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Major Takeaways:

  • In 2014, DHL, a global logistics company, partnered with Ubimax, a developer of wearables endpoint solutions, to determine if smart glasses that displayed task-specific information could help employees more efficiently locate products and reduce picking errors
  • The Container Store (TCS), a retail company, worked with Theatro, a voice-enabled wearable device startup, to deploy wearables in one of their stores in Austin, Texas. TCS reported a 30% increase in effective communication among employees and a 60% decrease in the number of irrelevant messages sent to all staff
  • With a network of wearable devices in place, businesses will be able to collect, quantify, and analyze mass amounts of sensor data that they would have never otherwise been able to see
  • By connecting wearable devices to beacons, organizations can assign tasks to employees based on activity level and location to increase efficiency

From the Augmate blog:

In the very near future, implementing wearable devices in the workplace will become a necessity for businesses that want to remain competitive.

The value of bringing wearables into the workplace is clear. Early adopters have already discovered significant benefits in using wearables at work. For example, a survey by Modis, an IT staffing firm, found that 60% of respondents believed wearables would help them access information more quickly, while 54% said that they were able to track their work schedules better. This is only a sample of the benefits that wearable technology can deliver to the enterprise. As the technology matures, wearable developers will eventually focus on delivering even more specific solutions geared toward solving industry problems.

The Spectrum of  Work Processes

Many successful businesses reduce corporate costs by measuring and optimizing their use of resources and employee workflows. However, not all industries contain jobs that can be easily quantified because work processes range from highly structured to highly unstructured work.

In highly structured work environments, the inputs and outputs are easily measurable. The work process is static and repeatable. Issues that arise in structured work are fairly predictable and can be addressed by following standardized protocols. Structured work includes industries such as engineering or manufacturing.

In contrast, highly unstructured work is dynamic and requires employees to draw upon prior experiences and contextual knowledge to determine how to best complete a task. Unpredictable factors, such as weather, environment, or even customer need, can influence the actions that an employee must take to reach a particular outcome. Unstructured work often takes place in industries like warehousing, retail, or field maintenance. Increasing productivity in highly unstructured work has proven difficult, since factors that influence these work processes are not static.

Wearables have the potential to change that. They can bring insight into areas of work that were previously impenetrable, like highly unstructured work. Wearables can address the dynamic needs of a business and empower deskless workers by taking outdated work processes from analog to digital.

Logistics Company Pilots Wearables

In 2014, DHL, a global logistics company, partnered with Ubimax, a developer of wearables endpoint solutions, to determine if smart glasses that displayed task-specific information could help employees more efficiently locate products and reduce picking errors.

Currently, most warehouses still use analog systems that depends on paper picking lists, which is both time-consuming and costly. In DHL’s pilot, warehouse employees were outfitted with Google Glass and Vuzix M100 for three weeks. At the end of the program, DHL reported that workers wearing smart glasses made no errors and were 25% more efficient than the average employee. By providing workers with access to product information and location through wearable devices, warehouses can better track employee workflows, streamline tasks, and reduce operational costs.

Larger Retailer Proves Increase in Communication

During that same year, The Container Store (TCS), a retail company, worked with Theatro, a voice-enabled wearable device startup, to deploy wearables in one of their stores in Austin, Texas. TCS wanted to determine if wearables could improve employee communication across a store and enable workers to provide better customer service.

After the pilot was completed, TCS reported a 30% increase in effective communication among employees and a 60% decrease in the number of irrelevant messages sent to all staff. In addition, Theatro Wearable helped improve request response times and allowed employees to pay more attention to customers. With such positive outcomes, TCS plans on deploying enterprise wearables to more stores.

Both of these pilot programs show how wearable technology can help businesses function more efficiently. As the use of wearables in the enterprise grows, the technology will evolve and allow us to better understand and improve unstructured work processes. Wearables can also offer businesses the opportunity to scale quickly by reducing costs for employee training, which can be done by connecting wearable devices to other wearables, tablets, or smartphones.

Imagine a world where all unstructured work becomes structured. Areas of our economy that have seen little productivity growth in recent years could reap huge benefits. Wearables present us with the chance to make this world a reality.

With a network of wearable devices in place, businesses will be able to collect, quantify, and analyze mass amounts of sensor data that they would have never otherwise been able to see. Additionally, by connecting wearable devices to beacons, organizations can assign tasks to employees based on activity level and location to increase efficiency. With this real-time information in hand, organizations will be better equipped to improve communication among workers and streamline workflows.

Gone are the days of having to manually observe your workforce to understand the best practices. Wearable technology can and will improve the well-being of the employees and the companies they work for.