Why Covid-19 will be an eye-opener for smart glasses

Here's how to ensure business continuity during Covid-19. Keep production assets running with minimum manpower on site.

04.14.2020 | By Mark Speyers

The Covid-19 pandemic forces governments all over the world to impose severe restrictions on people gathering and traveling. While these actions are the only solution to control the spread of the virus on the short term, they also harm business continuity of the industry. The challenges and dangers this pandemic is currently posing, will also be the driving forces for a faster adoption of digitization and smart eyewear by industry. This is why.

The challenge of Covid-19 for operational business continuity

The global economy is facing unprecedented challenges because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The spread of such virus is primarily driven by the number of human contacts and the probability of contracting the virus through a contact. Hence governments all over the world impose severe restrictions on traveling and gatherings. These extreme measures almost force the economy to a standstill.

Amidst this turmoil, enterprises try to keep their business going while safeguarding the health of their employees and the broader community. It goes without saying that even in this extremely difficult situation, it’s vital to keep production running in agriculture, food, life science, utility and many other strategic industries.

The power of a digital empowerment in quarantine areas.

How do we keep production assets running with minimum manpower on site? Operators, technicians and inspectors most likely need to step in for colleagues that are sick or couldn’t make it to work. Both creativity and job flexibility will be required to assure business continuity. But how do we guarantee that things are still done right first time and in a safe way by all these less experienced stand-ins? Plant organizations that invested in a digital instruction and inspection execution platform, will now leverage the investment.

Imagine that you have been operating a filling line for the past few years. Because of exceptional workforce absence, you are requested to help with a cleaning and packaging changeover on a blister machine for the first time today. You could start by searching and reading the appropriate Standard Operating Procedure. It will take quite some time to find the right document and understand it.

Now picture a tablet on the shop floor or at the blister line. You login and get a digital workflow with step-by-step instructions, guiding you through the cleaning and changeover tasks. On some workflow tasks, you can find a short video demonstrating what and how you should do it right. On other tasks, you are getting questions to verify you’re on the right track. If your answers deviate, extra verifications and actions are put on your workflow path. At each task you can log comments, take pictures or videos and acknowledge that the task execution went well or that you ran into issues. Most importantly you can directly initiate actions for colleagues or send a request to help you out. Your supervisor, forced to work from home, can monitor online and in real time your cleaning and changeover process and progress as all instruction and inspection execution details are immediately logged on the company’s server.

No doubt that a digital platform, such as Proceedix, enabling step-by-step execution of instructions with a mobile phone or tablet, will empower the stand-in deskless workers in these challenging situations. It would be even better if the person at work, could receive the information directly on the tiny display of a pair of smart glasses, as it would leave the hands free to do the job. Yet this is not why Covid-19 will be pivotal for smart glasses in enterprise.

The hinge moment for smart glasses in enterprise.

Despite a guidance with digital step-by-step instructions, unexpected problems will occur: assets break, filters jam, pipes can start leaking etc. At that time, the less experienced stand-in needs the help of an experienced colleague or possibly of an internal or external expert. Unfortunately, these people might not be present on site, neither be able to travel to the site. This is the situation where smart glasses are about to make the difference between a production stop or a problem fix and production continuation.

Picture that the stand-in or any deskless worker facing the issue puts on a pair of smart glasses. The camera in the smart glasses, can see what the operator or field technician sees. A video streaming/remote assistance software sends the images via wifi or 3G/4G to the cloud. An experienced colleague can log on to the video platform from his home or from another plant and see what the deskless worker sees.

Via the speakers and microphones embedded in the smart glasses a conversation between both can be facilitated. The remote expert can even freeze images on his PC, make annotations to provide indications and send them back to the head-mounted-display (HMD) device. Smart glasses allow for a hands-free video conference and provide the “on-site-perspective or virtual presence” to the remote expert.

With the live instructions and indications of the remote expert, the probability that the operator on site will fix the issue, dramatically increases.

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