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Mixed reality meets lean management: how Dynamics 365 Remote Assist streamlines Microsoft datacenter operations

Did you know that mixed reality business applications like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 can help reduce waste from a lean management perspective? We invited Six Sigma Black Belt and Kaizen expert Laura Riley, Senior Business Program Manager from the Microsoft Cloud Operations and Innovations team to share her perspective on how using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 in Microsoft’s datacenters has helped staff avoid unnecessary travel, boost uptime, and save costs – all while reducing waste.

Q: Tell us a bit about how Microsoft first started using mixed reality for datacenter management and operations.

Laura Riley: The opportunity to tap into the power of mixed reality solutions in our datacenters really came about because of a combination of factors. These included:

  • The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, shift to employees working from home, global lockdowns, and travel restrictions with countries shutting borders. The lockdown essentially forced a turbocharge of plans for the way we work.
  • Phenomenal demand for Microsoft cloud offerings as people relied on cloud computing to support remote work, school, and play.
  • Landlords, smart hands, and vendor travel restrictions
  • Complex New Edge Technologies being deployed to the field at a faster pace
  • Engineering teams could not travel onsite to do their routine inspections and checklists of our Critical Environment systems due to the travel lockdowns
  • Current methods of developing and delivering does not scale at the pace that we need them to in order to provide the user with a fully immersive learning experience
  • Limited human resources for travel, site Selection, commissioning, and final turn over to Operations​
  • Audits within Microsoft (PCI, SOC, FedRamp, HKMA) required to progress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Auditors were required to perform audits remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and required technology that would allow them to perform their activities to support not only our internal evidence but evidence for our customers to ensure we are operating within the secure guidelines for our datacenters.

Q: What did your team use Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 for?

Laura: We had several Dynamics 365 Remote Assist use cases within our organization. For starters, our team required an immediate shift as part of our COVID-19 pandemic response to meet the demand of our customers. The COVID-19 pandemic escalated the need to have hands on the ground to meet this demand. We first launched Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 in our Cloud Operations Supply Chain within the Global Regional areas to assist with performing critical activities that were either halted, stalled, or delayed due to restrictions with travel and having SMEs available to perform the work. Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and HoloLens 2 using Augmented Reality allowed for immediate ROI while improving the outcome.

From then on, we expanded our use case to include zero-waste inspections, and as well as a plethora of other activities including:

  • Remote Audits (PCI, FedRamp, SOC, HKMA, others)
  • Critical Environment Quality Inspections
  • Construction and Turn-Over to Operations Inspections
  • NPI – New Product Introduction
  • Break-Fix
  • Deployments
  • EHS
  • GOLD and Learning & Development
  • Edge Sites
  • Factory Witness Testing
  • IT/CE Smart Hands

Q: So how did Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2 help your team reduce waste from a lean management perspective?

Laura: The mixed reality solution enabled us to achieve a number of quantified benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency, including improved first-time fix rates
  • Increased safety for employees
  • Reduce machine downtime
  • Minimize risk of downtime with proactive remote audits and inspections
  • Enhanced training and improved knowledge transfer between employees
  • Enable hands-free work especially for employees that need both hands free to work
  • Enable real-time, 3D annotation-supported collaboration among team members
  • Improve client-facing interactions
  • Drive better remote access processes
  • Minimize or in some cases even eliminate travel costs
  • Offer design-focused employees more tools to boost productivity
  • Boost knowledge transfer between seasoned and new employees
  • Providing interactive, 3D digital service instructions
  • Ability to display critical information, including service details, associated with a machine right in the context of our real-world environment
  • “I see what you see” live video-conferencing for effective communication
  • Ability to display interface options that are not accessible on the physical machine.
  • Faster Learning curve for trainees, again reducing time spent to onboard new employees

That said, the biggest waste reduction probably stems from time saved on non-value-adding activities via travel avoidance where possible. Using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and HoloLens effectively reduced travel for our IT Program Managers performing Construction Inspections by 90 percent. Our team of Construction PMs now uses Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and HoloLens 2 instead of traveling to the sites, effectively performing remote inspections through the field technicians on the ground.

Below are the key benefits we were able to achieve with mixed reality:

  • Improved Collaboration: Field Technicians can now be instructed by Subject Matter Experts with visibility into their work via “see what I can see” and 3D annotation capabilities at the physical location without having to travel. Escalations and support calls become more effective and efficient as Engineering teams can now see what the field technicians are doing in real time, while instructing work activities.
  • Improved Work/Life Balance: Dynamics 365 Remote Assist gave the Auditors time back in their day to perform other critical activities – time which would otherwise have had to be spent traveling around the globe. Performing compliance audits using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist was a game changer, per Lee Moscal, a Microsoft Auditor. It demonstrates our ability to save costs associated with travel and improve the auditor’s work/life balance. We perform approximately 75 audits per fiscal year with six auditors traveling to various locations across the Regions. The impact helped reduced travel nine times around the globe for six auditors traveling to those locations.
  • Sustainability and Carbon Negative Goals: Using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for our Zero Waste Program helped improve sustainability due to reduced travel thus our carbon footprint. It also helped save time associated with performing those inspections. We were also able to improve the quality and reduce the time it took to obtain evidence reviews – all while effectively cutting down on training required to perform these inspections.
  • Critical Environments Reduced Costs: There are many exciting opportunities to gain efficiencies in Commissioning using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.
  • Improved Learning: Dynamics 365 Remote Assist enables trainers to provide visual and verbal step-by-step instructions remotely. Trainees can now carry out required tasks hands-free and independently with the support of mixed reality. ​

Learn more about Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2

Read the full Microsoft Datacenter story, “Microsoft enhances datacenter audits, management with mixed reality using Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens 2”.

Learn more about Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

Learn more about the overview, features, and specs of Microsoft HoloLens 2.