Harnessing tech to eliminate distance in a virtual world

An award-winning program has been key to our continued success despite limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You never know how the world will change, so agility and innovation are key — especially when you’re inventing for life.

When the working world was upended in early 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had plans in place to gradually expand our Remote Assist capability on smartglasses — a platform developed by our own teams that provides shop-floor personnel and scientists the ability to instantly collaborate hands-free with anyone in the world. Remote Assist operators can send real-time video and audio to colleagues anywhere in the world, allowing experts to diagnose mechanical or equipment issues remotely while leaving the operator’s hands free to perform any necessary tasks.

As the pandemic mushroomed and waves of mandatory stay-at-home orders necessitated adopting new ways of working, we accelerated the rollout, seizing the opportunity to become an industry leader in the adoption of Remote Assist. In doing so, research and manufacturing quickly adjusted to the new normal at more than 70 sites across six continents, divisional boundaries were broken down, and Merck’s Extended Reality Ecosystem was established.

“It’s just one of the many tools that helps keep us inventing for life, even in unprecedented times,” says Dave.

And now, thanks to the successful adoption of Remote Assist, Merck has been recognized as a 2021 CIO 100 Award winner. These annual awards celebrate 100 organizations using IT in innovative ways to deliver business value. By delivering 21 months of scope in less than 9 months, Remote Assist helped save $3.6 million in travel costs and nearly 54,000 hours of employee travel across the company.

“This is just the beginning,” says Douglas Arnold, director, Merck Manufacturing Division-IT, client service leader and extended reality program lead. “We’ve built a great team, and together we are bringing innovation into production.”