Companies struggling with an inexperienced workforce are finding with remote services that help is on the way, at least virtually.
That’s according to PMMI Business Intelligence’s 2024 Trend in Remote Services and Monitoring report. Over 87% of end-users find remote support very effective in helping address skills gaps, along with about 97% of OEMs.
For many end-users, skills gaps have meant they have had to rely more heavily on support from OEMs for simple mechanical and technical problems that would have previously been handled in-house.
Neither end-users nor equipment suppliers want to waste time and money on OEMs sending technicians to plants for minor issues. This is a significant driving force behind the rising use of remote support.
In fact, in a survey conducted for this report, about 80% of end-users state that limiting the impact of skills gaps in the workforce is either somewhat or very important when considering remote service investments. Additionally, over three quarters (77.8%) say decreasing reliance on on-site technicians is another important attribute.
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Remote training addresses skills shortages
Remote training is another service that could help address skills shortages. From the Business Intelligence survey, about 89% of end-users think that remote training is either somewhat or very effective at mitigating skills gaps in their operations.
Instructor-led online sessions are seen by end-users as the most cost-effective form of remote training. However, some end-users think having instructors in person alongside machinery remains the most effective form of training.
“It’s such a benefit to see it done in front of you and be able to put your hands on; it gives you a better, deeper level of understanding,” says one mid-sized end-user representative.
Could augmented reality provide a happy medium?
An emerging technology with the potential to bridge the gap between remote and in-person training is augmented reality (AR). AR is an interactive experience whereby users wear a headset or goggles to enhance their real-world surroundings.
End-user technicians and operators can be given on-screen special markers, step-by-step instructions, and real-time videos while being trained on machinery. Just under three-quarters (70%) of end-users see this technology as either somewhat or very efficient for remote training.
Reasons given for end-users’ reluctance to embrace AR technology for all training included older members of staff (often the leaders of maintenance teams) being less enthusiastic about its use.
As one respondent explains, “It definitely takes the right technician on our end with it. We have some older maintenance techs that are just kind of not into that.”
A Hybrid Approach to Remote Services
A hybrid approach is likely to be the most popular option soon. This will involve a combination of initial in-person training, where technicians and operators can get involved with the machinery and ask questions directly to the equipment supplier’s team. Subsequent instructor-led or self-paced online sessions will consolidate learning.
Although not widely used at present, augmented reality is expected to become much more prevalent in the future as younger staff members, in particular, start to implement it.
SOURCE: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2024 Trends in Remote Services and Monitoring
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