Benefits of Industrial Smart Glasses in Manufacturing and Logistics
Augmented reality smart glasses have seen limited market penetration despite their financial clout from manufacturers such as Google and Microsoft. But this technology presents clear benefits that need further exploration and real-world validation.
For example, industrial-grade AR smart glasses must be able to withstand rough handling and provide information without distracting the user. They also need to be safe for hazardous environments and have a long battery life.
In manufacturing, smart glasses are a great way to improve production and reduce error. Workers can easily access step-by-step instructions and diagrams directly in their field of vision, allowing them to work faster and prevent mistakes. Smart glasses also make it easy for employees to monitor equipment and track progress.
Unlike consumer-grade smart glasses, industrial models are designed to be rugged and durable. They are often dust and waterproof, have heavy-duty frames, and can be worn with hard hats. They can also be made to withstand high temperatures. Many manufacturers offer a variety of lenses and hardware for different environments.
As with all supply chain innovation, companies relying on smart glasses in their operations need to ensure their employees are comfortable with the technology and understand how it will improve their daily tasks. Some workers may be resistant to change, but with appropriate training and change management processes, they can quickly adjust to the new system and begin reaping the benefits of AR.
Another important factor is the ability of the wearable to integrate with remote support platforms. Previously, if an engineer in one facility needed to help troubleshoot a problem at a facility halfway across the country, the company would need to send a high-skilled technician out to handle the issue. With AR, an expert can guide a low-skilled worker through the process, making it much quicker and cheaper for the business.
Using smart glasses to overlay instructions, diagrams and video on top of the real world allows workers to work faster and more accurately. This helps reduce rework costs and improves product quality.
For example, an assembly line worker can use smart glasses to access step-by-step instructions to assemble or repair equipment without having to locate and read a paper manual that could get lost in the shuffle. Then, when troubleshooting a problem on the manufacturing floor, an expert can help remotely from another industrial smart glasses location by commenting, zooming in or demonstrating the issue. This allows issues to be resolved quicker with minimum downtime and loss of production.
Likewise, technicians working on equipment and repairing wiring harnesses can benefit from augmented reality by viewing precise wire instructions superimposed over their hands. Taking their eyes off the equipment and reading a printed manual is inefficient and distracting. Using a pair of AR smart glasses with the Upskill Skylight platform for AR welding has enabled Boeing to reduce error rates and cut assembly time by 25 percent.
Smart glass technology can also be used to improve QA and inspection processes. Rather than relying on written documentation and manually logging findings, an inspector can wear smart glasses to view checklists, use AR to spot defects and even call other technicians for live support. This is particularly valuable to new manufacturing hires who may not be familiar with the existing systems and process.
Vuzix smart glasses give warehouse workers the heads-up information they need to pick, count and prepare items for shipment. The resulting increased productivity and accuracy dramatically improves logistic efficiency. The smart glasses are centrally connected to the warehouse mainframe, reducing the need for paper and eliminating manual data entry.
Instead of clipboards and handwritten counts, smart industrial smart glasses glasses display inventory numbers, bar codes or pictures directly in a worker’s line of sight. Using dynamic highlighting, the smart glass display shows the next required action, and actions are easily confirmed via external scanners or integrated camera. The smart glasses also feature hands-free control, enabling operators to work safely, efficiently and error free.
Warehouse operations can be complex low volume – high variety environments. Smart glasses enable remote assistance that helps support new and less experienced operators. Having an expert help guide a new or inexperienced operator through a complex or rare set up or changeover results in shorter intervention time and fewer errors, significantly improving availability rates.
Smart glasses allow for video capture, allowing remote experts to share their view of the process with the new or inexperienced worker. They can comment, zoom in and give feedback that allows the worker to make adjustments or take a closer look at specific details. This real-time support also increases quality rates by minimizing the need for additional rework or corrective maintenance.
Inspections & Audits
When it comes to inspections and audits, industrial smart glasses are the best device for the job. Unlike smartphones or tablets, which require hands to hold, smart glasses offer true hands-free operation. Their embedded cameras capture the wearer’s perspective and stream to a remote control room or expert for video streaming support.
Smart glasses also let workers pause and review handheld instructions or checklists without losing sight of the task at hand. They can even access PDF files for more detailed information on the machine they’re inspecting. This helps inspectors make informed decisions on the spot and resolve issues faster.
In an emergency, when travel restrictions were imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, QA engineers could still carry out their inspections using smart glasses to remotely call in experts for real-time guidance. Rather than traveling hours for just a few minutes of inspection, they were able to use their smart glasses to remotely communicate with an expert from Germany who was able to guide them through the entire process over the internet.
Similarly, when experienced staff are absent due to illness or retirement, companies can use their smart glasses to perform a visual EHS site reconnaissance in a safe and secure environment. This allows them to complete inspections and audits with confidence, and saves time for new inspectors who can then use the video recordings of those inspections as training.