_Remote after-sales service for Solaris buses thanks to Augmented Reality (AR)
- Optimizing access to experts
- Efficient maintenance
- Reduction of downtime
- Fast diagnostics and remote support
- Reduced business travel costs
- Minimizing bus downtime
About the company
Solaris Bus & Coach is one of the European leaders in the production of urban buses and trolleybuses. Based on 25 years of experience and more than 20,000 vehicles produced, Solaris improves the quality of public transportation across Europe every day. With an eye on the future, the company is setting new standards by dynamically developing its products, especially in the area of electromobility. In September 2018, Solaris Bus & Coach sp. z o.o. joined the Spanish CAF Group. The transaction has given the CAF Group and Solaris a leading position in the segment of innovative zero-emission solutions for public transport in Europe and strengthened the position of both brands in non-European markets.
Public transportation is developing extremely rapidly. Clean air, the absence of tiresome noise, and universal accessibility are the goals of city bus manufacturers. Quick access to schedules, and real-time transportation information – this is what modern cities that are friendly to people and the environment will look like. Cities with zero-emission buses powered by green energy.
E-mobility is the answer to the challenges posed by increasing urbanization. Clean, quiet, and safe public transportation contributes significantly to a healthier and more livable city. This also translates into fewer harmful emissions and, consequently, fewer risks for future generations and the environment. Transportation is therefore not a goal in itself, but a means for people to access what they need: jobs, markets and goods, social interaction, education, and a full range of other services that contribute to a healthy and fulfilled life.
Such are the values of Solaris Bus & Coach, continental Europe’s largest manufacturer of zero-emission buses, which in 2021 delivered 346 electric buses, 119 trolley buses, and 54 hydrogen buses to 45 European cities. Solaris’ first electric bus premiered in 2011. Just 4 years later, in 2016, the Solaris Urbino 12 electric bus model won the title of “Bus of the Year 2017” as the first-ever battery vehicle.
Green transformation is a necessity. It brings many opportunities, but it also requires far-reaching changes. There are a number of challenges associated with the development of zero-emission transportation, such as ensuring adequate battery charging infrastructure or efficient service and after-sales support for the new generation of vehicles.
Needs and Challenges
The development of e-mobility itself involves a transformation of the existing automotive value chain. In addition, 2021-22 brought enormous economic challenges, and the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions required Solaris to develop new procedures to allow uninterrupted production and continued operations.
Solaris faced the following challenges during this difficult period:
- Insufficient availability of experts when a vehicle breaks down or needs to be serviced,
- Efficient delivery of maintenance services throughout Europe,
- The inability to reach customers immediately,
- Reaching out with expertise and support to operate the vehicle at any time.
- Minimizing vehicle downtime to a minimum,
- Addressing customer concerns about the prevailing belief that electric buses are more expensive and difficult to service.
To meet them, Solaris has partnered with TT PSC toward the implementation of an innovative system that uses AR solutions to support remote repair and maintenance, as well as vehicle delivery and pickup. It allows Solaris buses to be equipped with wearable devices that scan the bus and its components and navigate the service operator using AR labels. This new alternative way of providing remote vehicle repair and maintenance services is based on RealWear HMT-1 and Navigator 500 glasses coupled with TT PSC SkillWorx software.
Solution – Skillworx
More and more entrepreneurs are recognizing the benefits that Augmented Reality offers; supporting the training process, accessing resources and knowledge, simplifying information exchange, reducing downtime, or lowering costs.
Implementing digital transformation projects in industrial enterprises, Transition Technologies PSC offers its clients AR consulting and full technical support. In addition to services, TT PSC also has turnkey solutions built with technologies from the world’s largest manufacturers; one of them is SkillWorx. It consists of the RealWear HMT-1 or Navigator 500/520, the world’s first industrial voice-controlled wearable computer (and its subsequent generations), and the world’s only patent-pending cloud-based AR platform built for remote collaboration and end-to-end solutions for presenting work instructions and displaying service bulletins.
A passion for new technologies and a desire to embody the idea of Industry 4.0. brought the two companies together: Solaris and Transition Technologies PSC. The bus manufacturer decided to invest in SkillWorx in order to lower repair times, reduce the number of business trips, and especially importantly, minimize vehicle downtime.
SkillWorx is an award-winning solution that allows companies a reduction in business travel, faster deployment of new employees, or increased availability of experts. In the case of Solaris, the solution has helped overcome the difficulties associated with post-sales remote customer support, as well as streamlined training procedures. SkillWorx also contributes to the easier remote acceptance of purchased vehicles.
Support for vehicle maintenance in the operation process
After-sales service in the automotive industry is considered one of the challenges of manufacturing companies. Solaris’ goal was to create a comprehensive after-sales package that includes the services necessary for proper product operation. This new model allows benefiting from the years of experience of Solari’s specialists in a more accessible and less expensive way. The role of after-sales service is crucial. A well-executed service helps increase customer satisfaction and build long-term relationships based on trust.
In order to meet customers’ expectations, Solaris employs the best experts who know the product specifications very well. A 24/7 service line is also available for the company’s customers, and a special flying doctor function has even been created – in complicated cases, mobile service technicians come to help. However, in recent years the world has painfully learned that even the best strategy is not enough when a pandemic breaks out. AR technology has proven to be helpful. Thanks to its application, a completely new approach to inspection, servicing, and maintenance is possible.
Taking the example of repairing or operating a bus – in case of doubts, for example, when repairing an engine fault, Solari’s specialists, thanks to SkillWorx, are able to send images and videos “from their perspective” to the central workshop in real-time, as well as use voice communication. This makes it easy and quick to get support from a more experienced worker even thousands of kilometers away. The device’s screen can display materials, such as the specifications of the various engine parts and the next steps to be taken according to instructions or procedures.
With these capabilities, service technicians quickly receive expert support. What’s more, they can provide relevant information as they work, react in real time, and follow the instructions and materials they receive. If a malfunction is detected, the worker can document it and fix it using the materials displayed on the glasses’ screen or contact central workshop personnel.
In addition, the employee is able to receive immediate support via images sent to the device. This results in faster repair times, fewer service trips and, finally, minimizing the time vehicles are out of service. Workshop employees perform their duties with greater efficiency, and their training is accelerated thanks to technology. AR glasses are also a great solution for the training team on-site training is not possible.
An AR pilot program is currently being implemented at selected Solaris locations. The RealWear HMT-1 model is being tested, but there are plans to invest in the latest generation of devices – Navigator 500. As the project develops, it is planned to expand the program to other markets. Solaris thus continues to provide its customers with innovative technological solutions that effectively support them in their daily work.
With Augmented Reality, it is possible:
· Easier maintenance of the Solaris bus fleet,
· Rapid diagnostics and remote repair support,
· Reduced business travel costs and the associated carbon footprint,
· Minimizing vehicle downtime,
· Streamlining the management of service actions across Europe.