Johannesburg, April 21, 2017 – The rise of automation and the Internet of Things on traditional manufacturing cannot be underestimated but innovation in wearable user devices can also not be ignored as the fusion of technology with the human labour force increases.
For example witness wearable Google glasses which allow workers to see ahead of them but also give them a heads up display on the status of the manufacturing process and supply chain. Manufacturing businesses are also experimenting with the HoloLens in the warehouse and production environment, finding new applications for these wearable technologies and improving productivity.
According to Professor Calitz, research partner with global ERP provider SYSPRO, from the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, “We are going to see a proliferation of wearable devices adding competitive advantage to processes and forging a technological and human partnership that could boost productivity especially in manufacturing.”
“Much like collaborative robots (cobots) that work with humans, wearable devices are another example of technology used to assist and enhance human workers instead of replacing them entirely.”
The industry is also already using heads up display glasses (HUD) that interacts with and informs workers on the factory floor of warehouse conditions regarding the supply chain. These include stock and inventory levels and alert workers ahead of time of peak rush hours and any possible choke points.
Wearables are set to explode in the ERP space much as they are gaining increasing popularity for consumers on the street
Mark Wilson, MD of SYSPRO Africa says as, ”the Jawbone and Fitbit wearable devices are used by consumers to monitor their heart rate, blood pressure and exercise levels, devices like the Samsung Gear, Apples iWatch and the Microsoft Band will be used for managers and workers to measure and monitor the status and “health” of their business and ERP solution.”
“This will happen on or off the factory floor and 24/7, without having to open or even access their PCs or laptops.”
The virtual reality (VR) space is also creating huge opportunities for manufacturers, especially in the process areas of made to order and 3D product design. Witness this innovation in the automotive space where the 3D visual specs of the latest model car can be shared virtually with the whole design team, regardless of where they are on the planet opening up new fields for collaboration. Augmented reality (AR) applications, specifically on mobile technologies, are increasingly being used to augment and add information to objects being visualized and displayed on a mobile device.
Wilson says wearable devices and RFID readers for example can geo-locate where workers are in the factory and track their movements which can optimise shifts and production processes.
Global population growth of over 8 billion and millions of people moving into the middle class means there is an increasing demand for manufactured goods and services. This population growth is tipped to also cause the construction sector to start booming around 2018. This means there will be a need for skilled construction workers, to work faster and longer.
One company has devised an unpowered mechanical exoskeleton that uses gravity, counterweights and design to make heavy power tools almost weightless in operators’ hands. Combining robotic innovations like this with the Internet of Things will create construction team shifts that are trackable, and more than ready to handle the approaching construction boom.
Wilson concludes that with the Internet of Things enabling the integration of the factory floor to ERP and Business Intelligence to wearable devices, and connecting supplier, customer and end user into the value chain; the manufacturing sector will benefit best by integrating end user devices to business intelligence sooner rather than later.