June 21, 2017
Trying to get started on your enterprise wearables journey? How do you determine a good use case or figure out which technology is right for your work environment and workforce? Here are some helpful guiding questions and key considerations for identifying potential business cases:
- Are your standard work procedures still paper-based? Where in your operations do workers rely on paper instructions, manuals, lists, schematics or forms? Is the use of paper-based tools a source of inefficiency? Is it feasible to digitize this information? Would a wearable mode of delivery be more effective?
- Do workers use smartphones, tablets or other hand-held devices to carry out processes? Is it a problem that these devices are fragile and not hands-free in your work environment or in certain scenarios? Do they cause accidents? Do workers always carry these devices with them? Do they break often? Can you deliver the same information hands-free?
- Which processes require delivering work instructions to employees on the line, in the field, or with a customer? Where is that information located? Could you make it more readily available (bring it closer) to the worker? How do workers access or receive task-critical information? Is this method ergonomically in line with the task? Is it real-time info? Where would delivering instructions in a heads-up, hands-free manner make a difference? What about information from legacy systems?
- Where would employees benefit from frequent reminders about standard work or safety procedures? How about task prompts (ex. pick the next part, ask a customer something, put on the correct PPE?) Could you push simple but critical data, alerts and prompts to workers via a glanceable wearable device or with haptic technology?
- Which processes or tasks require workers to travel to get to a problem, access information, file a report or seek help? How much time does this add to the process? Can you cut down travel time with wearable tech?
- When do you have to bring in an SME? Could you instead train the employee in the field to fix the issue, to do what the SME would do? Would providing the field tech with on-demand, step-by-step instructions, videos and/or remote support enable him to diagnose and solve the problem by him/herself?
- Where does machine or vehicle downtime cost the business greatly? What delays repair? Is there a way to insert wearables into the process to reduce downtime and maintain productivity?
- Which processes require documentation or record keeping (for compliance, proof of service, quality inspection reports?) How do workers currently document issues? Can you make this easier, more accurate and faster with smart glasses? If you mainly want to make use of a hands-free, front-facing camera (to document a job, perform audits, etc.) do you need an advanced AR headset? Do you want to communicate this data in real-time, therefore requiring strong, reliable connectivity?
- Where are your customers located? Are they standing beside the worker as the job is performed? Do they need to approve of a design before manufacturing or building commences? Do they need to travel to your location to view a design or product, or do the designers/salespersons travel to them? Do they want progress updates? Do they trust you?
- What sales tools do you currently employ? Would immersive visualization be a more persuasive tool with your client base? How long does it take from sales pitch to closure? Would you close more deals on the spot using AR/VR? Could you provide customers with the right info at the right time through a wearable app to make their experience better? What information would that be? Would interacting with your customers through their wearable devices or having your employees use wearables when dealing with the customer (for remote visual sales, viewing personalized data from a CRM) improve customer service and increase sales?
- How are workers currently trained? Using videos, PowerPoints, written tests? How long does that take? How much does it cost? Is it effective? Do they require retraining? Would an AR/VR simulation be a better method? Could you provide on-the-job, just-in-time training with smart glasses?
- Do your employees carry heavy loads or work in non-ergonomic positions (ex. looking up, bending, lifting, overstretching, twisting) Would behavior modification with a wearable sensor and alert solution improve safety? In assessing exoskeleton technology, consider price and usability—Do the workers’ comp savings make up for the cost of the devices? How practical is the tech on the factory floor? How much time does it take to put on and take off the device? Is it possible to give one to each worker or do they have to share?
- Who is the end user? What are their pain points? Ask them outright. Do they need the use of both hands? When they encounter a problem, do they have to leave their work area to tell someone? Do they have to communicate the issue multiple times? What are their most error-prone tasks? Are they at risk for repetitive motion injuries? Do they have to remember procedures or recall a lot of information? Could you remove the cognitive and/or physical stress of their jobs with a wearable solution?
- Is a large segment of your workforce coming upon retirement age? How are you going to replace them? Can you use wearable tech to capture their knowledge and expertise, to recruit new workers?
- How long is your design review process? Who is involved and where are they located? How do people work together on a design? Is the customer included in the process? What slows down the process (communications, use of physical or 2D models?) Would immersive visualization or a virtual meeting space help collapse design time and avoid rework? Would it save money to manipulate a design virtually instead of using iterative models? Where will you find the content for virtual design?
- Where does your business suffer from poor planning and communication, from design to execution, operation and maintenance?
- Do you have facilities or offices all over the country/world? How do people in different locations communicate or collaborate with one another? When a piece of equipment goes down, how long does it take before the right person can correct the issue? Where is the right person or expert located? See-what-I-see might be the answer, but users must be able to connect from the work site to stream video.
- Does your business involve a high level of customization or variability? Do you manufacture custom-order products? How do you deal with customization in the factory? Do workers have to be cross-trained, remember a lot of information, or rotate jobs frequently? Can wearable technology help minimize this complexity?
Lastly, study other use cases, and not necessarily ones from your industry. Events like EWTS are great because most enterprises have strikingly similar business problems and requirements. It might surprise you to know that an aerospace company can learn a lot from a surgeon (even Mars scientists are using AR to collaborate from all over the globe.) First, identify the business problem; then find a technology solution that matches the need.