Voice chatbots for maintenance and inspections

Anastasia Morozova
Anastasia Morozova
Chief Operating Officer

Imagine that you are a service engineer at an industrial enterprise. A huge industrial enterprise.

Every day, you deal with very sophisticated and – let’s face it – very expensive equipment. Moreover, you have a couple of dozens of different units that have different service and maintenance procedures.

Servicing complex equipment requires solid knowledge of its user guides and maintenance manuals. Lots of parameters, settings, values, sequences, safety precautions – and they may be different for each unit.

Of course, you can always carry a smartphone or tablet with all guides and manuals stored within.

However, in a situation when you need to find the corresponding manual, section, paragraph quickly, and you need both hands to work on the equipment, you will very well wish to have a third hand to manage your smartphone or tablet.

But why would you need an extra hand when you have your voice?

That’s right. If you cannot search and read your manual, you can talk to it. Naturally, to do so, you need one more thing – a voice chatbot.

A voice chatbot will be your voice assistant providing the necessary information when and where you need it leaving your hands free to operate the machine.

In this post, we will share our ideas and knowledge about building a voice chatbot for technical personnel. We will use this example to showcase the benefits it is going to bring.

voice chatbots for maintenance and inspections

The problem

Basically, we have outlined the problem already – in their everyday work, service engineers are expected to deal with several different equipment units, each with own specifics.

Besides, the work of a service engineer, operator or technician often requires both hands to be busy which makes it next to impossible to browse the printed manual.

Therefore, the challenge was to find a way for the technician or engineer to obtain the information they need to operate the machine without using their hands. Another aspect was to get the information that is relevant at that very moment, and quickly.

The solution

The obvious solution is to use voice to request information. Voice leaves both the operator’s hands and, what is also essential, eyes free to handle the equipment.

When the operator needs additional information in the middle of a complicated manipulation, getting it in the audio format creates no interruption in the process. The operator can continue working on the equipment listening to the audio instructions.

The most effective format of such a voice assistant proved to be a voice chatbot. Whenever the technician or operator needs additional information, they can simply ask for it, and the chatbot will provide the corresponding audio content.

Another great thing about chatbots is that they respond with the information that is needed right now. For example, you can ask “Please, show the stop procedure for the engine 456?”, and the chatbot will provide the value. No distractions, no searching the manual – you are going to get exactly what you asked for.

voice chatbots for technical personnel

Advantages of a voice chatbot for technical personnel

If we were to summarize the advantages that a voice-operated chatbot can bring to service engineers, technicians, equipment operators, we may come up with the following list:

  • Hands-free operation that is especially important when the instructions are needed right in the process of equipment operation, repair, setup or maintenance.
  • Quick provision of concise information. The voice chatbot returns exactly the data that was requested, thus eliminating the need to search the manual and reducing the time required to complete the operation.
  • Lack of distraction and interruption. As the information is provided in the audio format, the user can continue their work while listening to the chatbot’s responses.
  • Increased safety. With a voice chatbot, the user does not need to take their hands or eyes off the equipment, thus reducing the chance of an accident or equipment failure.
  • Training opportunities. In addition to providing assistance to service and technical personnel, the voice chatbot can also be used as a training tool allowing newcomers to learn to operate the machine while listening to the audio instructions at the same time.
chatbots for technicians

Under the hood

We would like to share some of our ideas about developing and implementing a voice chatbot specifically designed for technical personnel of industrial enterprises.

Software

As a solution to the problem, we propose an algorithm-based voice chatbot that can provide answers to a number of pre-programmed questions. The chatbot will also include the context-learning feature to eventually enhance its knowledge base.

Since we are building a voice chatbot, it should have the voice recognition function interpreting voice input into text and recognizing the keywords and phrases.

We are considering the Google Speech-to-Text solution as one of the components of our voice chatbot.

The training base for the chatbot will be developed on the modular principle.

Each module will be focused on a particular equipment type and contain the information related to that equipment. This way, the chatbot’s database will be easily searchable and the information provided to the user will be relevant.

For example, we can create an information module containing all data for “Engine 456”. In this case, “engine 456” becomes a keyword triggering the search for the related information. The user can start the conversation with either a general question, such as “Give me the data of engine 456” or a specific one, such as “What is the procedure for replacing the piston for engine 456?”

In the first case, the chatbot will respond with a question clarifying the request, such as “What kind of data do you need?” When the question contains the specific request, the chatbot returns the corresponding information.

We should note that the modular structure of the chatbot’s knowledge base would not allow a more general search. For example, a request phrased, as “I need information on engines” will cause the chatbot to respond with a clarifying question “Please provide the engine type”.

The reason is that all equipment units, even those falling under the same general classification, such as “engines”, “valves”, may have different operating instructions. The chatbot will be programmed to search the knowledge base for the instructions pertaining to the particular unit only.

Initially, the chatbot will be programmed with a number of questions and answers for each module and will learn with use by adding new phrases to its database.

realwear

Hardware

Since our primary goal is creating a tool that will effectively provide information while leaving the user’s hands-free and creating no distraction, we chose the hardware that belongs not to the hand-held but the wearable type.

Another aspect was enabling easy speech input by placing the microphone close to the user’s mouth so that they do not have even to turn their heads to speak.

Thus, the obvious choice is a headset with a microphone and speakers that allows voice conversations with the chatbot. One of the optimal choices was the RealWear line of wearable devices.

In addition to a convenient form factor, RealWear is specially designed to be used in harsh conditions and has outstanding noise cancellation possibilities. These features make RealWear particularly suitable for industrial enterprise applications.

RealWear supports both mobile and desktop applications, thus allowing building an effective and flexible chatbot solution for technical personnel.

Let’s give chatbots voice!

As you can see, the advantages of voice chatbots for industrial enterprises are multiple. Building a custom chatbot for your enterprise will help you make your operations more effective and safe.

If you think that a voice chatbot will be a good idea for your enterprise – and we are sure it is! – contact us to discuss how to implement it for the maximum performance.

We have plenty of ideas of building chatbots, and our technology expertise helps us to create unique solutions specifically made to suit the business needs of a particular enterprise.

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