In the Age Of 3D, Why are Companies Still Relying on PDFs?

The Digital Transformation has marked a radical rethinking of how field service organization use technology to do business. Simply “getting by” with outdated technology is not a viable option for any company that wants to stay competitive and profitable.

Despite this rapid digital acceleration, one holdover from the Jurassic period still remains: the PDF.

The PDF is Not Fit for Human Consumption

PDFs were created in 1993 and it shows.

In this digital era, PDFs are unfit for human consumption. PDFs are linear and limiting, outdated and clunky. This is even more true for the millennial user who has grown up viewing information on web browsers and mobile devices.

PDFs take a painfully long time to load, particularly if they’re large files (I’m looking at you, service manuals). It’s also impossible to update them after they’ve been published, and once distributed, it’s impossible to recall them. This make it near impossible for an organization to ensure their technicians are all working with the most updated information.

Additionally, PDFs are difficult to navigate because users have no quick way of getting to the information they need. Search functions are limited, there’s no way to return to previous sections and even clickable table of contents require users to scroll all the way back up to the top if they want to navigate somewhere else in the document. Consider how tedious this would be with a 200-page service manual.

Finally, PDF are fixed layout documents. This means that they always render the same regardless of device or screen size. In other words, they require a lot of pinching, zooming, and squinting to find the exact information they need. Another tedious, time-wasting task for a harried technician.

Field Service Technicians Need More Than “Good Enough”

All of this adds up to one thing: your field service technicians hate the PDF. It makes your workers less efficient, less accurate and more stressed out, leading to failed KPIs, customer dissatisfaction and higher churn rates among your workers.

For far too long, organizations have taken the “good enough” approach to knowledge management. Expecting your field service technicians to scroll through hundreds of pages of PDFs to locate important – even critical – information wasn’t ideal, but it was “good enough”.

However, times are changing. Field service is in a labor crunch. Baby boomers are retiring, companies are struggling to fill skilled trade positions, and 3rd party technicians are more prevalent than ever. All of this is exacerbating the field service knowledge gap.

Whether or not organizations continue to take the “good enough” approach will be the different between sinking and swimming.

Using 3D Technology Can Slash the Skills Gap

Fortunately, organizations seem to be recognizing this. One technology is gaining traction in the field service world at rapid speed: 3D instructions.

Field service technicians need access to hundreds of pieces of information to install, service, and maintain today’s complex equipment. Not only can 3D instructions deliver this information more effectively and coherently than flat, limiting PDFs, but they also outperform other visual aids like 2D diagrams or videos.

3D instructions can deliver what other instructions can’t: the ability to interact with a digital replica of a piece of equipment. Users can follow a series of animated steps that bring the product to life, viewing it from all angles as they are visually instructed on the installation or repair procedure.

3D Instructions Deliver the Ultimate Digital Acceleration

3D instructions also have a big advantage over their visual relatives like VR and AR (although these certainly have their own place in digital transformation strategies) – both creation and deployment are often much faster and easier.

Since 3D instructions are created by repurposing manufacturers’ existing CAD data, companies aren’t tasked with creating a solution from the ground up. They don’t require any in-depth training or expensive, complicated hardware to use. Technicians can access the instructions straight from their laptop or mobile device. 

Moreover, it is the perfect outsourcing opportunity for companies that wish to avoid investing time, money or resources into the creation and maintenance of 3D instructions. Using an experienced, knowledgeable provider who has access to the technology and expertise allows companies to focus on internal responsibilities, lessens the burden on IT staff and frees up resources for other digital transformation projects.

Smarter Field Service Requires Smarter Knowledge

Equipment is getting smarter and field service technicians can’t be expected to rely on “Jurassic-era” technology like the PDF to do their job effectively and efficiently. The labor crunch and subsequent skills gap in field service means that organizations must get better in how they use technology to train, upskill and support their service technicians in the field.

With 3D instructions, organizations can modernize knowledge delivery by creating interactive training environments, facilitating tribal knowledge transfer and providing powerful visual support in the field.

Ready to learn more about leveraging 3D instructions to transform service for your field service organization?