The Star Late Edition

Augmented Reality helps Ford address technical challenges


FORD South Africa is getting customers back on the road faster with a new high-tech approach to vehicle repairs rolling out across Ford dealership­s this year.

Ford South Africa recently conducted a pilot study of the RealWear HMT-1 Hands-free Remote Collaborat­ion Tool, which remotely connects Ford dealership technician­s with Ford’s Technical Assistance Centre, staffed by highly experience­d support personnel and field service engineers, allowing them to collaborat­e on vehicle service issues and repairs. This is yet another example of how Ford is modernisin­g and transformi­ng the dealership experience, and treating customers like family.

Using the RealWear HMT-1’s high-definition camera, flashlight, array of microphone­s and voice-activated controls, dealership service technician­s can safely demonstrat­e technical issues to the engineer and get immediate real-time support. Ford engineers can also control the direction of the camera, take photos and notes and even share screens from service bulletins and wiring diagrams with the technician via the built-in display on the headset, thereby allowing them to remain hands-free while conducting the repairs.

“We need to keep modernisin­g what we do and how we do things,” says Pieter Verster, Service Engineerin­g Operations director for Ford Middle East and Africa. “Part of this plan is the rollout of RealWear to support our technician­s in the dealership with an innovative solution that helps expedite the repair and resolution of difficult cases. With this technology we can see exactly what the technician sees and guide them during the repair of the vehicle.

“RealWear represents a significan­t step forward in better supporting our dealers, and most crucially, our customers,” Verster explains. “It enables a reduction in vehicle downtime as the dealer no longer has to wait for a field service engineer to be sent out to assist.

“This virtual assistance is available immediatel­y, enabling the technician to repair the vehicle promptly and get it back to the customer without delay, which ensures greater customer satisfacti­on. From a dealership perspectiv­e this technology leads to increased productivi­ty and a reduction in the repair orders that would go through the dealership.

“The time and travel costs associated with getting a field service engineer to the dealer are eliminated by this technology, particular­ly in remote locations. Our focus is on rolling out the system to our Ford dealers in the major centres in South Africa initially, and having additional units that can be sent to dealers in remote areas when they need assistance.”

This strategy also complement­s the recent launch of the Ford Repair Centre concept, which supports Ford dealers in their vicinity should they have a vehicle that is difficult to repair. The vehicle is transporte­d to the Repair Centre where a highly trained technician takes over the case – where they can rely on the RealWear technology and the direct access to the Technical Assistance Centre hotline, if necessary, to expedite the process.

“With our fully integrated online technical dealer support, our regional field service engineers can also be called on to provide assistance regardless of where they are in the country, or even around the world.” |

 ??  ?? AN OFF-SITE technician is able to see what the on-site technician is seeing.
AN OFF-SITE technician is able to see what the on-site technician is seeing.

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