The pandemic, as well as geopolitical challenges, have triggered a rise in digitization across industry sectors, and manufacturing and logistics are no exception.
With the National Association of Manufacturers forecasting that by 2030, the U.S. could have 2.1 million unfulfilled manufacturing jobs, operational efficiency becomes more important than ever. That’s why digital transformation, in the form of artificial intelligence and wearable technology, has become a top priority for U.S. factories and warehouses looking to meet supply demands. Still, opportunities for digitizing supply chains are just beginning.
While manufacturers are feeling the effects of labor shortages, more still needs to be done to address the issue at large. Manufacturers must first recognize the potential that digitization has to offer their sector. A recent research report from Accenture found that many in the logistics industry struggle to put in the foundations of the digitization needed to build up resilience against market disruption. 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 digitizing the entire supply chain to make it more resilient and agile, to prepare for a dynamic and constantly changing global economy. Otherwise, companies are at risk of being left behind.
So what more can be done to digitize the frontline?
Manufacturing and logistics workers can be equipped with smart glasses to improve their daily performance working on the shop floor. These devices work by projecting instructions directly into the worker’s view, using augmented reality (AR) like a head-up display in a car. Wearing smart glasses allows the worker to be hands-free for physical activity, with the automated documentation of work steps.
Smart glasses can assist in the food industry, using AI 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.
Another important application of smart glasses in the food manufacturing industry is by supporting maintaining health and safety standards. The glasses can verify whether employees are wearing mandatory hygiene gloves. In short, smart glasses work to enhance the performance of a frontline worker, increasing capacity, efficiency and accuracy.
Deploying AI for frontline workers improves the accuracy and ergonomics of manufacturing and logistics staff on the shop floor. Additional benefits include support for automation and quality control. AI can automatically alert workers to hazards in the workplace, as well as the whereabouts of items in the warehouse.
By combining both AI and wearable technology to create “augmented intelligence,” businesses can unleash the full potential of their supply chains and frontline workers. In addition, they can safeguard future production, mitigate labor shortages and carry the industry into a new era of digitization.
Hendrik Witt is chief product officer at TeamViewer.
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