You’ve been hearing a lot about wearable connected worker products and systems and their potential safety and productivity benefits.   You’ve done your research and you really feel that it may be time to test one of the connected worker products in your facility with your workers.  Now what?  Here are a few important things to consider:

Know what you want to accomplish
Doing a pilot test of a connected worker system that has caught your interest is a great way to get some real experience with the ins and the outs of using the system.  However, to optimize the amount of information and quality of the results you come away with, make sure you have clear objectives with respect to what you want to accomplish with the pilot.   In other words, don’t go into a pilot project looking for a problem to solve.  Know in advance what thing or things you want to improve in your operation, identify a few (and only a few!!!) key metrics that will be important to the assessment of performance in these areas, then set up the pilot project to determine if the connected worker solution has an impact on these metrics.  It can be easy to “bite off more than you can chew” in a pilot project because you get caught up in the capabilities and the excitement of the technology.  However, less is definitely more when it comes to outlining expectations and objectives at the pilot stage.

Example objectives could be:

  • “Reduce the average time elapsed from the morning planning meeting to when workers enter the work zone (e.g. – “first starts”)”
  • “Increase accountability and efficiency during employee safety stand-down or mustering events
  • “identify and optimize appropriate staffing to prevent production choke points such as permit writing, distribution of tools, etc.”
  • “Understand why some groups perform at a higher level than other groups performing the same tasks?”

Understand what infrastructure (equipment and hardware) is required for the test so that you can plan for its installation.
If the connected worker system provider needs to tap into your plant’s internet, IT is going to want to know and understand this well before the vendor shows up at the plant.  In today’s world, encryption requirements, data security, and malicious attacks are everyday concerns for the IT folks.  Make sure you bring IT in early so that these issues can be smoothly coordinated with the vendor.

Adoption Activities are Key:  Spend time with the workers who will be wearing the connected worker device to explain the objectives, address their concerns, and ask for their buy-in.

OK – this is probably obvious, but it’s important to remember that technology is just one part of the connected worker system implementation.  The other two equally, or possibly more important, factors are: adoption and integration.  The technology can be wiz-bang, but if the worker isn’t buying why he or she must wear the device, its likely to end up in the plant toilet, run over by a forklift, or…well, you get the picture.   It’s important for the worker to understand that this isn’t their worst “Big Brother” nightmare, and the company isn’t trying to figure out how much time they spend in the restroom.  In reality, they are being asked to participate in a test that could make their company safer, more efficient, and effective in a marketplace where competition is fierce and resources are scarce.  If implemented correctly, the connected worker system can actually make them feel their future is more safe and secure.

Integration:  How will information pertinent to the objectives of the pilot be reported, who will have access to the reports, and how will they be integrated into all of the other information that people are monitoring daily, weekly, or monthly?
Even the best product can be a market-place failure if it’s not easy to integrate with everything else a company is currently running and relying on.  At the pilot stage, it’s important that proper thought be put into the reporting of collected data and accessibility of said reports, as these decisions can have an impact on the company’s overall assessment of the pilot’s success or failure.  If the connected worker system is billed as flexible and able to readily integrate collected data into your existing information management system, you will want to make sure the pilot puts the connected worker tool through those paces.  For example, does your plant currently have a badge-in and badge-out system for employees, and can the connected worker tool interface with this system?

So, keep these considerations top of mind as you scope and set-up your connected worker pilot project, and GOOD LUCK!