Visual Support Solutions: factors to consider

Remote visual support and augmented reality are two emerging technologies redefining workforces, with a projected 1.9 billion active monthly users by 2022


Remote visual support and augmented reality are two emerging technologies redefining workforces, with a projected 1.9 billion active monthly users by 2022. A good number of these solutions have already found roots in the manufacturing and maintenance industries. Manufacturing facilities in particular are among the leading users with the largest revenue share of over 20.0%  in 2020 alone. 

As digital innovation emerges, manufacturers will need to keep up in order to have a deeper understanding of their performance across the board. Manufacturing facilities won’t only need to implement remote video and visual support to reduce downtime, but empower employees in their daily roles. 

A key benefit of remote visual support is that it enables support teams to provide quick problem identification and customized personal assistance through augmented reality (AR). 

With AR solutions such as remote video support, you can make your factory, plant, or industrial space more user-friendly and straightforward for employees. Remote video support helps improve the performance across facilities to better the lives of field workers and improve productivity.

What is remote visual support?

Remote visual support is a tool that allows employees and experts to collaborate in real-time to troubleshoot and solve problems. These video calls can be enhanced with AR to provide an even more hands-on experience for users.

Through this tool, experts can engage with employees and analyze the situation remotely. Adding AR to this experience allows them to interact with digital assets and overlays to help simplify the process. 

AR overlays display visual content and interactive graphics mapped to real-world environments through the use of smart technologies. An example of an AR overlay within a manufacturing environment might be an interactive model of a piece of machinery. AR overlays coupled with visual support allow experts to guide a worker through a piece of equipment or troubleshoot a malfunction by pointing to and sharing assets tied to real-world objects and spaces.

Thanks to features like live video support, experts can help train and collaborate with workers at each point of need in real-time. It can allow facilities to understand common issues among team members, uncover their root cause, and take appropriate action in a matter of minutes. 

Choosing a visual support solution: What to keep in mind

Since remote visual support is an emerging technology with great promise, several solutions are cropping up in the market. Consider how a solution will best match the needs of your facility. To do so, you will need to define the most prominent issues your team handles and ask what features they would consider being the most important. 

We’ve gathered 5 simple factors to keep in mind before selecting a remote visual support solution for your manufacturing facilities:

1: Speed of implementation of the solution

If you want to equip yourself quickly with the visual support solution, take into account the provider's capacity to deploy. Consider the availability of interface configuration levels and project resources. Ensure that, with whatever solution you consider, your team can access an expert within a matter of minutes. 

 2: Commitment to security

Remote collaboration between experts, workers, and possibly customers needing support means that your teams may be processing sensitive company information and customers' personal data (documents, equipment, photos, videos, etc.). Choose a visual assistance solution that encrypts all video sessions and data exchanged to safeguard against unauthorized access or data leakage. 

3: Available features

When selecting a visual assistance solution, consider your specific use case and the features which you cannot go without. There is a great variety in this field and not all tools have the same capabilities. Ask your workers: what features would be most important to them?

Here are some of the key features you will likely need:

  •   Video communication: The right video support solution must have an exchange that enables different experts to share video streams from their cameras and easily display a machine or a work environment. 
  •   Drawing and interaction: A core benefit of video-call remote assistance is its ability to allow for more hands-on support. Remote support services which allow for live drawing allow one caller to take a further step into the world of the other. With this option, experts can point out specific objects and areas to better guide the worker. AR enhancements expand this tool as the expert’s drawings and dropped objects can be stuck to real-world objects.
  •   Communication between mobile terminals: Experts sometimes use mobile devices instead of desktop computers in the office. If workers may need to collaborate using these types of devices or are often working off-site, it's essential to have a solution that supports communication between two or more mobile terminals.
  •   File and screen sharing: Consider a solution that allows participants to share files and documents in real-time.  
  •   Chat: Whether it be because they cannot hear their colleague on the other line or they are simply in a situation where they must mute their device, workers may not always be able to talk or listen while on a call. Having chat capabilities included in your video calling service helps remedy this issue and increases the flexibility of use.

4: Compatibility with other connected devices

Make sure the solution you plan to adopt is compatible with the most connected devices available on the market. Remote video support is often dependent on equipment such as tablets, smartphones, wearable devices, and more. Take care to select a tool that will be accessible to your workers with the equipment they already have or prepare to provide it for them if necessary. 

5: Onboarding and trials 

Your facility likely has its own needs and unique characteristics, make sure that you choose a product that enhances what your talent has to offer. This is why before buying into a product, you should test each program out with care and make sense of the onboarding process.

Consider leveraging those who work on the floor daily as a part of your research. Taking advantage of trial periods will allow your team to properly inspect the service and recognize its limitations. The try before you buy model will allow your team to fully understand the scope of the product and how it will fit in their day-to-day workflows. 

The onboarding process is also another crucial factor to consider before you fully buy into a product to ensure your team will have the proper support. You want to work with a solution provider who will address issues as and when they crop up.

After trialing a product, ensure the onboarding process will give your team the proper information they need to use the product and derive it quickly. Inquire about customer success stories and customer progress. Without the proper data and documentation to back up their claims, proceed buying into a product with caution

Leverage a visual support system your employees can trust

While embracing visual support solutions, the above are just a few of the key factors you should keep in mind. There are plenty of AR solutions available that claim they are powerful collaborative solutions across all industries. However, not all solutions are created equal. 

Remember to conduct the proper research, utilize available trials to test out the product, and prioritize the needs of your employees. To do so, you will need to place yourself in the shoes of workers on the floor. Conduct surveys, take a few days to analyze the floor, and talk to management to get a sense of their biggest pain points.  

Whatever visual support solution you decide to invest in, ensure it has the capability to give your team the knowledge and context they need to do their best work.

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