Mentoring by Augmented Reality
By David W. Johnson
As the new general manager for the Asian territory of the Sword Elevator company, Christina Yip was very concerned about the high level of accidents, and even fatalities, in the maintenance workforce for her area. Yip felt it was her responsibility to understand the causes of the problem and thereby find a solution. She immediately set out to visit the maintenance managers and the field force to see for herself. What she learned almost immediately was that as a result of retirement, turnover, and the combination and breadth of older and newer systems, the capabilities of the current workforce were at an all-time low. Training for new workers was intense, certainly—but it mostly focused on the newer systems. However, Yip’s territory contained mostly older elevators, and many of those came from prior company mergers.
Yip hosted a series of workshops and brainstorming sessions with a cross-section of her executive team and mid-level managers, including some from IT and other groups. These exercises highlighted one obstacle after another. Her next move was to join an executive group of similar organizations in the same territory. She quickly learned that, as a group, they faced similar obstacles, and went about learning some of their solutions. Yip went to work solving many of the easier issues right away, but she was still stymied by the lack of institutional repair knowledge at Sword. The company certainly had some maintenance people who knew how to repair virtually every type and model. However, in many cases, that boiled down to one person—in a vast territory.
Yip dreamed big. Among her imaginings was the drastic empowerment and safety improvement that might be attained with the use of the Internet of Things. What if the field team could be coached remotely by Sword’s most knowledgeable maintenance people via an augmented reality system? Yip shared her idea with Patricia Lee, Sword’s VP of modernization. Lee agreed to head up a project involving a voice-controlled head-mounted wearable computer, but she needed to modify some software to adapt to Sword’s field use and back-end systems. Meanwhile, Yip presented her case to Sword’s CEO—who saw the value in this project and agreed to a swift initiation of a pilot project. Yip chose the Bangkok region to run the pilot, since that area included most of the elevator types in use, as well as the most knowledgeable maintenance force.
Lee quickly put together a “Hot Team” under a POC (Proof of Concept), with a vendor committed to deliver within a six-week period. At the end of the six weeks they found, as a group, that their pilot passed all of the fairly-strict POC requirements. The team was elated. Yip went ahead and presented their findings to the company’s board, asking for—and receiving—full funding to roll out the new hands-free remote mentoring and document control system to the entire Asian region. In one year, Yip’s initiative reduced safety issues by 30% and increased field productivity by 48%. The project also drastically improved the morale of Sword’s field workers. Now, the board is considering taking Christina Yip’s program worldwide.