By Dr Hendrick Witt, Chief Product Officer at TeamViewer
The pandemic, as well as geopolitical challenges, have triggered a rise in digitisation across sectors and manufacturing is no exception. With British manufacturers facing the largest shortage of workers since 1989 according to PwC, efficiency in manufacturing is now more important than ever. Therefore, digital transformation has become a top priority for manufacturers in the UK to meet supply demands. But the opportunities for digitalising supply chains are just beginning.
Tackling supply chain issues head on
Whilst manufacturers are feeling the effects of labour shortages, more still needs to be done to address this issue-at-large. To do this, manufacturers must first recognise the potential that digitalisation has to offer their sector. In 2021, research by the Handelsblatt Research Institute and TeamViewer found that only 33% of logistics companies in Europe had a digital transformation strategy in place. Even more surprisingly, research by TeamViewer this year found that only 45% of manufacturing and logistics workers believe that digital communication technologies and collaboration software will become relevant to their industry.
Businesses need to invest in digitalising the entire supply chain to make it more resilient and agile, in order to prepare their businesses for a highly dynamic and constantly changing global economy. Frontline workers can be supported with digital technologies to assist with meeting supply demands. Without the deployment of the right solutions, companies are at risk to be left behind because of failing to act on their full digital potential. So, what more can be done to digitalise the frontline?
Working smart with smart glasses
Manufacturing and logistics workers can be equipped with smart glasses to improve their daily performance working on the shopfloor. Smart glasses work by projecting instructions directly into the workers view, using augmented reality (AR) like a head-up display in a car, helping frontline workers with safety and efficiency. Wearing smart glasses also allows the worker to be hands-free for the physical activity with automated documentation of work steps, increasing the workers capacity and productivity.
For instance, smart glasses can assist in the food industry, using artificial intelligence to validate the quality of goods through image recognition. For this the software running on smart glasses compares the actual versus target states of manufactured products, increasing the accuracy of the worker and the outcome for the customer.
Another important application of smart glasses in the food manufacturing industry is by supporting and maintaining health and safety standards. The glasses can verify if employees are wearing the mandatory hygiene gloves, improving food and workplace safety.
Smart glasses work to enhance the performance of a frontline worker, increasing capacity, efficiency, and accuracy to meet the supply chain demands of the business.
Deploying AI for frontline workers is designed to enhance the everyday working lives and regular routines of manufacturing and logistics staff. By deploying AI on the shopfloor, the accuracy and ergonomics of manufacturing and logistics staff will be improved.
Other benefits of deploying artificial intelligence include automation and quality control. AI can automatically alert workers to hazards in the workplace, such as load whereabouts in a warehouse. AI can check and confirm work steps, therefore, improving the working quality control of processes and significantly increase accuracy.
Therefore, deploying AI on the frontline not only improves efficiency for the business, but also increases worker satisfaction and maintains health and safety standards – all of which are important factors for retaining staff in an industry where this is a challenge for businesses.
Futureproofing supply chains with Industry 4.0
By combining both AI and wearable technology to create ‘Augmented Intelligence’, businesses can unleash the full potential of their supply chains and more importantly, their frontline workers. Augmented Intelligence will change business as we know it. With Industry 4.0 driving the future, soon companies worldwide will be using it in various scenarios. Businesses need to ensure they keep up with these new technologies, such as wearables, to safeguard their future production line, mitigate labour shortages, and carry the industry into a new era of digitalisation.