled with advancements in communication technology has accelerated the introduction of an innovative new means of technical support: the Virtual Technician.
Traditional facilities management (FM) technicians face complex challenges at the work site every day and, unfortunately, some issues may be beyond an individual’s experience or skill level. Historically, in this situation, an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and/or a more experienced and skilled employee elsewhere within the portfolio would be called in to resolve the issue. However, with COVID-19 and its corresponding travel and quarantine restrictions, everything has changed. OEMs are no longer readily accessible or available to respond.
Modern Technical Support for a Modern Time
A technology solution to this ‘in person’ challenge had fortunately already been in the works pre-COVID-19 and was only further accelerated in response to the pandemic: the Virtual Technician. Due to great improvements in the realms of augmented reality (AR) and wearable computers, two individuals—the FM technician and the OEM—can now collaborate in a real-time, hands-free environment. Through this innovative technology, the FM technician essentially becomes the Virtual Technician and now has immediate access to information and documentation essential to maintenance tasks and troubleshooting. This means that experts from around the world can immediately assist technicians in the field via a headset and virtual review—a benefit during times of limited travel, but also a long-term solution to address the shortage of highly skilled labor. Technicians are not simply collaborating but are augmented by the technology they wear to become immediately higher-skilled, more productive and resolve issues much faster.
Through a headset, OEMs can be reached within minutes to review issues and help technicians resolve them. In a highly connected and collaborative environment, on-site technicians become “the hands” of the remote personnel, who can see and hear everything while directing procedures. This significantly increases recovery time as travel and associated costs are avoided.
In kinesthetic learning, students absorb information by carrying out an activity as opposed to watching a demonstration or listening to a lecture. Examples include learning how to ride a bike or building a piece of furniture by following instructions. Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning model demonstrates learners can remember 90 percent of what they do versus 30 percent of what they see. Virtual Technician implementations support kinesthetic learning, enabling personnel to work on new, complex tasks under the guidance of a remote instructor. Utilizing this technology also allows trainers to support multiple sites at once, reducing travel time and expense. It is also convenient for ad-hoc training on short notice.
Creating Opportunities Across the Board
The Virtual Technician can support centralization of highly skilled individuals, who can then be used as shared assets across an organization, resulting in several advantages:
- Shared Resources: Cost-sharing of highly skilled support personnel across multiple sites.
- Technical Resourcing: The labor shortage in the skilled trades has created cut-throat competition for top talent. By leveraging the Virtual Technician, a facility doesn’t need as many senior technicians on-site, which relieves talent-acquisition pressure.
- Improved Productivity: Skilled support personnel maximize their productivity by rotating from one challenging task to another across a network instead of only resolving the hardest problems in their own location.
- Career Extension: Engineers and technicians spend a lifetime honing their skills, so when they retire, they leave a great void which is often difficult to fill. Via the Virtual Technician, they can extend their careers by working from home. Without having to travel or deal with day-to-day issues at a site, they can train, troubleshoot and mentor junior technicians. This helps close gaps in labor shortages and knowledge transfer.
Staying Compliant Virtually The Virtual Technician does more than just resolve issues on site, it also helps keep an organization compliant. Periodic audits and inspections of compliance standards are important—but they’re also time consuming and expensive. Conducted via the Virtual Technician, audits and inspections uphold standards, at a fraction of the time and cost.
A Virtual Solution for Both the Short and Long-Term
The Virtual Technician provides one more example of how an organization can leverage technology to perform complex tasks faster, smarter and better—all at a fraction of the cost. Not only is the technology providing a much-needed workaround to the COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, but it’s also sure to provide a long-term solution to address the shortage of highly skilled labor while keeping ongoing costs in check.
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