February 14, 2018
A true enterprise wearable tech pioneer, Peggy Gulick, Director of Digital Transformation, Global Manufacturing at AGCO Corporation, spearheaded one of the most successful use cases of Google Glass in enterprise to date. Where others saw challenges, Peggy and her team saw opportunities to turn a device that was then (2013) struggling to find a purpose into a powerful lean manufacturing tool. We last interviewed Peggy in July of 2016, before she first graced the EWTS stage. Since then, AGCO has become a poster child of Glass Enterprise, the second generation of Google Glass developed with the input of enterprise visionaries like Peggy; and Peggy herself has become a star speaker, her story undoubtedly inspiring many others. Below, Peggy answers our questions about the state of manufacturing today:
BrainXchange: What are the greatest challenges faced by manufacturers today?
PG: All manufacturers that I have spoken to seem to face similar challenges with rising employer costs (many related to healthcare) and the need to reduce operational costs while projecting longer-term strategic plans. In addition, the expectations on employers by employees and the communities that they exist in have changed. Employees expect more from their employers, including a sense of purpose. Communities expect both social and environmental contribution.
In the midst of this, there is a gap in qualified labor and the high-tech skill sets required to meet new operational budgets and strategic plans to increase quality, reduce time and cost to market.
Automation, industrial revolution 4.0, Internet of Things and big data are all being touted as responses to these shared challenges, yet most organizations have not figured out how to incorporate them into current business processes. Although these new technologies can provide relief to manufacturers, they continue to face perception challenges, identified as replacing rather than augmenting humanity.
BrainXchange: What are the effects of automation and big data in manufacturing?
PG: Currently, there are two types of companies benefitting from big data. One is, of course, big data companies, ranging from expanded infrastructures to storage, management, processing and analytics of massive amounts of collected and stored information. The second is the strategic few organizations that have found ways to incorporate the data into problem solving and to deliver the right information to the critical point of decision making. By treating big data and automation as dependent and collaborative solutions, both as drivers of continuous improvement and lean manufacturing processes, we have been able to determine the elements that are most likely to impact outcomes that matter the most –to our product and process quality, productivity and safety. Big data, unless transformed into actionable information, is meaningless.
BrainXchange: Is AGCO experiencing a “skilled labor crunch?”
PG: Yes, but we are addressing it through investment in our employees, both current and potential (apprentices). Mechatronics, assembly academy, scholarships and on the job training combined with a work environment that allows employees to contribute and feel a sense of purpose has allowed us to retain and recruit successfully. Our employees are motivated by the organization’s concern for quality products/processes and employee safety, not cost-reduced workforces.
BrainXchange: How might smart glasses and Augmented Reality help address some of the above challenges?
PG: Smart glasses and augmented reality have been deployed in our manufacturing operations to further our continuous improvement efforts across the site. The use of wearable technology helps eliminate motion, over-processing, defects and even transportation. Excessive travel to workstations to retrieve work instructions and bills of material is eliminated. Defects are minimized due to comprehensive (pictures, videos) and easy-to-access to work instructions. Our plant makes highly complex, low-volume agricultural equipment. Wearable tools help minimize over-processing caused by the need to rework due to misguided assembly. When workers can do their job smarter, faster, safer, it resonates throughout the entire culture. As we realize labor crunches, it is more and more important for companies to offer the tools and training required to create, grow and retain their employees. Smart glasses has helped us to do that.
BrainXchange: What tools do AGCO workers currently use to do their jobs? How are new workers currently trained?
PG: All of our assembly and assembly quality gate employees attend 40 hours of Assembly Academy followed by 40 hours of Lean Work-cell training. In addition to reading blueprints and interpreting supplemental information, assemblers must be proficient at hand, power and assembly tools. Since employees are now expected to use wearable tools including smart eyewear (Google Glass) to access work instructions and quality checklists, wearable tools are introduced immediately in the learning academies. Wearable tools not only inform but also capture and flow pertinent information (including pictures, text and video) for non-conformance issues and missed thresholds.
It was critical to the success of wearables to acknowledge that all employees are not equal in training and skills. As employees’ skills mature, specific to operations, our wearable applications allow for personalized levels of instructions, tailoring them based on algorithms of training and experience.
The wearable tools themselves are easy to implement and support. Most employees are excited to wear the technology and realize the benefits quickly.
BrainXchange: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for smart glasses in the manufacturing plant?
PG: Our product design team finds great value in virtual reality glasses. Not only do they broaden the ability for a team to “see” what others are thinking, but they allow design teams to remotely interact, all in virtual glass, all seeing the same product and projected design strategies.
As a problem-solving organization and culture, we have weighed the value of wearable smart glasses in many areas, including welding, paint preparation, assembly, quality, technical services, material management and even plant tours. The first thing that we have discovered is that the projected value of replacing current tools, whether it be paper work orders or terminal work instructions, with smart glasses is 2x what we initially thought. The results have been so beneficial in some areas that we have retested, thinking it was a mistake. It is important to note that every pilot we have conducted has been in response to a defined problem. And, after 5 whys, fishbones and cross-functional involvement, sometimes even a kaizen, smart glasses are a part of the proposed solution with metrics associated. Knowing that smart glasses are a lean tool, and not an industry requirement or cool factor, we have reported 30% reduction in processing times, 50% reduction in amount of time employees train on the job (new hire and cross functional) and reduced quality and safety incidents that we are still calculating. The greatest value for the glasses has been in assembly and quality, both needing easy and quick access to hands-free instructions. As a manufacturer of complexly configured products, we have discovered that training by smart glasses is the grand slam. New product launches, multi-operation and new hire training are easily administered and audited for success.
BrainXchange: How do smart glasses further lean manufacturing?
PG: Simple. Lean is all about waste elimination. Smart glasses, when implemented for the right reasons, reduce waste. The use of wearable solutions was discovered as we did what we do best every day–solve problems (4873 problem solutions implemented by employees in 2016.)
Introducing Google Glass to our manufacturing floor was not intended as disruptive technology or even competitive advantage. They were introduced as solutions to make employee’s jobs easier and safer while driving higher quality to our product and our processes. In the end, we have accomplished both.
We are delighted that Peggy will be speaking again at EWTS 2018 this October, and cannot wait to hear how AGCO’s Google Glass success story has progressed.
The 5th Annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2018, the leading event for enterprise wearables, will take place October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. For details, early confirmed speakers and preliminary agenda, please stay tuned to the conference website.
Photo credit: Google X