How to use Wearables in the Factory

4 application areas of smartwatches in manufacturing (1/4)

The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need to bring real-time data to the human worker is boosting the use of wearable technologies in the industrial sector. Contrary to current HMI technologies, wearables and especially smartwatches differentiate themself as always connected, extendable devices which integrate contextual information into app-based workflows.

Industrial smartwatches can be used to solve business problems in the industrial world and help to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs. Complex processes in manufacturing and logistics can be broken down into small standalone apps that work well on wearable interfaces.

This blog series introduces four different application areas for the use of smartwatches in industrial settings:

  1. Quality management
  2. Service and Maintenance
  3. Manual assembly
  4. Logistics

In the series, I will cover a few concrete examples and summarise the main benefits that smartwatches offer for manufacturing operations. But for now, lets start with the first application area:

Application area 1: Quality management

Quality defects very often have its root causes in outdated or wrong information provided to workers, e.g. outdated work instructions or wrong machine programs. Variations in product quality can be minimised by providing accurate and timely information to workers and by allowing to feedback critical information.

Wearable devices such as smartwatches are a perfect means to do exactly this:

  • Smartwatches allow to collect critical real-time feedback from the shop floor such as defects or deviations from defined tolerance limits.
  • Smartwatches connected to existing ERP systems bring real-time information with minimal effort to the relevant workers.

As a result, Smartwatches are a value driver to increase quality:

  • Ensure that only correct revisions of work instructions are used
  • Distribute only appropriate machine programs
  • Offer step-by-step assembly instructions
  • Enforce data plausibility checks (i.e. do not allow to check off all items at once)
  • Establish efficient data acquisition processes to collect production parameters
  • Enable efficient documentation of defects

Lets have a look at two concrete examples:

Example 1: Tracking defects

With always-on, always connected smartwatches, users can immediately report defects. Some devices offer integrated barcode scanner and high-resolution cameras which help to collect contextual data about the root causes of a defect. Given that the appropriate workflows are implemented, corrective actions can be initiated immediately and sent directly to the smartwatches of a rapid response team.

Example 2: Checking incoming and outgoing goods

Checking and documenting incoming and outgoing goods can be completed efficiently with appropriate wearable devices. The provisioning of checklists on a smartwatch ensures that all required checking steps are fulfilled. Workers may document relevant data with an integrated barcode scanner and a high-resolution camera. With devices connected to existing business systems, all data can be automatically stored for long-term archival.

As you have seen, the use of smartwatches has positive impact on product quality in manufacturing. Benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Product quality can be improved
  • Non-conformance costs can be minimised
  • Liability risks can be reduced

What are your thoughts on using smartwatches for quality management? Please let me know! Or continue reading about further application areas:

2. Smartwatches for Service and Maintenance

3. Smartwatches for Manual assembly

4. Smartwatches for Logistics