Artificial intelligence and augmented reality are becoming increasingly relevant in sheet metal and other skilled trades facing a skills gap. Companies like XOi Technologies offer managers a whole host of options, some more hands-on than others.

HVAC service companies looking to up their quality assurance as they take on new hires may first be interested in the company’s bodycams that can send a live video stream to supervisors. Others gravitate to XOi to curate video tutorials and take some of the busy work out of tech work, for example, by using machine learning to automatically pull make, model and serial code from a picture of a particular machine’s data plate.

SNIPS Magazine sat down with CEO of XOi Technologies, Aaron Salow, to discuss how technology can improve contractor productivity and help address the skilled trades gap.

 

What does XOi do to help bridge the skilled trades gap?

We've seen that the biggest problem with technicians and installers is that technology hasn't been built for them. Unfortunately, a lot of it's been put on them. There's technologies, and hopefully we're deploying those today, that actually allow the technician to have a faster, better, more effective job every single time and take a little bit of the pain out of the process. We focus on solutions in the curb-to-curb space, which is where the skilled trades gap exists, where lack of communication to the customer and to the office exists.

 

Could you give an example of a customer and their experience adopting some of your tech?

One specific example that comes to mind is a shop out of Houston Texas came to us and said, ‘we're doing several 100 new installs every summer of residential HVAC equipment. We've got this 46-point checklist we built inside of ServiceTitan, yet our callbacks, re-services and failed inspections are still really significant.’ They wanted to use XOi for our live video AR feature. We said ‘great, but what’s the core problem here?’ They’re pencil-whipping the checklist. So how do we take our tool and in a more scalable way, use it to capture the best install team, installing everything the correct way, one time. Take that 46-point checklist and tighten it to a 12-step video workflow to show how to install an HVAC system the same way every single time We pushed that video workflow into 150 technicians phones, and they now have the opportunity to watch a video on step one, create the video to validate they did step one, watch a video or look at a PDF for step two and so on. The intent here is micro-learning bite sized chunks of information.

 

How did that company improve their performance as a result of adopting the AR for validation and training?

Their re-services and failed inspections went down by 85%, but it was a scalable way for them to get information from installers to the manager, without consistently waiting on site for live video calls. It was much more scalable with the kind of quantity they were doing, and it provided something meaningful and instructional for the technician in bite sized chunks. The installer group gave an amazing deliverable to the manager to validate the work was done correctly, but they also gave a deliverable to the homeowners too. They’ll shoot a couple quick videos to show you some nuisance issues that may come up when your thermostat does this, ‘this is an error that you can reset. This is where your filters are and how often you should replace them.’ We often look for the cross section of value across those stakeholders: the technician or sheet metal worker in the field, the supervisor in the office, the customer at home. They all care a lot what happens and our ability to communicate more effectively to all those groups all at once is really where the power is.

 

How do you help your customers grow?

Before we can talk about customer growth, we should cover the inherent mistrust that's in this industry. Everyone has a story: A contractor they thought overcharged them, they didn’t think they got the best work. People never showed up. So as a result when somebody comes and says, ‘Hey, I did an analysis on your HVAC system, or we're going to do this replacement install,’ they’ll tell you, ‘okay, I’m going to get a couple more quotes.’ What our tool really has done is allow great companies to expose what they're doing at every job to the customer every single time for the purpose of validating that they did the work, building trust and transparency. So with video, you’re building that trust and reliability, and it’s really effective for ultimately getting the job. We believe contractors that build trust with their customers with tech are going to experience hypergrowth in the next 5 or 10 years.