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What You Need to Know About Remote-Assistance AR Programs

By Stephen Laslo

July 7, 2022


Lack of knowledge transfer from retiring workers, inexperienced operators, and continued production pressures remain significant challenges for independent box plants. One solution to keep equipment up, running, and productive is the new world of remote assistance augmented reality (AR) programs. Such programs enable plant managers, technicians, operators, and engineers to share and collaborate with an OEM’s technical support staff in real time, direct from their facility via a provided smart tablet and dedicated app.

When properly designed and executed, these platforms allow technical support staff to resolve machine and assist in troubleshooting—complete with annotating and drawing right on the device. This allows them to share text on the screen and take pictures or videos for optimal documentation.

Another hallmark of these solutions is the inclusion of a comprehensive library of intuitive reference manuals and training materials using 3D models of the equipment. Ideally, this will include all basic machine calibrations, wear parts replacement, operations, lubrication, and other advanced machine protocols.

A key benefit is the ability to troubleshoot machine without involving expensive emergency service visits. Plant managers, engineers, and technicians are able to rapidly share in real time from their facilities directly with OEM staffers, enabling them to minimize downtime and provide fast solutions.

From my position at the Corrugating Machinery division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, I can share a telling anecdote from late last year that shows a remote-assistance AR program in action.

A customer in Brazil was encountering what seemed to be a major equipment malfunction, in this case one of our EVOLs. Communicating over the phone and via email was challenging, between the language barrier and inexperienced maintenance techs. After days of struggling, this customer was convinced that an emergency rebuild was required. We were told to immediately ship parts and send a technician, as they couldn’t afford even more downtime.

Sending a technician quickly would be difficult. The COVID-19 Delta variant was raging, our technicians had not done any international travel for 18 months, and all of the technicians’ work visas for Brazil had expired. Travel to Brazil at that time was extremely difficult in any event, as the U.S. government was requiring all internationally traveling citizens to show proof of a negative test taken within one day of their return flight and then another test after landing. My team knew that shipping emergency parts to Brazil was difficult during normal times, and these times were far from normal.

This is where a remote-assistance AR program came to the rescue. It allowed our engineers to see what users were looking at in the field, using AR annotations to put virtual instructions on top of physical objects. The team was able to walk the customer through every relevant checkpoint on that section of the machine.

The visual representation of instructions really helped to overcome the language and experience barriers. Through several key measurements, our technicians learned that there was no major mechanical problem at all. It turned out that an uncommon machine calibration issue was the real cause of the problem. Under the team’s guidance, our customer recalibrated the machine and got it back up and running—no need for an expensive on-site emergency job.

Our investment in this sophisticated technology platform has been well worth it, benefiting customers far beyond our friends in Brazil. OEMs can play an even more vital role in partnering with their customers to ensure productive operations.


Stephen Laslo is digital technology and training supervisor, Corrugating Machinery division, at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America.