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Seeing beyond my hands: Onboarding and training with AR

Sept. 15, 2023
Augmented reality, or AR, has grown more prevalent in recent years, and could assist fleets in onboarding and training their technicians.

In her August 9, 2023, article “A Brief History of Augmented Reality (+ Future Trends & Impact),” Bridget Poetker said, “Over the last 50 years, augmented reality technology has reshaped the way we consume content in the real world.” In a world of consumers, augmented reality (AR) has allowed us to create and view content anywhere, particularly in the maintenance shop.

AR lets users enhance their environment by overlaying digital information based on what a camera sees. In the shop, this can range from a technician using a tablet to see digital wiring diagrams on a physical vehicle, as is the case for Peterbilt’s ARTech, or using a wearable computer that displays pertinent diagrams and instructions within the tech’s field of view as they work, as with RealWear’s Navigator 500 headset. But if expanded even further, AR’s ability to display content before a user’s eyes could help solve pressing issues in the commercial vehicle industry, such as technician training and turnover.

Read more: Augmented reality gives assist to vehicle maintenance shops

In 2022, WrenchWay found that 79% of technicians of considered leaving the industry, and 66% have said that the onboarding process impacts their decision to work at a shop. This makes me wonder what percentage of new hires were dissatisfied with the process, but stayed anyway.

Thinking about some of my poor onboarding experiences, I can’t help but wonder if augment reality (AR) could help change these statistics. What if a fleet could provide a new hire with an AR headset that displayed additional information as they toured their new facility? Digital displays could show if the person is close to the break room or bathrooms, or potentially show the names and titles of their coworkers as they meet them.

I believe that such virtual encounters would greatly relieve the anxiety for many new employees. What if this new hire was a high-level manager? Imagine the smiles and positive impressions from their co-workers when they are greeted by their names before ever meeting the executive in person? First impressions are everlasting.

Not only can AR improve the general onboarding process, but safety training, too.

According to WrenchWay, 76% of technicians have experienced at least one injury while working in the shop, and a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries 2014 report found that the trucking industry has some of the highest costs and rates of injury out of all industries combined. But using AR training on equipment in conditions the new hire will be exposed to would greatly enhance the learning experience while providing the necessary documentation for a shop. Pairing a new employee and a mentor with AR headsets would also allow the mentor to watch the mentee(s) while they perform a required task and document their completion of the procedure, assisting in the advancement of the employee or demonstrating the need for additional training. These applications aren’t new ones – Penske Truck Leasing’s use of Design Interactive’s XRMentor platform reportedly cut the company’s training time in half and led to greater engagement from their entry-level technicians.

When paired with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed-reality, XRMentor’s software allows a trainer to livestream in-person demonstrations with virtual diagrams and notes to several employees at the same time, which would make continuous safety training for all employees more efficient. With the coming rise of zero-emission vehicles, which will require greater safety training on the different makes and models from various manufacturers, this kind of efficiency will be critical for shops.

With so many applications for AR, it’s no wonder that Poetker noted that AR has changed how we consume content. But these changes bring endless opportunity to the maintenance industry.

Ed Chipalowsky is vehicle service and support manager for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). In this role he will be reaching out to OEMs, fleets, vendors, and municipalities to learn about their challenges in not only developing curriculum for EV technicians but also how to recruit and develop future EV techs.

About the Author

Ed Chipalowsky | vehicle service and support manager, North American Council for Freight Efficiency

Ed Chipalowsky is vehicle service and support manager for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). In this role he will be reaching out to OEMs, fleets, vendors, and municipalities to learn about their challenges in not only developing curriculum for EV technicians but also how to recruit and develop future EV techs. Chipalowsky has an extensive background in trucking and education. He has more than 40 years’ experience as a technician manager and trainer including serving as a diesel technology instructor in both college and career and technical education high schools. 

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