Blog Post

Why Wearables’ Redemption Is Waiting On The Factory Floor

manufacturing-execution-systems Bottom line: Wearables are redeeming themselves by embracing a more service-oriented strategy that seeks to deliver manufacturing intelligence from the factory floor to the top floor.

From Google Glass to proprietary wearables designed for manufacturing, this category of the devices has received an underwhelming response in the market. What’s missing is a more service-oriented approach that transforms captured data into a broader, more contextually relevant manufacturing strategy and service.

Wearables need to get beyond personal productivity tasks that don’t scale and become more engrained into those that do, starting with manufacturing intelligence. Automating work instructions, integrating scanners for quick bar code reading, and other personal productivity tasks aren’t pushing wearables to the limit of what they are capable of. Building manufacturing intelligence services that are subscription-based will.

 Capturing Data And Creating Subscription Services Is The New Black

The recent conversations with Tien Tzuo, Founder and CEO of Zuora and four of the company’s leading customers including Arrow Electronics, Scheinder Electric, Unify and Yellow Pages Canada at Subscribed 2015 underscore how the Internet of Things (IoT) has turned into a catalyst for entirely new subscription-based business models. Schneider Electric is using dynamic pricing to sell energy management subscription services based on sensor data.  Arrow Electronics is working on a variety subscription services based entirely on IoT-based data.  Yellow Pages, YP.CA has redefined their business model using online subscriptions. Based on the conversations with these Zuora customers, it became clear that wearables can deliver so much more value as a sensor versus just a personal productivity device. Over time, they could help turn manufacturing into a service subscribed to Zuora (which provided airfare and hotel to the event and is not a client or customer).


Here are the key take-aways from the discussion:

  • Wearables need to be an integral part of a manufacturer’s IoT strategy to deliver value.  Instead of using wearables to electronically deliver the latest work instructions to an operator, the same wearable device needs to deliver data back on machine-level compliance, reliability and quality data.  Having all this data is the beginning of a manufacturing intelligence subscription service.
  • Redefining wearables as sensors that learn and teach needs to happen now. Having wearables take on more tasks specifically in the areas of incoming inspection, traceability, ,machine-level compliance, and also how each step in a production process is running is unknown in many manufacturers.  Capturing all this data, aggregating it and providing analytics apps to gain contextual insight further adds value to subscriptions.
  • Gaining insights into how to improve plant safety, production workflows and supplier coordination needs is another area wearables need to contribute. Today manufacturers are doing the majority of these things manually, if at all. Wearables, from glasses to sensors for monitoring forklifts and other heavy equipment, could capture this data and feed it into a subscription service.
  •  Wearables need to become an integral part of a manufacturing subscription service that spans product lifecycles. Arrow Electronics and Schneider Electric have projects underway today that are relying on a variety of sensors, wearables and IoT-based technologies to fuel subscription services than span product generations. PwC’s recent blog post, Field service workers could fix wearables’ PR problem shows how a full-scale manufacturing subscription service integrating wearables, IoT sensors and 3D printing can revolutionize field service. This is what’s possible in a subscription economy when wearables become tightly integrated into production – not just left as personal productivity devices.


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