“We need equipment, but outside visitors aren’t allowed into our plant.”
This is a concern we’ve heard from several customers as manufacturing companies restrict visitor access to their plants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a particular challenge for CPG companies that are working to ramp up production of food and other vital products to meet the increased demand.
Fortunately, technology is available that allows us to support our customers virtually, by performing factory acceptance tests (FATs) and service calls from a distance. We believe that this type of support will become the new normal, even after the current crisis has subsided. Not only is it safer, but it also saves companies time and money by cutting down on travel.
Virtual factory acceptance tests
FATs are a critical part of the equipment purchasing process. This is where you get the chance to see the equipment you’re purchasing in action to make sure it meets expectations before it arrives at your plant. It’s your opportunity to kick the tires before going ahead with the final approval.
How do you make such a hands-on process virtual?
We built a mobile FAT station consisting of a tall rolling VIVO computer stand, a monitor mounted to eye height, a CPU, a backup battery, a keyboard, and a mouse. Then we mounted a high-end Logitech webcam with HD video, 10x optical zoom, and full remote capabilities on top of the stand.
The meeting takes place on GoToConnect. Our customers join via their computer or smartphone, while our on-site technicians conduct the test wearing headphones and sharing their cameras to provide multiple views and detailed close-ups. Just like in a traditional FAT, we generate a punch list to be discussed and agreed-upon.
As an added bonus (and something that couldn’t easily be done before), the entire meeting is recorded so that all parties can have a complete account of what happened.
So far, the feedback about these virtual FATs has been extremely positive. Our customers say they feel like they’re actually in our facility. Given the time and cost savings, we expect many customers will opt for this method even when factory visits can resume.
Virtual service calls
To make sure our customers’ machines keep running, we’ve also implemented virtual service calls via augmented reality.
For this, we use a Vuzix M300XL AR headset and Zoom remote conferencing software. The headset has a screen that gives the feeling of a 7” tablet floating in front of the user, as well as a full audio and video system that allows the on-site technician to go hands-free while being guided by an in-house engineer.
The engineer can share not only a video feed of themselves directly to the headset, but also a feed of any program, white board, or screen on their computer. This provides flexibility to help the on-site technician work through any situation.
Just like the FATs, we expect service calls to continue to be handled virtually into the future.
If you have any questions about these services, or would like to schedule a virtual appointment with a member of our team, get in touch.