Remote Collaboration – A Working Model for the Future ?

The Corona crisis has unexpectedly presented many companies with major challenges. With travel restrictions and quarantines in place, many areas of business are in danger: onsite customer service, facilities maintenance and global production ramp-up.

With globalization, our societies got used to cross-border dispatch of employees and their expertise as well as the bundling of expertise in one competence center. This had been driven by the fact that global Taylorism had been taken for granted and that expertise is becoming scarce. The latter is especially true for Europe which is already facing a shortage of qualified and experienced resources due to aging populations. COVID-19 has worsened the situation as lockdowns have blocked the provision of onsite expertise and knowledge. The dispatch of experts to sites across borders has come to a stop.

In this situation, companies need to accelerate and mature their digitalization, especially regarding collaboration, to master business continuity and flexibility. Remote collaboration is a feasible approach to reducing cross-border travel to a minimum without losing the expertise needed at a particular site. Technology will compensate for onsite expertise. Many companies already started working on these concepts many years ago. At Atos, the development of a remote expert support solution started in 2016, when a major customer wanted to secure business in parts of the world where

Companies need to accelerate and mature their digitalization, especially regarding collaboration, to master business continuity and flexibility.

it was not able to dispatch its own qualified resources. It needed a solution that enabled an expert located in Europe to coach and guide workers at the customer location. The main prerequisite for success was connectivity:

  • Wi-Fi onsite to integrate different kinds of devices such as headsets, tablets, video glasses and cameras
  • Safe internet connectivity between the site and the remote expert, leveraging e.g. LTE and satellite connectivity
  • Smooth audio and video collaboration as well as the exchange of documents and augmented reality content.

All this is state-of-the-art today and allows for different applications of collaboration: service and maintenance over long distances, training and certification in online sessions, or ramp-up of new production facilities globally. The concept has proven not only to compensate for onsite visits of experts. It has also expanded the scope of work that can be done by people with limited skills, e.g. on a container ship, by providing remote expertise. Travel costs can be reduced, and experts more efficiently used since they do not need to travel.

COVID-19 will push remote collaboration just as it’s pushing home-office work. Apart from that, it helps to overcome the travel restrictions (still) in place globally. And it shows companies a more cost-efficient model for business continuity and expansion. Therefore, we will see more remote collaboration after the crisis, and the economy will be much better prepared for a potential next crisis.

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About Stefan Zimmermann

Global B&PS CTO Industry 4.0
Stefan Zimmermann is responsible for the innovation and portfolio development in Industry 4.0 at Global Atos B&PS. He aims at helping industrial companies to identify business opportunities enabled by Industry 4.0 during their digital transformation process, embracing the Industry 4.0 framework.He’s got a very strong industrial background, having worked for companies like Siemens (>10 years) and Rheinmetall Group and also comprehensive consulting skills gained when working for Roland Berger & Partner.

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