Leveraging Augmented and Virtual Reality in a Multi-Billion Dollar Company
And so, our journey continues. . . my name is Sam Lamonica, CIO at Rosendin. My friend and colleague Fred Meeske, Corporate Director of BIM Services, and I embarked on a mission a while back to figure out how we can best leverage Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) within our multi-billion-dollar electrical contracting company.
In Chapter 1 of our journey, chronicled in a previous article, we ventured off to Hollywood to get a big dose of how the entertainment industry leverages A/R and V/R. We returned home with many visions of opportunities for these technologies. Fast forward to today where we can now share the fruits of our labor.
Fred and I are going to share one of the exciting new developments we have come up with to show that these technologies are not merely buzzwords. We willshow how we have created a solution for our business that can both increase efficiencies as well as improved quality with the expectations of lower costs and reduced schedule durations.
We plan to pilot this solution in multiple job site locations in the east, west, and northwest and we will share what the future holds for Rosendin
My name is Fred Meeske, Corporate Director of BIM Services at Rosendin. As Sam mentioned, when he and I went to Hollywood it was an experience for sure, and there was one big game-changing moment for us both, Virtual Reality was not just for gamers anymore. VR was finally tangible, something we could see, and it could potentially provide value for Rosendin’s culture! We immediately realized that we needed to change our relationship with VR. That was our moment. We knew, however, that blending disciplines between Information Technology, BIM Technologies, and Office and Field Operations would be a challenge. But we were up for it! Once we realized that AR/VR could potentially be a real tool, one that we could hold and utilize in positive and new ways, we began Phase II of our journey and this is where our story continues.
At Rosendin, we have spent 100 years working on how to leverage existing and new tools for improved efficiency and safety. Several years ago, VR/AR/MR was not on our list, much less a thought. Sam and I began working side-by-side with major universities, leading manufacturers, and software developers to design, develop and integrate better tools, processes, and ways of communicating for our lagging electrical industry while keeping our goal front and center that is “achieving exceptional results for our customers.”
From these collaborations, we created tools and processes, in whole or in part, that includes:
• Remote project coordination with augmented reality allowing project teams to be located in different places while still working together as one.
• Our engineering teams have to ability to design work while being close and fully integrated with our field and operations teams.
• Our project teams are laying out electrical devices in walls, not with a tape measure, but by utilizing a virtual headset to locate with.
• Our staff and potential employees are completing safety assessments through VR without the risk of injury.
• Training for electrical shutdown procedures include checklists shown on a visor helmet.
• Re-work and/or incorrectly installed work is greatly reduced or eliminated.
In several recent pilots, we found that leveraging these technologies allowed us to see conduits being stubbed up into the wrong place or outside of proper equipment locations. If not caught early, this would have led to 100’s of thousands of dollars in cost to remove concrete and re-install conduits, not to mention schedule delay challenges.
We recently launched new pilot projects on the east and west coasts to not only continue this process improvement but most importantly to provide our CEO with one thing he has been asking from us for almost ten years - real and verifiable savings by using technology over our current processes to lower Rosendin’s overall installed cost.
In response, we have created an Internal Development Team (IDT) whose primary responsibility is to develop, train, validate, and implement our “application” for the business. One of these tools utilizes an iPad and 3D models, created by our internal BIM team, combined with remarkable programming and procedures that bring the real-world and a 3-D model together. This is done in spatial relationship to each other, while allowing interaction by the user with the modeled content. A significant part of this is that there is not a need for GPS, Wi-Fi, or other connection for the application to work. The accuracy is surprisingly good at closer distances and, with new hardware on the horizon, accuracy will only improve with each camera.
The IDT consists of programmers, field general foreman, lead modelers, I/T personnel, and management. A primary list of metrics has been pre-defined by the team that relates to our specific processes, some to the user and others related to the application itself that includes:
• Training of the application,
• Time of use by the individual and how often it is used.
• Process-related validation (Was a mistake caught with our application but not the traditional method? Was a mistake caught with the conventional method but not our application?
As our BIM Technologies team at Rosendin continues to grow, a second technology building recently opened in Phoenix, Ariz. that is within one mile of our current technology building. The team at the new building will continue to provide the traditional services of the department in addition to training and testing of new and improved methods for field installation of electrical systems. In addition, the building will have total stations for Holo Lens; AR viewers; in-wall, overhead and underground electrical systems for the training of staff and testing of new developments; and enhancements to existing processes and equipment.
In closing, there is much I have learned on this journey. For anyone considering new technologies or struggling with them, know that technology isn’t new. It is a force that is continually evolving and changing shape. Before you decide if technology is good or bad for you or your organization, first determine what “it” is. It is not magic beans that grow through the clouds or someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, “it” is just tools to improve your efficiency. There are two critical points to remember: 1. the rate at which “it” technology grows, 2. the rate at which “we” can consume it.