As we continue to face unprecedented challenges in our lives and at work due to the impact of Covid-19, we are all looking for ways to reinvent how we get the work done. It is becoming clear that we will be increasingly reliant on the tools and technology that keep businesses connected to its customers and stakeholders. Now more than ever, communication is vital.
While we find new ways to stay connected, companies are finding ways to speed innovation and rethink business-as-usual. Over the past couple of months, many companies have pivoted to figure out how to keep essential operations moving forward, such as global workforce training, through the use of technologies like augmented reality (AR). One company doing this well is Aggreko.
With more than 200 locations of its own worldwide, Aggreko brings power, energy storage and heating and cooling to sites around the world. The company’s Head of Talent and Learning Technology, Walter Davis, is constantly looking for new ways to build expertise across the company’s workforce deploying Aggreko products – wherever and whenever their customers need them. Given the current limitations to travel, the need for delivering digital training knowledge has gone from a “nice to have” to ‘mission critical’ from an operational standpoint. He has been a champion at the company for the use of AR to train employees on its 1600 CFM diesel compressor – a massive piece of equipment that weighs 12 tons and is 20 feet long.
Aggreko built an AR training program to create a virtual, full-sized model of the compressor. “They can do a full walk-around,” Walter said, noting the experience is an “immersive training on a life-sized, full-scale model of our product.” Employees can get familiar with controls, key features, and components.
The AR experience also shows how to turn on or decommission the equipment, as well as how to conduct essential maintenance procedures like changing out fuel and oil filters. To deliver the AR experience, they are using devices their workforce already carries – like smart phones and tablets – so no additional hardware investment is needed.
This means training is now available wherever their workers are. As an added bonus, physical equipment does not have to be taken away from a job site, which is a huge cost savings for Aggreko.
Here are three takeaways Walter said he learned from this initial AR deployment that might resonate with other businesses considering using AR as a reliable and scalable way to train and share expert knowledge amongst their workforce:
AR reinvents and optimizes an essential process. To train its workers on the 1600 compressor, Aggreko used to fly them to training centers all over the globe to get face-to-face and hands-on training with the equipment. This model is costly and inefficient. AR can bring distance learning to the workforce, not the other way around.
AR helps unlock tangible ROI. To train in-person, Aggreko has to ship its massive compressors to training centers. In addition to considerable shipping costs, they cannot use that equipment out on a customer site. Walter estimates that they would be saving $500K if AR was used in place of physical products for all current technical programs.
Companies can help speed innovation across their business. Walter notes that while the plan was always to scale from the 1600 compressor experience to create training experiences for other pieces of Aggreko equipment, the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have definitely accelerated this process. As the company has currently banned all non business-critical in person training and business travel, they are quickly building processes and creating content to distribute worldwide so that employees can continue to receive the training and knowledge they need to deliver an optimal experience to their customers.
Uncertain times like these spur innovation in using new technologies and how we do our work to keep things moving forward. Just as Aggreko is transforming its workforce training, we undoubtedly will see other businesses figuring out new ways to leverage technology to help navigate these volatile times.