Let’s not get ahead of ourselves on this “Smart PPE” hype. While the technology is racing forward and there have been some interesting developments today’s frontline workers would benefit greatly by having the data they need when they need it. There has been a lot of excitement around “Smart PPE”, Industry 4.0, and a bunch of other acronyms that the technology community thinks the frontline worker is chomping at the bit to get in their hands or in a lot of cases on their body.
If you ask most of them you get a different answer:
The reality of today’s industrial worker technology is most are not able to use the basic technology that they use the other 14 hours of the day, a mobile device. Before anyone sends me an email I do believe personal mobile devices do cause distractions in the workplace and in most cases should not be allowed but that does not mean frontline workers should not have mobile devices that deliver information and gives them a voice to make them more productive, safer, and happier. I’ve sat through many meetings in the office where individuals are on their phones doing “company” work while they should be paying attention to the meeting they are in. Outside of a family emergency or some catastrophic event, I cannot think of a situation where an office would have to get back to someone in a split section to be successful. On the other hand, frontline work is always real-time, and without information, or a way to capture an intermittent issue workers guess what to do, do nothing or walk around to ask someone. Each of those options carries risk and unwanted consequences.
Let’s start by engaging workers with the technology they already know in a user interface that transcends generations and allows the new generation to learn from the experienced workers and vice versa.
Technology that creates transparency, accountability and drives action is what can change a culture.
Sensors are a good enhancement to workers that are engaged and getting value from technology but we have found sensors alone can create suspicion and disengage workers if a sensor is all you are deploying.