From Webcams to Wearables, Manufacturers Find Novel Uses for Technology on the Shop Floor

  • Innovation and Technology

Who would have anticipated that the webcam – an inexpensive device designed for video chats – would play a vital role in keeping manufacturing operations running?

For maintenance technicians who venture to different machines and locations in the plant every day, mobile access to information is vital. Cloud-based equipment manuals, maintenance records, remote advisors and online communities form a vital support network.

Webcams are a valuable addition to that technology toolkit, because they can go where people cannot: inside broken machines.

For the first-ever Plex State of Manufacturing Technology study, we surveyed more than 130 leading manufacturers to better understand how they use technology in their manufacturing operations today and their plans for emerging technologies in the years ahead.

Fully 33 percent of the study respondents use webcams in their operations for everything from equipment repair to inter-facility communication. And one percent report using drones.

Real-time video or time-lapse capture can be used to see inside spaces the technician cannot access without a major disassembly effort. And they can stay in those cramped locations for hours, days or even longer. Video and image captures can be sent to offsite technicians or back to the machine manufacturer. And once the problem is identified, the technician can order repair parts directly from a tablet, having never left the workstation.

This is just one example of how manufacturers use technologies in sometimes unconventional or unexpected ways. For more insight on the creative and innovative deployment of technology in the Manufacturing Cloud, check out the complete study here.