Wearable Technology in the Manufacturing Industry
Wearable technology refers to the integration of computer and wireless technologies with jewelry, clothing, and accessories. The existence of some elementary forms of wireless technology, like the calculator wristwatch, can be traced back to the 1980s. Nonetheless, the advances in wireless tech and miniaturizing circuitry have significantly increased the current, as well as the potential applications of the wearable concept. Here, I explore the potential of the application of wearable technologies in the Manufacturing Industry.
Wearable Technologies in Manufacturing Industry
Examples of modern wearables include:
- Google Glass
The technology has widely been portrayed as a consumer trend with notable applications in the entertainment, and Health & Fitness Industry.
This head-worn device is the most popular wearable technology. It can enhance reality by displaying contextual and location-based information, as well as taking hand-free photographs and videos. Google markets the device to a consumer audience, highlighting its capability for enhancing lives.
Personally, I think wearables will soon become an integral tool in the manufacturing environment, delivering several significant benefits. I envision the technology transforming the manufacturing process, increase productivity, enhance efficiency, and even augment employee engagement.
To understand how wearables would benefit the manufacturing companies, let us examine the following situations.
In a busy factory, workers will be wearing location-aware smart wristbands when they go to work. As they enter the factory premises, the wristband automatically logs them in for the day. It also gives them respective work instructions.
For the field-based workers, the wearable device will allow them to connect to other workers for advice to solve daily problems. The use of video technology will help fast-track the job and ensure it is done perfectly.
With wearable devices, production managers and supervisors would be able to access important work-related information in real time. They will also be able to monitor other essential metrics like:
- The total amount of goods produced
- What is needed for rework
- The amount of scrap
Moreover, with just a few taps on their wearable device, a supervisor would adjust worker schedules to ensure duty allocation matches the labour demand.
Sometimes, a machine may malfunction, interrupting the output on a primary production line. With a wearable device, the manager will instantly receive an alert on his device, and with a single tap on the screen, he can reassign employees to another line until the faulty machine is fixed. They may also immediately dispatch maintenance to fix the machine. Consequently, employees would receive notification on their wearable device to move back to their working stations. This minimizes downtime and maintains productivity.
As all of these occur, the wearables track the employee’s location, detects that they have switched to another production line, generates a job transfer, allocates a new work program, and automatically begins tracking their work. Employees would not need a computer or time clock, as the wearable technology will have taken care of everything for them. They will be able to fully concentrate on their work.
Wearable technology encompasses many forms, such as watches, glasses, bracelets, and smart badges. It has a tremendous potential to transform how we get work done, how we make decisions, as well as how we engage with our customers, employees, and partners.
Personally, the technology has spared me some situations where logistics, etiquette, or even safety prevented me from using smart-phones and laptops. While consumer wearables are rapidly growing in popularity, I expect the manufacturing industry to fully embrace the technology and use it in transformative applications.