ProGlove: Wearable Technology - unlocking worker potential
The rise of the machine is fuelling essential discussions about the future role of workers – not least within logistics. With full automation not an option in the foreseeable future how are companies to meet challenging productivity goals? With improving the workforce experience now a priority, Andreas Koenig, CEO, ProGlove considers the role of wearable technologies, such as barcode scanners and glasses, in transforming the working environment and providing the real-time data that can unlock worker potential.
Organisations in every market are considering the changing role of employees in response to a workplace that is increasingly data driven. The growing maturity of machine learning and artificial intelligence is increasingly influencing day to day activity in any number of roles. Just consider the social media giants such as Facebook now creating thousands of new jobs for individuals to identify hate speech, jobs that are becoming possible only as a result of the introduction of state of the art algorithms.
Similar thinking is required in every market to achieve a seamless and effective man/machine interaction, especially those areas such as warehousing that are already struggling to recruit and retain skills. According to a recent report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, only 9% of the industry’s existing workforce is under 25 years old. To fill the skills gap and meet increasingly challenging productivity and efficiency goals, companies need to find a way to make the industry more attractive.
Creating an enhanced working environment is key to attract and retain staff. However, better rest areas and improved terms and conditions are not enough. Companies need to find a way to improve day to day worker experience, minimising the physical overhead and reimaging jobs to unlock individual potential.
Opportunities abound to augment worker experience. While warehouse and logistics processes have been optimised in recent years there are still many aspects of day to day worker roles that are less than optimal. Just consider the time wasted walking back to static work stations to input information and receive the next task. The physical challenges associated with juggling scanning devices while lifting items, especially at height. The frustration of locating the right item in a mix of apparently identical products.
Wearables such as gloves with detachable scanner are safer, with both hands free at all times, and easier to use. Leveraging ergonomic science, these devices minimise extraneous movement helping individuals to stay productive for longer and avoiding fatigue induced error.
Critically, wearable devices enable a decentralised data model, where workers are empowered with real-time information. With adjustable feedback options, such as acoustic signals, vibration and LEDs on the back of the hand, a worker receives immediate confirmation of correct product selection. This feedback not only minimises delays and errors, improving productivity, but also avoids worker frustration. Wearable devices can also include display screens or be connected to smartwatches or wearable terminals to provide individuals with additional information, such as the next pick location. There is no longer any need for tiring and unnecessary activity – every step, every arm movement is directly related to undertaking the task at hand.
Man and Machine
The provision of real-time information via an ecosystem of wearable devices is changing the worker experience. Day to day activity is safer and more productive; but workers are also more empowered by real-time information to make decisions and leverage that essential human intelligence to recognise and respond to the situation. The result is not only better human to human collaboration but also human to machine – and a workforce that is fulfilling its potential.
As the warehouse environment changes and companies look to automate simple, repetitive tasks, the role of the human workforce will evolve. With an array of wearable devices augmenting not only the productivity but also the experience of the human workforce, organisations can create an environment that is both safer and more appealing to the next generation.
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.