Smart glasses: a vision for manufacturing safety

By Sojung Lee, President – Asia-Pacific, TeamViewer
Friday, 23 June, 2023

Smart glasses: a vision for manufacturing safety

While safety in the manufacturing industry has greatly improved over the last several decades, the risk of serious injury is still real.

Augmented reality (AR) can be instrumental in protecting workers and ensuring that they operate equipment safely. Smart glasses, when combined with industry-proven AR solutions, allow workers to use both hands to complete tasks, which is crucial in an industry where safety is paramount. For example, it’s far safer for a logistics worker to climb a ladder with both hands instead of juggling a hand scanner with one hand and using the other to try and maintain balance at an elevated height.

Moreover, the glasses can provide alerts pertaining to situations that raise concerns from an ergonomic standpoint. This is especially relevant in industrial settings where heavy parts need to be constantly handled. By directly displaying warnings on the glasses, the risk of injury can be greatly reduced. At the same time, smart glasses can display step-by-step instructions to remind workers of hygiene protocols, or warn workers about temporary restricted zones, such as tests in laboratories.

The changing manufacturing landscape

AR is transforming the manufacturing industry by bridging the gap between the physical and digital realm. Factories aren’t solely rooted in the past — in fact, they also play a large role in the future. With the rise of Industry 4.0 and the transition to Industry 5.0, driven by greater business demands and the use of data, factories are experiencing a transformative wave of technological advancements. Among these technologies, AR stands out as an essential component and the driving force behind the future of manufacturing.

In the dynamic Australian manufacturing landscape, the industry has faced significant challenges in recent times, including a widespread skills gap and an aging workforce. And, as retirement looms for some of the most experienced workers, it has become increasingly important to find innovative ways to transfer their invaluable skills to the next generation of workers. Manufacturers are therefore looking to intelligent new technologies that address these challenges and help to power safer and more efficient operations for frontline manufacturing teams.

Streamlining processes

The human element is still essential to production processes; however, manufacturers face the challenge of reducing human errors that can lead to worker injuries, as well as maintaining the quality of their products and avoiding costly mistakes. AR-enhanced smart glasses allow frontline workers to digitise manufacturing processes. These glasses replace error-prone paper lists or manuals and provide step-by-step guidance for machine assembly. With the glasses on, workers can see all the necessary information at their fingertips while keeping their hands free to work. Also, AR-enabled cameras and sensors assist in making sure the production process meets safety and quality standards.

In addition, smart glasses allow remote experts to guide onsite workers in troubleshooting and repairing machinery, minimising production losses or delays and reducing the need for onsite service visits. Workers can receive real-time instructions and support, empowering efficient problem-solving and reducing operational downtime.

Enhanced training capabilities

Manufacturers can leverage AR to deliver enhanced training for their workers, which is particularly important to maintaining safety in an industry that frequently welcomes new employees with little to no prior experience. By equipping smart glasses with AR solutions designed for manufacturing, companies can augment the onboarding process and deliver learn-on-the-job experiences.

Smart glasses have the ability to simulate hazardous scenarios, which enables workers to practice safety procedures and responses in a controlled environment, enhancing their preparedness and reducing accidents on the job. This also helps alleviate pressure on stretched management teams who may have limited resources to provide comprehensive training to new staff.

New employees can also receive real-time visual guidance and instructions directly in their field of view — through step-by-step instructions, 3D models and annotations onto the physical environment, eliminating the need for traditional training manuals or classroom sessions. This enables employees to learn and perform tasks such as new processes, replicating repairs, or inspection steps — simultaneously and without handling any equipment — while also learning new skills much more quickly than they would with a classroom-based, theoretical approach.

The future of manufacturing with AR

AR has quickly become one of the cornerstones of the new industrial revolution. What is referred to as the Industrial Metaverse offers significant potential to support frontline workers on factory floors across several industries, including automotive, aerospace, and food and beverage packaging. Already, many manufacturers are reaping the benefits of AR for quality control, maintenance and repair, streamlined workflows, and remote onboarding and training to improve productivity and safety, while also tackling the skills gap. As the industry evolves, and as technologies continue to advance at a rapid pace, smart glasses using AR — which can effectively overlay virtual objects on the physical world — are poised to have an even greater impact on manufacturing, driving heightened workplace safety, efficiency and innovation in the years to come.

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