Earlier today Ford South Africa held a session for local media at its Service Engineering Operations (SEO) and Technical Training Centre in Silverton. The purpose of the session, apart from providing a tour of the facility which is comparable to others overseas, as to showcase the latest technological innovation that Ford South Africa is rolling out locally.
This comes in the form of a global partnership with RealWear, which specialises in virtual and augmented reality headsets for use in the enterprise space. Having rolled out in territories like Australia and parts of Europe, now Ford South Africa is ready to make them available to its network of 130-plus dealers in the country.
The purpose of this technology is to make the repair process faster, particularly in situations where technicians at dealers and repair centres require additional assistance from Ford’s expertly trained employees. Normally this process would be time consuming, and in certain cases would require the expert to drive to the location of the vehicle in question in order to assist.
With these RealWear headsets, coupled with a fully digitised platform for diagnostic reference and interaction between technician and expert, Ford South Africa is aiming to significantly cut down on the amount of time that a vehicle is in for repair.
“We need to keep modernising what we do and how we do things,” says Pieter Verster, SEO 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,” he adds.
The RealWear headsets in question are the HMT-1 (pictured below) and they feature an HD camera, flashlight, array of microphones and voice-activated controls. They will allow dealership service technicians to safely demonstrate technical issues to an 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.
“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,” notes Verster.
The company also tells us that the larger dealers will be prioritised first for this rollout, with an estimated 100 being the first to receive. Ford South Africa aims to complete this first phase of the rollout by the end of Q2/early Q3 this year, with all dealers set to receive a RealWear HMT-1 headset and accompanying training.
Moving forward, Ford South Africa also says that these devices can be used int he field too, and specifically utilised in emergency situations when customers cannot get to a repair centre or dealership.
“We are also working on introducing the RealWear tool to remote regions in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East to better serve our dealers and customers in these markets,” Verster concludes.