Most manufacturers have yet to realize the possibilities and capabilities of wearable technology (WT). It already exists in the use of employee badges, package-tracking devices, and tablets in the workplace. Wearables are already leveraging advances in voice technology, biometrics, and communications. Recent innovations have positioned WT in the workplace to grow even faster creating a potentially significant impact on the economy.
WT can automate and monitor a range of factory floor activities that increase workforce productivity. From wrist-mounted bar code scanners to activity monitors, the factory floor has become alive with wearable devices. With benefits ranging from safety, improved quantity, increased output, employee comfort and closer integration with ERP systems, Vermont businesses will find many reasons to take a closer look at this emerging technology. The benefits to both managers and workers alike can be tremendous.
The WT movement has recently exploded due to a variety of technology improvements including the availability of Bluetooth, new mobile technologies, lower cost sensors, smaller batteries with lower power requirements, improved user interfaces, flexible electronics and conductive fibers. Wrist-based devices have become far more sophisticated and offer the potential for real-time work flow communication, reassignments and other critical actions. Video cameras like the GoPro, which started out as a personal sports device, now allow efficiency managers to document workflow from any place in the factory or from 4,000 miles away. One of the biggest benefits is keeping workers’ hands free, safe and productive.
From a maintenance perspective, plant operations managers can see workflow and potential issues in real-time, even from a remote location. Real-time access to video can improve quality control and archived video captures footage for review and implementation of preventative maintenance procedures. When utilized correctly, WT has the potential to transform manufacturing processes by improving productivity, increasing efficiency, and enhancing employee engagement.
From a safety perspective, advances in special clothing that detects and notifies shop workers of toxic substances will be extremely valuable. From a glove that turns blue when exposed to toxic materials to temperature controlled apparel, there are many new ways to stay safe at work. This feedback will allow a company to optimize business outcomes. Imagine hands-free devices that show–in real time–the location of a faulty wire on a production line or clothing that notifies shop floor workers of the presence of a toxic substance. Worker safety and agility increases when users have their hands free.
Wearable devices provide managers with immediate actionable information about work flow to quickly assess productivity issues to determine if work is on schedule or falling behind. With complete visibility into these metrics, hidden bottlenecks can be quickly corrected and product quality issues can be caught early. Employees will embrace WT as they receive recognition for improved productivity and experience real safety benefits. The technology is only going to get better and become more prevalent in the months and years ahead. Progressive manufacturers will adopt WT to further add value to their businesses.