Augmented Reality the Future of Field Service

Phillips Machine Tools India is now utilizing the potential of augmented reality technology to improve training to its worldwide team of field service engineers, including initial training of new engineers and supporting seasoned engineers, while also directly supporting customers working on their own equipment.

The current challenge of training and supporting field service engineers is a perfect storm of increasing equipment complexities and a younger, less experienced workforce. Phillips Corporation was founded by Albert Phillips in 1961 and was one of the original distributors for Haas Automation. Phillips now has more than 400 employees covering the territory from southern New Jersey south to the Florida border and west to Oklahoma, as well as the entire country of India. Phillips employs more than 100 field service engineers servicing equipment on site at customers’ locations across these locations. More recently, Phillips has established two training facilities for field service engineers, one in Knoxville, Tenn., and another in Pune, India.

Phillips has plans to meet the challenge of providing an ever-increasing competency development platform for all of their field service engineers. The challenge: Provide the most effective service in the least amount of time Phillips’ training and support centers are hubs of knowledge faced with a constant challenge of seeing what is happening in the field today, with a variety of machines and customers, and then properly advising engineers and customers in real time as to how a machine can be serviced.

Phillips understood that augmented reality technology had the potential to reduce machine downtime by reducing the need for onsite service visits and making the necessary visits more effective. AR can allow Phillips to directly see a machine in need of service and allow Phillips’ technicians to instantly provide live guidance (through text and visual aids), resolving issues in far less time, even with less experienced engineers or customers.

Augmented reality as a key part of the solution Having studied all the AR options available in the market, it was clear to Phillips that no existing AR/VR program had all the functionality Phillips required until we were introduced to SimInsights, an award-winning software and services company based in Lake Forest, Calif. SimInsights develops education and business software by leveraging unique skills in software, math, simulation, visualization, and design. SimInsights transforms training, sales, service, production, and design by leveraging virtual and augmented reality, simulation, sensing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning across the totality of employee, customer, and product life cycles. One of the innovative functionalities in Phillips Vision by SimInsights is the ability to define scripted procedures with text and images that can be downloaded into devices and wearables, such as smart glasses, and used offline when there is no phone signal or WiFi connectivity.

The concept was introduced and field tested at the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2018, where the idea was proven effective by utilizing a Haas simulator with students downloading a program, editing that program, setting the work coordinates and tool length offsets and verifying the program in graphics mode. With operations at opposite ends of the earth, Phillips Corporation is excited to continue to explore the possibilities of what augmented and virtual reality technology has to offer in educating field service technicians, providing real-time, on-site service applications that create a positive ROI.

Phillips Corporation will display this new technology at IMTEX in Bangalore, India, in January 2019.

David Harris is the Vice President, Service of Phillips Corporation and Billy Hackett is the Vice President, Business Development at SimInsights INC.

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