Manufacturing Trends: Wearable Technology on the Plant Floor


Shop Floor Control Solutions

Fisher & Company discusses how to use smart wearable technology to create efficiency on the plant floor utilizing the latest technology trends in manufacturing: Google Glass barcoding system, inventory scanning, iBeacon, and more. (6:12)

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Video Transcription

- [Brett] I'm Brett Larson and we are at PowerPlex. We're talking with Scott Tollafield from Fisher and Company. You guys are one of the early adopters of the wearable technology. How has that been going with what you guys are doing?

- [Scott] It's actually been going very well. We went into it with really, no expectation. We didn't know what... we saw some examples, but the Glass into themselves, were not the complete solution with what they paired the ring scanner and the beacons together. The entire package started to really make sense and bring a lot of benefit to the organization.

- Now we should take one quick step back and just explain what it is that Fisher and Company does.

- Okay.

- And why you use Plex. So tell us a little bit about what you guys do.

- So Fisher and Company is a leading manufacturer of automotive seating components all the way up through seat structures. We manufacture in three countries – four countries, 9 facilities and so we are moving a lot of material, a lot of barcode, a lot of traceability requirements and Plex provides us that traceability and we're looking to the wearables to make that transaction management more simple and quicker.

- Now a lot of what we've been hearing, a lot of the buzz at PowerPlex this year is about the wearables. People seem very excited about that. What are some of the solutions you've seen come from the wearable technology interfacing with Plex?

- Well our initial focus was on two main areas. We were trying to displace the current function that we already did on a standard scanner that you see and used in most retail facilities or anywhere else for that matter. We wanted to see if we could displace that and improve on that in any way and we were. That actually has been one of the bigger wins for us so far is that the technology needed to form the transaction is always available, always on hand. The other function that's a supervisor view, it takes advantage of the iBeacon technology which provides location awareness. So now, as a supervisor, it moves through the warehouse or the production facility, the glasses know where they're at and they're able to provide data regarding what's going on with the work center there closest to or are approaching. So they know, just by walking up if it's green, going good, red, check into it further.

- Wow. [laughs] That's really cool.

- Yeah.

- We've been talking with a lot of people about sort of what it was like in the pre-Plex days and what was...rather, how did your organization operate prior to Plex?

- Plex in general?

- Mm hmm.

- We had similar functions and process, but we had many separate systems to accomplish the same goal. That was really our driving force for originally looking for a new system. We have four or five key systems that are all interconnected and when something went wrong there was a lot of cross finger pointing and we wanted to eliminate all of that. We wanted to get down to as few systems as possible and quite frankly, Plex got us down to just one or two systems. Now we have eliminated all that confusion.

- So how has the organization benefited from integrating with Plex?

- So we now have complete visibility. Everybody now accepts the system as the truth. Previously, there was always challenges to the system and nobody would trust it and trust the data out of the system, a lot of manual manipulation required outside the system. Now, all the questions are answered from data, from the system. If anybody shows up to a meeting with a spreadsheet, it's validated against the system. They can't commit that to being their version of the truth. The system is the version of the truth.

- That makes sense. [laughs] When you look at what you're able to accomplish now with the technology, where do you see 5 years down the road, 10 years down the road with technology and manufacturing? Where do you see it going?

- Yeah, well I think the internet of things is just going to continue to expand as it has. We were trying to make...we'd like to see more of the material handling devices, the containers even, smarter and more aware of their surroundings so that we are able to more dynamically keep track of where everything's at and how it's going. When you talk technology, 10 years down the road, who knows what's going to be available. We're always looking for new ideas and we're trying to implement as many that we see can improve the business processes.

- And as the cloud becomes more...really it's become a mainstay and quite a big solution provider, how do you see the cloud working further with manufacturing?

- Well I think Plex's story there is the ease of access no matter where you're at or where you are. That was actually not a focus of ours when we were searching for Plex. That was an unexpected bonus for us so the reduction of effort that we have to spend to keep systems running, to keep everybody accessing the system and providing all of that capability is now moved off to Plex and into the cloud and being in three countries, four countries it makes it easier to give everybody access no matter where they're at and who they're visiting.

- It helps streamline quite a few things. At PowerPlex what was the most exciting takeaway from the keynote?

- So I like the data analytics. Collecting a lot of data, we now want to be able to use that data more effectively, find different ways to manage the business and make better business decisions.

- Excellent. Thank you so much for talking to us.

- Not a problem, thank you.

- It was great, thank you.

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