When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it seemed like the world ground to a halt. Not just because travel bans were put in place and lockdowns were applied, but the productivity of manufacturing supply chains were interrupted. Factories shut down overnight; workers went home; and it quickly became apparent that without our global manufacturing industry working at peak speeds, we were going to run out of basic necessities like toilet paper and canned goods very quickly.

The effects of the pandemic were undoubtedly widespread – felt by our clients across the board – and the automotive industry was no different.

Hirschmann Automotive, a leader in the automotive industry for more than 60 years, is based in Austria and employs more than 5,500 people worldwide with seven plants and several offices around the globe. Hirschmann partnered with our partner NTT in 2019 to deploy Cisco Webex company-wide in order to better facilitate unified communications, so when Global UC Leader Klemens Fliri visited a RealWear booth at CiscoLive in Barcelona in February of 2019, he immediately began envisioning the impact the ruggedized headsets could have on Hirschmann’s ability to get things done.

Fliri pitched the idea to management, and they jumped on board — even though the Cisco Webex Expert on Demand and RealWear technologies were still relatively new, they were more than happy to be an early adopter. Fliri and his team provided feedback, loved the second release of Cisco Webex Expert on Demand, and decided they were all in and planned a full implementation for their Moroccan plant the first week of March 2020.

And then COVID-19 hit

The pandemic put caused Hirschmann’s Morocco plant implementation plans to be placed on hold. The company did, however, end up sending a couple of headsets to their Romanian plant, which was in the middle of digitizing all of their processes and had hit a critical part of the implementation phase. Since none of their technicians were able to travel, they sent two of the RealWear devices and were able to train the teams remotely, enabling the teams to start using Cisco Webex Expert on Demand within weeks. From there, it became obvious that remote training would be possible, and more devices have been sent out to technicians around the world.

Since utilizing the Augmented Reality headsets, Hirschmann Automotive has been able to increase first-time fix rates, improve the speed to resolution, reduce travel expenses, and most importantly keep their employees safe during a global pandemic.

Manufacturing was already in the midst of a digital transformation, with many companies adopting IoT, cloud, and automation services to help streamline processes and increase profitability, but progress had been slower than that of other industries. According to a released by KPMG, 48 percent of manufacturing CEOs say COVID-19 has accelerated their digital transformation by a matter of months, while another 48 percent say the pandemic has accelerated their digital transformation efforts by a matter of years. Many leaders are keeping an eye on 5G wireless networks in particular, as 5G will better enable next-gen digital technologies such as IoT, Augmented Reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous operations, etc. Seventy-two percent of manufacturing CEOs are also prioritizing investment in new technology as a result of the pandemic.

Customers like Hirschmann Automotive who are early adopters were lucky in ways they couldn’t have imagined when COVID-19 hit, as their early adoption of technology enabled them to quickly pivot and get back up and running while barely missing a step. As we all try to figure out what’s next and get back to some semblance of normal, it’s clearer than ever that having great partners like NTT Ltd. is just as important as having great technology.

Learn more about Cisco’s partnership with NTT


Chris Panzeca

Senior Director

Global Strategic Partner Sales