Schnaithmann Maschinenbau GmbH, based in Remshalden near Stuttgart, is a system supplier for automation technology. With an export quota of 50 percent, the medium-sized company supplies customers all over the world. In order to be able to carry out acceptance and commissioning of systems as well as fault detection remotely, Schnaithmann now uses remote support software from Oculavis GmbH in Aachen. The software enables more efficient support for customers and service partners and reduces travel times and costs. "This is currently a particularly big advantage due to the Corona pandemic," says Christian Betz, Key Account Manager at Schnaithmann. "This means that, despite the limited travel options, startups worldwide can be coordinated very well from the Remshalden site."
Change of processes and communication in customer service
The individuality and exact adaptation to customer requirements makes every Schnaithmann plant unique. Despite the highest engineering skills, problems can arise after commissioning at the end customer: unplanned shutdowns, repairs or maintenance require permanent availability from customer service. The expert knowledge lies with the managers and employees involved in the project. Consequently, they are also the ones who provide field service to the customer in the event of a malfunction. In addition, the company maintains service cooperation’s with experienced partners around the world for its internationally active customers, who draw on the expertise of their German colleagues. Experience shows that it is often the small things that cause problems for which, until now, the project participants flew around the world. The tying up of personnel resources associated with time-consuming travel meant that service cases could not always be dealt with promptly. That's why Schnaithmann decided in the Fall of 2019 to fundamentally change its customer service processes and communication and began looking for a remote support solution.
Choosing the right software
The choice of providers for remote support solutions is large. To get an overview and find the right software, Schnaithmann conducted the selection process in three steps: First, application fields for remote support were determined, followed by an analysis of the need to use the software in subsequent live operations, and finally, possible solution providers were selected and evaluated.
To determine the areas of application, Schnaithmann critically examined all processes in customer service. The result of the analysis consisted of three scenarios, which the management expected to lead to significant time and cost savings as well as to a reduction in the workload of the employees within a short period of time: Preliminary acceptance of systems at the Schnaithmann plant, final acceptance at the customer's site as well as fault diagnosis and elimination were to be carried out remotely in the future. The company also hoped to improve support for its global service partners.
In the second step, a list of requirements for the software was created. The software was to be compatible with different devices. Above all, availability on iOS and Android cell phones and tablets was important so that no additional hardware investments would be necessary. From the beginning, it was clear that the software provider should also take care of hosting in the cloud. This cloud was to be operated from Germany or Europe, so that the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation would be observed. In addition, there should be a separate server instance and database so that the data is physically separated from other companies. Another criteria was the encryption of the data and video connections. The software provider had to offer a transparent and flexible licensing model with no hidden costs that could be adapted to service requirements at any time. Schnaithmann preferred to look for individual licenses for its own employees and floating licenses so that an unlimited number of customers and service partners could be included as users.
Last but not least, additional features were defined for later live operation: Video calls with several participants; annotations that are displayed on the service technician's field of vision in order to use visual elements in addition to voice instructions for guidance; image and video recordings for documenting the service case in order to store valuable knowledge and make this available to the customer in the form of a service report if required.
Decision for Oculavis Share
A weighing of the individual criteria helped Schnaithmann to select the appropriate software. At the end of the selection process in February 2020, the Remshalden-based company opted for Oculavis and its remote software platform Oculavis Share. Among the main reasons for the decision, Volker Sieber, project manager and long-time development manager at Schnaithmann, cites the user-friendly and intuitive operation of the platform: long familiarization phases and additional training for all involved was not necessary.
Due to the cloud setup on Microsoft Azure in Amsterdam with its own server instance and database, the software solution was immediately ready for use and could thus be easily integrated into the existing IT landscape. The service processes are mapped via so-called cases in the remote platform. Pre-acceptance and commissioning can be planned excellently. User management provides external users such as customers or service partners with personalized access and authorizations for HD video calls or to view product documentation. In the event of a service call, the process steps to be carried out can be created in advance and the required documents can be stored. Open points can be viewed and finally clarified via the case history. During video calls, data and video connections are encrypted. Images and video recordings document the work performed and are already assigned to the service case during the live session, which saves time-consuming rework. A case report containing all information such as metadata, screenshots or comments can be provided to the customer as a final summary.
Added value for Schnaithmann
"With the augmented reality solution, we can provide our customers with high-quality, video-supported assistance in the event of a defect without having to travel to the site first. This significantly reduces downtimes and the customer benefits from increased plant availability," says Volker Sieber, summarizing the advantages of the software. It enables the mechanical engineering company to provide expert support, carry out acceptance and commissioning of plants as well as error detection and correction remotely. Employees are relieved and analog activities with high paper consumption are replaced by digital service processes. This leads to an increase in efficiency in the support of customers and service partners, reduces travel times and costs, and also provides customers with an innovative service experience.
Further application possibilities
In the future, Schnaithmann would like to cover further use cases "remotely". For example, it is planned to use Oculavis Share in technical sales and to guide customers through the technical center in Remshalden in virtual tours. Technical details can also be clarified remotely in the event of a plant extension without having to physically visit the customer. During scheduled maintenance, spare parts can be checked and reordered in consultation with the customer.