Ford South Africa is rolling out a new, high-tech approach to vehicle repairs at its dealerships.
The local arm of the US car maker has already conducted a pilot study of the RealWear HMT-1 Hands-free Remote Collaboration Tool, which remotely connects Ford dealership technicians with the company’s Technical Assistance Centre, staffed by experienced support personnel and field service engineers, allowing them to collaborate on vehicle service issues and repairs.
Using the RealWear HMT-1’s high-definition camera, flashlight, array of microphones and voice-activated controls, dealership service technicians can demonstrate technical issues to the engineer and receive immediate real-time support.
Ford engineers, in turn, can 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 him or her to remain hands-free while conducting the repairs.
“We need to keep modernising what we do and how we do things,” says Ford Middle East and Africa service engineering operations director Pieter Verster.
“Part of this plan is the rollout of RealWear, in order 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,” adds Verster.
“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 also leads to increased productivity,” notes Verster.
The time and travel costs associated with getting a field service engineer to the dealer are also 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,” says Verster.
“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 says the RealWear strategy complements the recent launch of the Ford Repair Centre concept, which supports Ford dealers 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 – and where the technician can also rely on the RealWear technology and the direct access to the Technical Assistance Centre hotline, if necessary, to expedite the process.