East West Manufacturing Blog

3 Ways Wearables are Reshaping the Supply Chain

Written by Mary-Kerstin Hassiotis | September 10, 2015

Photo source

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have noticed that smart innovations are infiltrating virtually every industry thanks to several factors, including the Internet of Things, the Cloud and advanced developments in robotics. We are more seamlessly connected, both with people and objects, than ever before. Wearable technologies like Apple Watch, Fitbit and Google Glass are revolutionizing our daily experiences, and soon drones, self-driving cars and self-piloting planes will be the norm.

So why not take advantage of these game-changing technological developments when it comes to your supply chain? Below are three ways wearables will (and have already begun to) reshape the supply chain.

1. Boosting Labor Productivity and Efficiency

Adding wearables to your supply chain allows workers to focus on high-level tasks and leave data entry to the machines. Let's say a distribution center receives a truckload of goods. Instead of physically counting boxes, the receiver takes a count using eye movements that are tracked by tech goggles similar to Google Glass. Instead of scanning barcodes on each box, the receiver uses a ring scanner (technology that UPS adopted back in 2012) to input the shipment data. The worker is now hands-free and able to receive shipments in more quickly and accurately than before. This results in reduced downtime and increased productivity. 

Workers can also access information, such as product details and inventory counts, in real time. Rather than running to a computer to gather information, they can access it through their wearable devices without taking a single step. This convenience becomes especially useful on the plant floor and in distribution centers where work is extremely hands-on. 
Photo source: Motorola

2. Improving Safety

Wearables allow you to monitor employees and machines in real time. Measure workers' speed and efficiency and capture repeat errors. Pinpointing issues and quickly resolving them will keep your processes running smoothly. Wearable devices can also track vitals like body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure to prevent exhaustion, heart attacks and other health issues that plague overworked employees. There has been some debate recently regarding auto accidents caused by sleepy long haul truck drivers. With the help of wearable tracking devices, dispatchers could track drivers' sleep activity and vitals to identify signs of exhaustion and keep tired truckers off the road. Remember: happy, healthy employees = increased productivity and better quality products and services overall. 

In addition to monitoring employees, you can also keep track of production statistics and required maintenance for machines. Receive alerts if a machine has a problem. This allows you to fix the issue immediately without losing valuable production time or compromising the quality of goods on the line. 

3. Delivering Better Quality Products and Services

Speaking of quality, wearable devices help detect errors or anomalies sooner than humans can without their help. Monitor the speed and efficiency of every step of the manufacturing process to identify and resolve bottlenecks. Pinpoint the source of quality issues and remedy the problem on the spot to prevent major quality crises. There is nothing worse than a customer notifying you of a quality issue (cringe). In a distribution center and in logistics applications, wearable technologies ensure outgoing shipments are more accurate and timely as workers can move more quickly and reference order information in real time. 

As wearables technology progresses, we will discover major benefits for the manufacturing sector and supply chains as a whole. Humans and technology (whether in the form of wearables, robots or software) must work together to take global supply chains to the next level.

How do you think wearables will change the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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