By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
The use of augmented reality (AR) in field service has shifted from hypothetical to reality with companies experiencing benefits such as remote resolution and stronger training and support of field workers. Fresenius Kabi is a global health care company that specializes in lifesaving medicines and technologies for infusion, transfusion, and clinical nutrition.
Ryan Snellings, VP of operations at Fresenius Kabi, is currently leading Fresenius Kabi’s service organization on its journey from cost center to profit center, and the use of AR is one part of that journey. As the company sought ways to reduce costs as part of its mission to become a profit center, AR presented a clear value proposition.
Fresenius Kabi recognized the fact that an AR solution would have a major impact on the company operationally. “AR enables us to provide better technical support both internally and externally,” says Snellings. “The more support we can do remotely, without having truck rolls, the lower our costs. It also drastically reduced in-house training time. We’re able to send new technicians out in the field with more confidence given we can easily have a senior technician or support specialist support them remotely through AR. That reduces training time, and gives the new employee confidence in doing their job correctly.”
Beyond the operational benefits, the use of AR will have a positive impact on Fresenius Kabi’s customer base. “Remote support means quicker turnaround on customer issues,” explains Snellings. “We can provide real-time, instant support and this gives us the ability to create a range of premium services to generate more revenue.”
Selecting An AR Solution
With a clear understanding of the value AR could bring to the organization, Fresenius Kabi began its search for the right solution. “It took us quite some time to figure out what we wanted to do,” says Snellings. “Some of that was fear of the unknown; some of it was simply not being proficient in the world of AR.” Fresenius Kabi didn’t allow that fear or lack of expertise prevent forward progress on the project.
The field management team and field service engineers worked together to evaluate the various solutions on the market. “Cost is of course a big factor, but we wanted to find a solution we’d be able to build on over time as technologies continue to advance,” says Snellings. “We also wanted to work with a company that felt like a partner in our mission, who wanted to get a feel for our business instead of just selling us something.”
After several trials, the company chose Help Lightning. Help Lightning provides an app for any iOS or Android device that allows users to start helping and sharing ideas instantly. Once a Help Lightning session is started using the app, the live video streams and telestration are combined to change the way a person can give or receive help.
As is common with the introduction of a new technology, Fresenius Kabi dealt with some hurdles. “As with anything new, you have two schools of thought —wow, this is exciting and wow, this will never work,” says Snellings. “It was imperative for us to make sure the technology was working well before we pushed it out to the remainder of the business or used it with customers.” Several members of the field team ran extensive testing on the system to be sure it was working as desired before widespread rollout began.
AR Brings Internal And External Benefits
Fresenius Kabi is using the Help Lightning solution in several ways. “One way we’re using the solution is for our hotline team. The hotline team handles troubleshooting over the phone. This is a very experienced group of individuals that man a 24/7 support line,” explains Snellings. “With AR, we can log customers in to Help Lightning to get a real-time look at what they’re seeing — it’s almost like we’re physically there. This cuts down on phone time, and gives the customer the confidence of knowing we fully understand what they’re going through.” While use of the solution is still in the early stages, customers have already shown excitement about and appreciation for this new approach to service. “Customers have something tangible that they know we are doing in order to better serve them,” says Snellings. “Their excitement will translate into opportunities for us to identify new service revenue streams.”
Help Lightning is also used by the field team to provide training and support. “New or less experienced field techs run into issues they can’t solve. With Help Lightning, they have the ability to connect with anyone else out in the field, or a support member or product manager in the office, to solve whatever issue they’re having in real-time,” says Snellings. “Sometimes it’s as simple as identifying a spare part, which is much easier when you can show someone the actual part that needs to be replaced.” Use of the solution has resulted in quicker fixes and less in-house training time.
Snellings says he sees the use of AR expanding over time at Fresenius Kabi. “Help Lightning is just the beginning for us, and it has acted as a stepping stone to build confidence within our company that we can make these new technologies work,” he says. “The possibilities are endless, and we are learning as we go. We want to be able to use AR to real-time fix any issue, and if we can get really good at it even solve issues before they occur. That is what will really change the customer experience — moving beyond the break-fix model.”