The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

The Robots Are (Not) Coming: How Wearable Technology Augments But Doesn't Replace Human Labor w/ Tracy Hansen


Automation cannot replace human labor. Rather, the key is to augment the workforce by equipping humans with the technology they need to be more effective, more efficient, and safer.

Tracy Hansen, president of North America and global CMO for ProGlove, a German maker of wearable digital interfaces and operations analytics for industry, joined this episode of The Manufacturing Executive Show. She talked about the ways manufacturers need to pivot with technology as they look at how to emerge from this pandemic in one piece.

Here's what we discussed with Tracy:

  • How wearable solutions can augment the human worker
  • Examples of the ways wearable technology improves safety, efficiency, and productivity
  • The wearable technology solutions executives should know about
  • ...And what excessive automation looks like and how to avoid it.

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

Humans aren't going away, nor istechnology, and I think the insightful innovatede executive is going to be theone that can look at both and put them together in a way that is needful. Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here. You'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from BTO B sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's Git in the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan, your Hosta Cofounder ofthe Industrial Marketing Agency Gerrilla. Seventy six, so if you'vebeen listening to the first handuld episodes or so of the show, you'veprobably noticed that a majority of focused on marketing or sales relatedtopics, but we've designed the podcast to cover growth from a variety ofangles, and one of those angles is technology. So our guests today is atthe forefront of that movement, and on that note, I'm super excited tointroduce Tracy Hanson, president of North America and global CMO for proglove. A German maker of wearable digital interfaces and operationsanalytics for Industry Tracy brings more than two decades of strategicbrand building experience at startup, scaleups, andfortune, five hundredfirms to the roll she's, a student of disruptive innovation, championingideas that stretch boundaries, mobilized teams and deliver businessbreakthroughs. Tracy. Welcome to the show. Thank you. It's wonderful to behere so tracy. I found you through an article that you recently published onmanufacturing dot nat back in May. I think it was at covered some ideasabout how manufacturers need to pivot as they look at how to emerge from thispandemic in one piece and since then, I've you know connected with you andyour team at pro glove and had a chance to see your thinking behind some of thethings that are going on in this industry. FOURPOINT OL world we're nowliving in and in particular, whacaught my attention where some of yourthoughts about this misconception, that automation can replace Human Labor andthe argument of seen from you and supported by high profile businessfigures like eon, musk and some of the biggest technology companies in theworld, including Apple, is that human labor is still very essential and thekey is not to replace human labor, but instead to augment the workforce byequipping humans with technology, they need to be more effective and moreefficient and safer. So I'm excited to unpack all the stuff with you today andsort of drawn your insight and experience for our listeners. Yeahwonderful glad to talk about all of this stuff, great yeah. I know it'syour world so before we get into the thick of it, though I was wondered ifyou could just kind of give us a little bit of a quick background on pro gloveand also tell us a bit about your personal journey that brought you towhere you are today. Absolutely so, but you mentioned in the troduction andthank you for all of that pro Lub is a German manufacturer of base out ofMunich, and we also are quartered in Chicago. So we are a four O. Five Yearold company we were founded after our co founders, one the intail make itwearial contest. It was an idea that they had germinating around how to makepeople in the assembly line and manufacturing, more effective and moreproductive, and the thing that they made the wearable device that they madeis a rap that you can put around your hands and I'll show your kisuse video.They put it Oun your hand and very quickly have a scanner that is as lightas a matchbox on the back of your hand, but has the power of data intelligence,real time feedback and really clear, clear data capture on the manufacturingfloor. So it shifted tha the focus away from how do I use all of these tools,all around me into one wearable device...

...that you can put on the back of yourhand within seconds and the team. The team from there grew to be amultinational company with more than five hundred companies using EIRproduct on the MANUFACTURIG and Supply Chan, universe, wow super interestingand t en such a unique advancewhent. I've seen pictures of it. I haven'tseen or heard you talk about it yet, though, and think it's that light, andit's I mean, makes a ton of sense. A one ofmy favorite analogies is when you think about scanners and anybody who'sassembling, anything that has multiple parts is likely scanning and the thesupply chain everything we touch he drink wer has been scanned vultipletimes. A scamming is as an intepral part of our daytoday operations and thetranditional handheud scanner weighs as much as a volkswagon but booksag andbeatle at the end of a given shift. So you can imagine the stress that it putson the human WHO's working with these devices compared to something thatweighs as much as a matchbox, so not just the erconomics of it, but thehuman first human centered approach to technology is so crucial when we thinkabout things like wearable devices, yeah and so what Tracy? What has sortof led you, what led you to proglover? Can you give a little background andsort of you know how you got to where you are today Sier, so in graduateschool, I discovered just in time technology just in time processesJoseph dening, the whole the whole world and wrote my thesis on ISO ninehousand and how to grow your business and move into quality and control andprocess. So my my degree and my thesis was an Ice Amen Thousand and from thereI moved into manufacturing. I worked at a hardware company CALLEDE Nedat basedout of Silicon Valley for about fifteen years and had a chance to meet agentleman name: Andres Comig, who is a real leader of visionary, an buildingbusiness and he and bringing technology to market. So after I left Thatup, Istarted to move into the startup space and into scale of businesses whenundrhis called and said that he had discovered Kroglav, meteco founders andthought it was just a phenomenal organization that was poiced to reallybring something new and innovated to the market and then wanted to breakopen those markets. Specifically, North America, so he toked me to join. I cameabout nine months ago and have really seen the the opportunity that thiscompany has to offer manufactures assembly lines supply chain. You nameit to do something great and innovative,not just with the scanner, but with the the software that we have behind it. Sothe progrubs sort of presence in the UnitedStates is is relatively new still and it's intancy and you're helping bringit to life. Absolutely ihnwe started about two years ago here and really hitthe ground running about about eighteen months ago, and the last year we'veseen explsive growth in North America. Interesting. What's your customer base?Look like just ort of curiosity, what who are as a lot of different fectors,so we started in the assembly space, so automotive manufacturing in Germany.Some of our big customers are the every major car manufacture that you canthink of. They are likely using the the PROGLA skaning solution on theirassembly line, BMW, LD FOLKSWAGON HE NA atd. Then we moved into aviation. Socompanies like the Tonza now we're going deep in the retail space, so ecommerce is exploding. So anybody who is with warehouse, distribution andlogistics they're finding great use for our technology and we're also seeinggrowth in healthcare, so both that the frontline health care in hospitals inuniversities, as well as in the back office with the design and distributionof... goods. So we're recordingthis in July of two thusand and twenty and were you know in the thick ofeverything going on with the pandemic and I'm just kind of curious? What? How does this fit into the mix and h Owearable solution that sort of augments the human worker? Obviously, healthcareis at the forefront of all that just kind of curious Yo who you talk aboutthat Sowe're in a very interesting time and starting at a new company right aswe headed into the host covid world or guess we're still in covid world almhas been really interesting in and the challenges that we were talking aboutas a company in the early part in two thousand and twenty have have shiftedvery dramatically at the at the beginning of the year, we were lookingat scale and innovation and deployment of new technology. Now whatwe're looking at is: How can I bring in technology that will speed of myoperations? Keep my employees SAF help me on board and train NHE employeesquickly and aduptly? How can I use technology to to enhance the worker ina time where safety is absolutely at the forefront of every operation leaderleader's mind, so the good news is, we didn't need to Hivit too terriblystrong in this whole universe, because from the very beginning we were focusedon the human, the human at the center of the workforce. It has netwud, neverstrayed from that, and while it wasn't, our intention to have a solution forthe environment were currently in. It naturally fit into this space becauseour customers are propects. The people that we talk to day and and day out arereally challenged with shifting the business to accommodate newrequirements for health and safety for their employees, bringing on newemployees as they're, rapidly spinning up robust ecommerce solutions, and youthink about it. As we shit to ECOMMERCE, you need more people to do the pickingand the packing and the logistics and the delivery and so forth as we'relooking at our manufacturing and assembly teams, they're they're,looking at how can I have saved social distance? How can I make sure that I'musing a solution that is personal to me? So if I have a a wrap, that's my rapand I'm not sharing it with three other employees. Is that safer, so our humancenter design are focus on keeping employees. Safe has always been a corepart of our vision and our culture, and that's what people are talking to usabout now, a d, that's what't's, attracting them to these types ofdevices. So a shift more. Would you say to the safety focus, then theincreasing efficiency focus or is it? Is it a lot of both in just given the how the businessworld has changed in a few months? It's a lot of both safety is first andforemost we actually and and all transparent o. We had a few deals thatwe, our customers, that we were talking to were they were they're like hey, wegoing to pump the braks here and then ace. We started to talk to them aboutthe safety component or they came to us talking about the safety component ofwhat they're trying to implement. It became evident that the human firstapproach lent itself to the challenges that they were facing. It's soimportant to our customers and the people that we see in the field to careabout their employees to focus on what will make them efficient. Yes, ofcourse, but safe in the environment, that they're working in the second partis, is really around speed of adoption and speed of operation, so efficient,absolutely still at crucial, but as so many of us have had to pitit and dosomething different or or faster t n than we had prior in that tha. The ideaof...

...complete digital transformation,complete overhaul of operations was put to the side and they wanted to look at.What can I do to enhance the workforce? I have and bring things up quicklywithout a lot of training without a lot of complexity, so ease of use wascrucial because speed was paramount and I'm sure, like you, I'm sure. Like me,you probably experienced a lot of because of covid things are delayedbecause of covid things are slow and that that resulted in a lot of rereimagining of what needed to happen in assembly ININ supply chaime across theboard. So it's pretty pervasive those two things:Speed and safety are recurring conversation that we have withoutalmost everybody, WEA speak with. So could you get kind of tangible forlisteners here and maybe talk about a few? You know specific examples wherewearable solutions that augment the human worker you know can help with eitherefficiency or safety, or you know just helping productivity would love to hearsome SOM real, tangible examples o make this concret orso there's a couple. Solet's start with the the the sharing of tools and assets somaking it wearable with the instead of sharing a handhelp scanner right. Soevery time I put it down and one of my coworkers fix it up IV had thepotential to spread germs or to create an environment that is unsafe and thenthe time it would take to clean everything between every single scamwould become quite a slowing technique. When I have awarable device, somethingthat I'm putting on my my body and it's mine, I am now less room forcontamination. Less less likely to unintentionally share a germ that Idon' want to with a with a coworker, because it's mine and it's it's on me,then. The second thing that I would say is from awarable safety standpoint weintroduced in our own floor. We ere a Manufacturin Company and assemblycompany as well. We create the devices on our own premises. We needed amechanism to allow our assembly team to know when they were too close tosomebody. So we created an innovated, a proximity sensor, so I have thevearable device and, through our mechanisms of communication, can eitherthrough optics through sit through audio or through Haptic, so feeling letsomebody know if they're too close to another coworker, we rolled it out on our floor and thenwe realized our customers might eat it too. So we made it free and availableto all of our customers. They could download it right from our website atno additional charge, and then we extended that out to anybody who wantedto download our PG connect our progo connect solution, who maybe didn'tdidn't, have our worderful device. So they could have it on ar cell phonesomething on their body, but not our scanner so that they could keep their employeessafes. That's the second thing and then the third thing around speeding thingsup and how does wearables feed things up we introduce mark display which has,on the back of your hand and ink reader that allows you to as a awarer of ourdevice to see instantly what you beed to do next? What's the job to get done,so I don't have to go back to a terminal somewhere on the pickin flooror go back to an office to get a print out to know what the next job to getdone is saving vitals minutes and sometimes seconds every time, I'm doingthe job on the shop floor. So those are just three examples of how wearablescan keep you safe and and keep you moving faster. That's great! Now, alongthe lines of augmenting the worker,...

...what other innovations are you seeingout there? That executives should know about wherble technology is prettyexciting, we're so used to it as humans and consumers, whether it's the fit bid.The watch that you're wearing e the phone that you're carrying we have it in integrated into our dailylives. So if you bring that to the shop floor, you bring it to themanufacturing plan. You start to realize that that wearabale technology,when used in combination together, can create such effective dreamlineprocesses. You can start to envision having a human digital twin thatcreates a set of data that you can now is an operations managers see what'shappening on your floor, every step of the way the the visual I like to use iswhen I have truck come into to my plant and I'm UNunloading, the truck I'm scanning things, I'm bending I'm looking I'mhearing different things, and if I have warable technology, that is helping meas the worker now, where to put the palete where to put the box and then,as the a peer comes where to take the box to how to assemble and all of thewearable technology that I have on is feeding the real time informationgiving me haptic feedback on on it, I'm going inthe right direction or picking up the right box. It gives me the theintelligence right there within my body to do he the right thing, the next jobthat needs to get done in the right order. From a worker standpoint, it'smuch more efficient, it's less less stressed and trying to figure thingsout from an operations manager perspective. It gives me theintelligence. I need to know how to improve my production line, how toimprove my operations, how to keep my workers again very healthy and safe,remove obstacles that get in their way or eliminate challenges that are placedin front of them that are unnecessary obstacles as a executive looking tofigure out what to do next, I'm really hone in on the human and understanding.What are the steps the human needs to take next, to be more effective to bemore efficient years ago years ago, I read a book called the mythica manmonth.Are you familiar with it? I'M NOT! No! It's a book by Fr, Frend Brooks and I'sthis whole concept around adding more people to it. So people think Ou. If Ihave a software project that I need to deliver against, I can add more peoplein that software project will get done faster right, more people means faster.Well. When I look at what I what's happening in this Assembla floorn andthe Suppy Cham, I sometimes hear similar things like. Oh, if I I add anautomation, things will get faster. Things will move faster and I kind offeel like we need to have a simple, mythical, manmonth contept, themythical automation month, Il because really, at the end of the day,it's the human in our ability to respond and to think and to move theproduct forward. That creates a momentum and efficiency and when youthink about automation and bringing automation into the assembly line themanufacturing floor, the supply chain, you sometimes displace the efficiency,because the thinking is automation is going to solve all the problems. Butreally automation can create more challenges of different challenges. Soour thinking is, let's focus on the human. Let's focus on what theprocesses are, that they do and use wearable technology to move the needlefaster and that's what I think executives need to really home in on isusing the assets they have and...

...enriching that experience versusdisplacing those assets with things that will just introduce an entirelydifferent sete of complexity and challenges that might result in thatmythical manmonth that that doesn't hield the results theyre looking foryeah, I love that so many things related t automation. I imagine soundperfect in the theory and then, when you get into actually implementing them,you realize that you know, creates new new hurdles and obstacles and what you're saying is it makes a lot ofsense. You know it's a good sort of Segu intothe next next few questions I have here. You know it's one thing to augment toWorkr in another to attempt to fully automate or attempt a fully automatidprocess, and you know my understanding from what I've seen from you is that alot of companies tend to run into these obstacles, and so what is excessive?Automation, look like from your perspective and how can executives avoid it? Each eachbusiness is different right, so some where some companies need automationand it could be excessive for a different business. So I think we needto to look at these in unique iniquely. If I were t to say Hay, I have anopportunity to go in and fully automate the entire environment and there'll beno humans involved. I think that would give you great pouse, because evenautomation requires humandiy techndicians. You need processengineers. You need a different inti, a different skill set. Certainly when youhave automation, it's just different. So when I think about what's excessive,I think, if it's totally rotating over to we're going to automate everythingwhere I've seen successis now had an opportunity to go to a number ofdifferent warehouses, an and assembly floors now, and I've seen the balanceof automation, where automation makes sense where using systems and roboticsto move the process forward makes sense is heartnered with were to humans. Makesense where is critical. Thinking required, where is more dexterity,required those two things when balanced out creatate a incredibly efficient inelegant solution, so my recommendation for executives would be to find thebalance any time you say all or a hundred percent or everything you're,probably leaning towards excessive. If you're looking at collaborativeautomation and human collaboration, you're, probably on the right path,that's a good answer. I read an interesting article, the other dayabout apples manufacturing process, and you K her. You have the most profitabletechnology company in the world and one of the most technologically advancedcompanies, probably in history and they've, repeatedly failed to automatetheir production lines is sort of what I l I gathered from the article andit's it's led them to turn back to human labor time and time again. And sowhat do you think that failed? Attempts from even the biggest companies in theworld, like apple, can teach manufacturing executives aboutefficiencies, automation, the role of Human Labor, etc. Yeah th, the article you're referring to isreally insightful and they've been trying to affor close to a decade. Ithink they startd in like two thousand and twelve, with their partner in Chinato bring automation to life and they were going to replace all thehuman workers with a million romots. But I love about that example, and Ithink they can learn from is the that: it's okay to fail right, it'sabsolutely okay, to fail and to attempt different ways to bring automation tolife. It's okay to experiment, and- and I encourage it- I think it's reallyimportant. It's how we discovered the the wearable solution, right,prototyping, risk and attempting where what I think the best thing we canlearn from the apple example and from others, I've seen is to BRINGIG CAMANSin to the design stage bringing humans...

...into the process, so they over rotatedto my previous answer. They overgood is hated to we're going to do all Romoticsas we've seen that they're moving forward and others like them as they'rrealizing humans are' going away. Humans are part of the solution. Howcan we bring humans together with technology, to create a solution thatis efficient and effective? So I think the apple example is perfect. I thinktheir experimentation ha has shown us that humans are essential and youmentioned Elon Musk earlier same thing. I think they were trying to replacehumans in all of R. Their assembly lines for PROTESTLA humans areessential. We cannot underestimate he the role that humans play in assemblyand manufacturing. I think that's a great message to send. You know what I'm gathering from youhere today, hon to kind of wrap this up, Os that you kN W tethere's all thetechnology out there. That is maybe feared by SOM as a replacement forhuman labor. Is it's really when used properly it's there to make people moreeffective and more efficient to keep them safer? You know: Is there any any? Last thingsyou'd say here to a manufacturing executive about you know just theimportance of putting technology alongside workers, rather than using it to replace them. An just thatit's technology is beautiful, robotics are great, and Iot Internet of thingsis absolutely a wave of the future. Artificial intelligence can be sopowerful when implemented the right way. Humans aren't going away, nor istechnology, and I think the insightful innovatede executive is going to be theone that can look at both and put them together in a way that is meaningfulfor whatever problem they're trying to solve, so that that balance and the theunderstanding that we need both is going to be he the thing that will setthe leading executive. Apart from the rest, I love that will tracy. This is asuper, interesting and valuable conversation. I really love what you'redoing a pro glove and the mindset you're bringing to the industrialsector, especially during a a super challenging time in the world. F R foreverybody out there really. Can you tell us the best place to find youonline in case listeners would like to get in touch or learn more about proglove and what it might be able to do for them sure the best place tot byingProblov is on our website CROMLOCOM. You can also find us on linked in we'revery active and love, having conversations with our our industry peers in unlinked in, andyou can find me an linked in as well crazy, ansome, beautiful, well Tracy.Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on the manufacturingexecutive. It was pleasure having Yoon here. I thinks Jos delightful great nto the rest of you. We hope to see you next time you've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools specificallyfor me to be manufacturers at grilla. Seventy SIXCOM war. Thank you so muchfor listening until next time.

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