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Floyd Chan, Qixas Group

I Hate to Tell You, but What You Wear on the Factory Floor Matters

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No, this is not the red carpet at the Oscars, where what you wear counts. I’m talking about wearable technology on the factory floor.

Keeping the flow of data between suppliers and manufacturers has never been more critical. The demand for traceability is especially essential for highly regulated industries like the food industry or the automobile industry where knowing what happened to a product, who worked on it, and when, is vital to support safety recalls.

Traceability not only helps to meet compliance but also allows you to accurately forecast if you are delivering on what you promised your customers.

With more complex supply chains evolve, how do you meet faster turnaround demands yet still support the need for traceability?

Wearable technology on the factory floor is one answer. It’s an innovative technology that can support improved efficiency and traceability for manufacturers and the supply chain.

Manufacturers are making a broader assortment of products to meet consumers’ demands so they can compete in the market. The wider product range means more complexity in the supply chain and the need to track more moving parts and components, more suppliers, and more chances to lose track of items.

In a rugged environment where picking, staging, packing, and shipping are happening at a break-neck pace, the old-style barcode scanning gun has its limitations.

Some of them are:

  • More often than you expect, the scanning gun may end up mistakenly in a box on the way to a customer. And you end up with the extra expense of replacing many small but important pieces of your supply chain regularly.
  • The scanning gun may be repeatedly lost somewhere on the factory floor, affecting the speed to get the product to the consumer.
  • The scanners are easily dropped and broken, needing replacement.
  • Scanning each product is tiring and repetitive as the worker un-holsters, scans, and re-holsters, which eats-up time and affects productivity.

“Just in time” supply chain adds extraordinary pressure on manufacturers to improve logistics. It is important that whatever improvements they initiate, it does not add more time to the process.

Wearable scanner technology addresses these challenges and more.

Wearable scanners, AR glasses, and smart gloves allow for a hands-free, real-time data collection that is more convenient than using a phone or iPad. Skip the tedious process of using a scanning gun and actually scan the barcode as the component is selected. The hands-free aspect reduces the amount of cleaning, disinfecting, and possible contamination in sterile environments.

What are some wearables that are in-use on the factory floor? 

Augmented Reality Glasses that allow workers to detect the dimensions of a box

Man is scanning quick response code with blue smart watch

Watches, belts or gloves that scan barcodes with efficient movements

Built-in scanner functionality significantly increases production volume. You can customize how to notify a worker with vibrations, acoustic signals, and colored LEDs on the back of the hand for reassuring confirmation that they selected the right product. Not only will this technology minimize errors, but it reduces worker frustrations.

But what about privacy?

It’s important to communicate to your workforce that none of the personal information collected is ammunition against them. The information gathered is to track item status and process the details that a recall might require. Adapting new technology requires education and assurance that Big Brother is not overreaching.

The Future is Wearable Technology

While traditional barcode scanners were a tremendous boost to productivity in the past, wearable technology can be an important way to deliver efficiencies and enable organizations to meet ever-changing demands while giving them a competitive edge.

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