Virtual Reality Replaces Travel During Coronavirus

JUNE 17, 2020

An engineer in the Netherlands using AR glasses developed by Microsoft to guide maintenance.

Intel’s semiconductor production hit a stumbling block in March. A chip plant in Arizona needed work done, but the engineer for the job was stuck in Germany because of coronavirus flight restrictions. If Intel couldn’t recalibrate existing machines and install new ones, America’s largest chip maker faced a production slowdown just when demand was surging as PCs and the cloud became critical to facilitate remote work.

Unable to fly in the German expert, Intel transported him virtually using augmented-reality goggles that had been developed mainly to show training videos. The stranded engineer, watching a video feed his counterparts at Intel relayed via their goggles, walked them through the repair, allowing the work to be completed on schedule. At Intel, this success launched remote maintenance from an experiment to part of the company’s permanent operational plans.

Across multiple industries, augmented reality, or AR, has transitioned during the pandemic from intriguing experiment to everyday tool, reports The Wall Street Journal (June 10, 2020). That makes AR more useful in a world where business travel and direct human interaction are restricted—and likely to stay that way for a while. Porsche’s usage of AR glasses in its U.S. dealerships more than tripled during the pandemic as technicians performing complicated repairs on the pricey sports cars called in virtual help from repair experts hundreds of miles away.

Globalfoundries, another major chip maker, faced a similar problem to Intel’s. When one of its multimillion-dollar machines needed work, an engineer at one of its plants donned a HoloLens headset and called up a video chat to consult an equipment expert in the Netherlands to guide him through repairs. That company is now using iPads, headsets, and AR or virtual reality tools to do jobs once done by traveling engineers.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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