As part of our Leading the Supply Chain of the Future VR Masterclass, George Ju, Digitalisation Specialist at Nestlé, took to the stage to share how they utilised XR to transform Nestlé’s way of working — enhancing productivity and setting an example for other manufacturers looking to embrace digital transformation.
We reached out to George to find out whether he had any further insights to share and ask him about his first experience delivering a talk in VR.
How did you find the experience of sharing your story in VR?
My first impression was that this is very cool.
One of the first things I had to get to grips with was using the controllers to express natural hand gestures. Still, now I would say I feel comfortable. What I found very useful is using an in-headset teleprompter to refer to my notes while I gave my talk.
Whether it be in the conference space or networking spaces, you feel that the engagement is on a different level. I think there’s a lot of potential for what VR can do for sharing success stories, delivering training, and more.
Giving presentations in VR at home while my kids aren’t at school has been interesting for sure. I’ve had to explain to them, “No, when you’re at school, I’m not playing VR games! I’m working here!”
So, what was the problem you were trying to solve by implementing XR?
Usually, experts are flown in to resolve issues with machinery. There’s only a handful, globally, that we use to fix breakdowns, so the pandemic accelerated the need for a solution. Connection through these digital means was more necessary than ever, as we needed to deal with significant travel restrictions and comply with safety protocols. What we were going through was a catalyst for more efficient troubleshooting.
Before Covid, it could have taken a year or more to get this done. Instead, we were fortunate enough to be able to put ourselves in a position to make these vast improvements in just six weeks.
How did you make the case to the management that XR was the right solution?
With Covid having a significant impact on us, I didn’t have to do a whole lot of convincing. The pandemic meant the entire world was pivoting to continue running operations as usual, so everyone immediately understood the use-cases.
What were the results from implementing XR within the first few months?
Based on initial feedback, we found there was genuine excitement and curiosity forming. There has been good engagement from all our teams since day one. Based on further user feedback, we found many scenarios in the first few months where AR made troubleshooting easier and quicker.
Nestle teams working towards accelerating the use of augmented reality at manufacturing facilities globally during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s funny, our initial use case was geared towards machine breakdowns, and those are not a common occurrence. Because of this, most of our AR users were instead using the technology to collaborate and share knowledge internally or even with different factories. For just the first few months, these were encouraging results.
We then looked at the correlation between factory performance and AR usage. We noticed a clear trend in factories with higher AR usage numbers. In the months where factories used AR more often, their productivity numbers jumped from 80% to 83%. That’s a significant increase when it comes to productivity.
What was the biggest challenge in implementing XR for remote assistance?
I can only speak for my market, but for Nestlé Waters NA, it was the network connectivity. We’re in the middle of upgrading our factories with 5G wireless, which has been ongoing since before Covid-19. As a result, some of our factories did not have the wireless capabilities to take full advantage of this new AR solution. As a temporary solution, we improvised and bought mobile hotspots to enable AR usage until their 5G was fully functional.
What metrics do you rely on to determine the success of the project?
We measured metrics like the amounts of sessions initiated and their lengths. We measure how the speed of troubleshooting has changed since introducing AR and translate that into a tangible return on investment.
We talked with our vendors and aligned with our engineering groups to ensure we could get things off the ground in those first six weeks. We had pre-existing relationships established with some vendors and groups, so this helped create a move quickly.
Biggest lesson learnt from the experience?
The entire thing was a great learning experience. Everyone involved has come out on the other side much more prepared for the future. One of the key takeaways we saw is that the ability to adapt to changes can be one of the most significant factors in whether a team survives a crisis like Covid-19. Understanding the innovations happening throughout the landscape and investing in digital tech as early as possible could make the difference.