ProGlove says it builds the smallest, lightest, and toughest barcode scanners in the world, connecting workers to the Internet of Things. The customer list of the industry wearable maker includes the likes of BMW, DHL, Walmart, GAP, Lufthansa and many other renowned organisations in manufacturing, production, logistics and retail.

We caught up with Ilhan Kolko, ProGlove’s Chief Product Officer to find out more about ProGlove’s secret sauce and its latest product initiatives.

So, why would anyone put a barcode scanner on a glove?

Because it makes a lot of sense!

Really? How so?

No one scans for a living, but it is an essential procedure across many industries. In fact, many hands on the shopfloor have to scan thousands of times per day as part of their daily routine. So, it is only logical you would like to have your barcode scanner always with you so you do not have to constantly pick it up and drop it off. Kind of like a natural extension or augmentation of your body. Our wearable barcode scanners can save workers up to six seconds per scan. This may not sound like a whole lot but it scales big time. Just do the math for yourself: Say you have ten workers who each scan 500 times per shift – which is a fairly conservative number. This means you can save 30,000 seconds or significantly more than one human worker’s day within one shift. So, if you’re operating with three shifts per day, you can save more than three human worker days within one business day. Based on that calculation you would save 60 human worker days per month and so forth. With that being said, you can imagine how much you can raise your productivity and throughput.

You mentioned the workers on the shopfloor. How are they responding to your wearable barcode scanners?

Did it not strike you that the word LOVE is a fundamental part of our brand name? Well, there you have it! (Smiles Ilhan Kolko) But seriously, workers love our products because they make their life so much easier. In fact, more than 95 percent of the workers who use our scanners would recommend them. This is due to the fact that not only do we provide more efficiency to their work, we also help them deliver better quality. Our scanners come with an instant worker feedback that helps to prevent roughly one third of the common picking errors. And then there is also the weight. Our scanners weigh only about two ounces and are easily ten times lighter than your typical barcode scanners. In a high frequency scanning environment, this can amount to a reduction of up to 1.5 metric tons in weightlifting for your workers onsite.

So why didn’t anybody come up with this idea sooner?

The short answer is because people tend to underestimate the power of micro efficiencies. The idea to mount a barcode scanner on the back of a work glove is something that one of our founders came up with while he was doing guided tours through BMW’s central plant in Munich. It is based on three key observations: Almost all assembly workers in the automotive industry wear gloves. They literally scan one million times per day per plant. Automotive makers are particularly keen about improving their efficiency. Needless to say, he won BMW over in a heartbeat with his idea. And from there on, it was a down-hill battle for us. Because as I pointed out above, barcode scanning is an instrumental part of many industries so that we could expand our key markets to include manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, retail and e-commerce as well as post and parcel.

This sounds obvious and still you can’t help but wonder why so many organisations do not pursue these micro-efficiencies with more vigour?

Because it is quite common to look upon your processes from a top-down management perspective which allows you to evaluate things as they should be in an ideal world. Yet what you are missing then is a bottom-up view. In other words, you need something that complements the picture you get when you check your enterprise systems. Something that narrates the true story of the shopfloor, if you will.

So, can you tell this true story of the shop floor?

Yes, we can.

With your barcode scanners?

They are a critical piece of the story. But we also built a process analytics solution by the name of Insight, which leverages the IoT capabilities of our devices to connect the dots.

What capabilities are you talking about and how are they connecting the dots?So, our MARK scanners come with a number of sensors that allow them to collect meta data. This information includes time stamps, scanning time, location, step counts and much more that goes way beyond the content that conventional barcode scanners can capture. Insight contextualises that data to provide actionable insights. In addition, we supply plug and play access solutions to enable the required connectivity on the shopfloor. Through the Insight web portal customers can effortlessly access this data or rely on our APIs to consume the data the way they want.

So, what can organisations actually do with Insight?

Insight is an accumulated imprint of a business’s shopfloor. It is comprised of troves of anonymised data sets including scans and time-motion patterns. This allows organisations to measure the human effort needed to process jobs, identify blockers, visualise their shopfloor, compare workstations, enact social distancing, measure the impact of initiatives and much more. Insight recognises patterns that are impossible to recognise with a top-down view. Take time-motion studies for instance, they can help businesses determine whether they are appropriately staffed which is vital particularly when it comes to handling peaks. Insight is in use at more than 100 customer sites, and we have had users report efficiency gains of up to 20 percent.

It makes you wonder whether Insight will be perceived as a surveillance tool. Is it one?

No, it is certainly not. Insight is a tool that strengthens the human worker and is designed to promote worker well-being. First and foremost, Insight is 100 percent compliant with data privacy regulations. The captured the data is anonymised and aggregated. Insight monitors our devices and does not support means to cross-reference a device to a person. But maybe even more importantly, through our Insight Mobile App we provide a way for the worker on the shopfloor to understand which kind of data is transmitted. So, it provides transparency which is mandatory for that kind of solution. Insight identifies process disruptions, and it shows where processes are good. This actually provides a kind of democratisation, this feeling of really being a valuable part of the business leads to identification, because you see that your actions matter. But there is also a gamification aspect as employees not only recognise their contribution to the overall success of the organisation, they also continually strive to outdo themselves. This drive for continuous improvement also encourages the solidification of best practices. This, however, is an extremely valuable circumstance, because employees onsite know exactly how best to perform the jobs they face on a daily basis. After all, they are very familiar with the conditions and the environment. For the organisation, on the other hand, it is extremely valuable to recognise such patterns in order to be able to reproduce them and transfer them to comparable workstations.

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By Alison