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News   June 25, 2001   by Auto Service World

Mechanics Speed Repair With Wearable Computer


Mechanics at an ambulance company in the U.S. reduced repair and maintenance time on their ambulance fleet by nearly 70% using a prototype wearable computer system and voice activated software.
The computer, from Microvision Nomad Personal Display System, and voice-activated graphic user interface software, from Tangis Corporation, acted as an electronic maintenance manual for the mechanics during the trial.
During the trial, the mechanics from American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance used the system’s augmented vision display to superimpose data from repair manuals onto their vision at the point of task. In two different repair procedures, mechanics wearing the display system gained almost 57% in time spent repairing a brake failure, and achieved nearly a 70% gain in time spent repairing an emissions system failure.
“The dramatic gains in efficiency underscore the Nomad System’s potential to increase productivity by delivering critical data to mobile workers who rely upon printed reference materials,” said Larry Zibrik, Microvision’s marketing manager for industry.
“The challenges faced by AMR’s mechanics with their paper maintenance manuals are the same issues confronting workers in power plants, aircraft maintenance operations, and a vast array of maintenance applications in use today,” noted Zibrik. “The Nomad System’s head-up, hands-free solution will allow people in almost any industry to perform their tasks with critical information literally at their fingertips.”
“The system was most effective with novice mechanics unfamiliar with all of the ambulance maintenance procedures. This is an industry-wide dilemma for companies faced with high turnover. The Nomad System coupled with the Tangis software enables the novice workers to climb the learning curve more quickly.”
With responsibility for over 150 emergency fleet vehicles all supplied by Ford Motor Company, the AMR maintenance team — based just south of Seattle — depends on Ford manuals and procedures to diagnose and repair vehicle faults.
Once the fault has been determined, the mechanic must locate the manual — kept in a central location — to determine how to troubleshoot and repair the problem. This is no small task in a busy shop like AMR’s — paper manuals are cumbersome, difficult to keep up to date and inefficient.
“In our day-to-day work, paper manuals get lost, misplaced and damaged all the time,” said Evan Miller, AMR lead mechanic.
Miller noted that the AMR mechanics adapted to the Microvision technology solution quickly and found the see-through capability to be comfortable and effective. “The guys used the system with very little training,” he said. “I was surprised how quickly they became proficient.”
The study is the latest in a series of field trials Microvision is conducting with customers and technology partners in aerospace, medical and industrial applications as the company develops market opportunities for the system which is scheduled to be released late this year.