LEUVEN, BELGIUM — TOMRA Food on Nov. 26 launched a new digital service, TOMRA Virtual Assist, to improve remote on-site support for its sorting solutions clients. The tool uses augmented reality to allow support specialists to help customers troubleshoot equipment issues without having to physically visit the plant.

The company said this service will allow for more uptime and better machine performance, as well as compliance with COVID-19 travel restrictions and social distancing practices.

"Fast response time is critical for our customers, who deal mostly in perishable goods," said Andreas Reddemann, vice president and head of global service for TOMRA Food’s Aftermarket & Service division. "Machine downtime for them may result in a deterioration in the quality of their product. During the harvesting season, they receive a constant flow of material and have to process high volumes, so uptime is vital. That's why, at TOMRA Food, we have an ongoing focus on responding as fast as possible and in a way that is practical for them. When you have such a diverse geographic spread of customers as we have, it is not always possible to have the right Field Service Engineer immediately on site. TOMRA Visual Assist addresses this gap between being advised of an issue and being able to be there to support physically."

The solution does not require any additional equipment or training. Customers can message, email or call TOMRA for support, and a field service engineer will initiate a Virtual Assist session — essentially a video call — through a mobile application. All processors need is a mobile phone with a functional camera to use this solution.

From there, a TOMRA engineer will be able to discuss the issue with the customer and ask them to direct their camera to show specific areas of a machine, as well as share documents and annotate images to clarify their instructions.

"TOMRA Visual Assist enables a greater level of clarity in the communication and information transfer between the person on-site and the expert providing guidance remotely," Reddemann added. "It acts as the local eyes of the remote TOMRA expert. With this tool, the customer's technician gets the support they need to resolve the issue immediately, bringing the machine back in operation. If a repair requires replacing a part, TOMRA's expert can easily identify it and ensure the right spare is sent, increasing the first-time fix rate."

The tool can be used to offer training, share knowledge with machine operators, and troubleshoot issues remotely.

"With TOMRA Visual Assist, our most skilled and experienced staff can spread their knowledge more broadly than they ever could if they had to travel to every site," Reddemann said. "For example, once a Field Service Engineer has completed maintenance on a machine, they can connect to our technical expert who knows the customer's application and the mapping profiles of their product. This will help the on-site Field Service Engineer ensure the appropriate grading profile of that specific product.”

This is the latest in TOMRA’s suite of customer support services, which include TOMRA Assist 24/7, a telephone and email support option; TOMRA Insight, a cloud-based service; and TOMRA Remote Assist, a service that allows TOMRA specialists to log into its clients machines remotely to provide support.

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