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The Future of Wearable Technology

How have smart glasses and wearable technology helped manufacturers today? 

Peggy Gulick

Director of Digital Transformation and Global Manufacturing, AGCO

What are some of the biggest challenges manufacturers are facing right now?

Manufacturers across the industrial spectrum face similar challenges with rising employer costs — many related to healthcare – and the need to reduce operational costs, while also projecting long-term, strategic plans. 2020 has seen an increase in manufacturers’ exposure to widespread concerns regarding supply chain disruptions, cybersecurity, and worker illness. Creating, maintaining and empowering task forces charged with safeguarding workforce and consumer health are our highest priorities. 

Of course, recent economic dynamics and widespread declines in commodity prices have only added to manufacturers’ challenges. In the midst of these swirling issues, manufacturing continues to grapple with shortfalls of qualified labor and the high-tech skill sets required to continue meeting strategic plans that require higher quality and reductions of production time and cost to market. Manufacturing employees today, more than ever before, need to be skilled in automation technologies. 

How have smart glasses/wearable technology and augmented reality helped with those challenges?

Smart glasses and augmented reality have been deployed in our manufacturing operations to further elevate our continuous improvement efforts across the site. The use of wearable technology helps eliminate motion, over-processing, defects, and transportation needs. Excessive travel to workstations to retrieve instructions and bills of material is eliminated. Defects are minimalized, due to efficient access to comprehensive work instructions, such as schematics, photos and illustrations, and videos. Wearable tools help minimalize over-processing caused by the need to rework tasks to correct misguided assembly. 

Equipping workers with tools that help them perform their jobs smarter, faster, and safer, creates a resonating sense of achievement and capability throughout the entire culture. With most companies requiring significant travel restrictions and contact distancing, augmented and virtual reality tools allow teams to be virtually ‘together’, which better allows them to continue designing and insuring the highest levels of quality and service for our products. 

Where do you see the future of wearable technology heading?

Product design and technical service teams in the industry will continue to recognize great value in virtual and augmented reality glasses. Not only do these devices enhance technicians’ ability to “see” what others are seeing and thinking, but they also allow teams to remotely interact, all in virtual glass, all seeing the same product and/or projected design schematics. 

Wearable technology allows for personalized workflows, which translates into greater productivity for workers. In addition, situational awareness and hands-free training are allowing manufacturers to onboard employees faster and safer than ever.Introducing Google Glass to our manufacturing floor was not intended as disruptive technology or to even provide a competitive advantage; they were introduced as a solution to make employees’ jobs easier and safer, while driving higher quality into our products and our processes. In the end, we have accomplished both.

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