Augmented Reality (AR) is increasingly being used in customer service applications. Our Japanese colleagues at Yamagata Corporation recently helped to develop an AR application for Hitachi Rail. Together, they developed a bolt-tightening work management system for rolling stock to assist engineers during their work by measuring whether all bolts have been tightened according to the required guidelines. At the same time, the work is automatically recorded for safety reasons and training purposes.

Augmented reality (AR) uses existing reality and physical objects to trigger computer-generated enhancements over these objects in real time. AR puts computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real world. These images typically take shape as 3D models, videos and information.

Digital bolt-tightening work management system

Hitachi Rail now uses AR in a bolt-tightening work management system for trains. The system displays a meter on a head-mounted smart terminal and allows work records to be managed using digital processing. The meter can be used to confirm the position of the bolts to be tightened and to check whether a bolt has been tightened with the specified tightening force. At the same time, the system confirms whether the correct bolt type and torque have been used.

For engineers and maintenance workers this is important information. During the manufacture of rolling stock, bolts holding equipment in place must be securely tightened to ensure that they do not come loose when the rolling stock is in use, and records of the results must be kept.

More productive thanks to AR

Until recently, Hitachi had already been using a digital torque wrench system to automatically determine the bolt tightening force in combination with tablet PCs to record the results. This system worked, but it required multiple handlings to double-check and record the data, which slowed down the process.   

In contrast, with the AR-powered headset, the operator can work in one environment and focus on his job, while the data is automatically recorded. This is much more efficient. As an extra advantage, the automatic recordings can be used to train new employees for on-site maintenance and repair purposes.

AR content for customer service

Yamagata Corporation helped to produce the Hitachi Rail AR content to be presented on the head-mounted display. Generally, AR applications use 3D models and computer graphics, but this system presents simple tabular data, consisting of the bolt position coordinates and the required tightening force.

AR applications are expected to become increasingly important in manufacturing and customer service applications. On assembly lines, AR can support operators to follow a precise sequence of actions, by giving them real-time instructions in their field of view. This allows them to focus on the task without having to check another workstation or guide for instructions.

In addition, AR can be used in remote assistance applications, which enable customer service specialists to visually guide and collaborate with customers and field technicians. AR content and streaming videos generated by the customer service center can be presented on the AR headset of the operator who performs the service on site. This way, customer service specialists can remotely solve physical issues.

How about your AR plans?

Are you thinking about digitizing your customer service? Do you consider including AR content in your services? Maybe we can help and guide you through the process. Or are you already developing an AR application? Let’s talk about your AR plans!