Maintaining fleets for armed forces is an expensive task. In the USA, maintenance costs continue to increase as vehicles become more complex and are used well beyond their intended service life. The maintenance organisations are resource constrained, particularly for skilled personnel, which often results in understaffed and overworked maintenance crews. It can take years to adequately train new recruits while experienced personnel and trainers are stretched thin on good days. The most-skilled maintainers are in high demand but are often not available, nor are they always located when and where the need is most acute, especially in more distant locations like Japan or Guam. And even skilled technicians can lack confidence in performing complex, infrequently required tasks.
Improving organisational proficiency of maintenance teams is paramount. If training, job instructions, and maintenance assistance can be improved with augmented reality (AR), there is a strong case for deploying the technology. It is on this basis that Taqtile worked with the US Air Force to demonstrate the impact of Manifest, an industrial AR solution for skills capture and guided work instructions.
With the support of Lt Col Jerrymar “Jerry’” Copeland Jr., commander of the 730 Air Mobility Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Taqtile worked with enlisted aircraft maintenance craftsmen and supervisors to conduct a study to measure the impact of the Manifest AR platform on training new recruits and aiding experienced technicians.
Technicians with five months to 12 years’ experience, and ranging in skill levels from inexperienced, level one (crew chief), to highly trained, level seven (propulsion craftsman), were asked to perform 56 maintenance tasks. Half of the tasks were completed using traditional maintenance instructions which were displayed in PDF documents on laptops, and half of the tasks were completed using Manifest AR content which included video, audio and text overlaid in context, stored in Microsoft Azure and displayed on heads-up displays.
Technicians at all levels completed 100 per cent of their 28 tasks with no errors while using the Manifest platform, while technicians using traditional methods were unable to complete almost a third of tasks and had an error rate of 60 per cent. Excluding the highly trained level seven technicians, 92 per cent of the tasks completed using traditional methods contained errors.
Three additional studies conducted with other military organisations have demonstrated similar results, showing that Taqtile’s Manifest can be an important tool in increasing operational proficiency within maintenance teams. From inexperienced apprentices to remote journeymen and skilled craftsman, Manifest is helping to make everyone an expert.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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