‘Augmented Reality’ Could Ease Maintenance Skills Shortage

 - June 15, 2017, 8:19 AM

A leading global supplier of enterprise software is suggesting that “augmented reality” can help air forces overcome the shortage of skilled maintenance personnel, especially on deployed operations. IFS says that by adapting today’s virtual reality information technology, expertise can be delivered from anywhere in the world.

“Defense organizations are having to fight over the limited pool of skilled engineers with the more lucrative commercial sector and, as more complex equipment such as the F-35 starts to enter military supply chains, finding a balance between having readily available equipment and a secure supply chain is becoming a harder task,” said Kevin Deal, vice president aviation and defense, IFS.

Deal noted that fully immersive simulation is becoming a key training tool for new engineers. He suggested that it can be adapted for instance, to allow more qualified technicians who remain at home base to provide expertise to maintainers in the field by using remote guidance via a wearable or mobile device. “Current mobile solutions support collaboration and drive better data capture and compliance, but even these devices cannot solve the ‘right skills in the right place’ issue,” Deal said. He continued: “maintenance personnel could of course contact senior technicians via cellphone, but there is no way of seeing or demonstrating how a task should be executed. These are often airworthiness decisions. Integrating the latest technology with a configuration-controlled solution adds the necessary rigor to remote maintenance tasks.”

“Using smart glasses, mobile devices or tablets, engineers can see a real-time and interactive demonstration of the repair job right in front of their eyes. These skills can be leveraged anywhere, any time with the capability of modern mobile technology, helping improve first-time fix rates and decrease the chance of error,” Deal added.

The alternative was to deploy key expertise to the field, an expensive proposition, or fly a qualified engineer out to fix equipment on an as-required basis, he noted. These were not the best options, he maintained, especially when the demand for maintenance is rapidly outpacing supply. “The military cannot compete with the booming commercial aviation industry, especially in the fast-growing Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, where airline operators and MROs can headhunt military personnel with attractive salary offers, work hours and safer environments,” Deal noted.