Whether in construction, field service, or on the factory floor, regular safety and quality inspections are an important aspect in ensuring the smooth running of industrial businesses. Regular inspections ensure all materials are present, all safety procedures are being followed, daily reports are completed, and that the project or production is on track. Essentially, inspections can fall into 3 categories: progress, quality, and health and safety. This is true across all industries where inspections play a role.
- A worker doing inspections using pen and paper (Image source: @kindelmedia/Pexels.com).
The Old Way of Doing Inspections
Traditionally, inspections consisted of an employee making notes in a notepad or logbook, either completing a checklist or writing down areas of concern. On rare occasions, photos would be taken to log proof of the completed inspection or to share with technicians conducting repairs. The emergence of mobile and wearable technology has made this process quicker, easier, safer, and less susceptible to errors.
Using Inspection Software
Software that assists with inspections is now widely available. It runs the gamut from off-the-shelf generic checklist software to custom-built applications that encapsulate your company’s unique processes. Site inspection software can help to
- Improve the efficiency of the inspection process.
- Facilitate the storing and sharing of documentation and inspection knowledge.
- Track progress and highlight areas of improvement.
- Allow better collaboration between individuals and between teams.
- It can also encourage the standardization of the inspection process across the company.
Software that supports mobile phones, tablets and wearables, can make the taking, storing, and sharing of photos and structured data a lot easier.
Using Wearable Devices for Inspections
As software has advanced, so has the hardware being used to complete industrial tasks. The advent of extended reality (XR) in the consumer and business sectors has meant that many processes completed using software on mobile phones and tablets can now take an even further step forward by introducing wearable technology like RealWear HMT devices. In the industrial space, augmented reality (AR) and assisted reality (aR) have been seeing growing adoption.
With assisted reality, the real-world is assumed to be the primary focus of users, with digital aspects being a secondary consideration. This setup fits the inspection use case well, especially when considering worker safety as a priority.
- Worker wearing an assisted reality device (Image source: RealWear).
Why Use Wearable Devices for Inspections?
There are numerous benefits to using wearable devices, particularly assisted reality devices to complete on-site inspections.
Using a device headset allows for hands-free work, particularly if the app on the device is voice-controlled. A lot of industrial inspections are done in hazardous environments, and having the inspector fully aware of their surroundings is important. Assisted reality devices are designed to not distract the user by only providing information within eyeshot when needed. The best devices allow display pods to be moved completely out of the workers field of vision when they aren’t needed.
Having their hands free also means that the employees don’t have to constantly put on and remove gloves and can use their hands to inspect equipment or to help them move about the site.
Documentation and Photos
Documentation can be stored on the device and accessed when needed. This means that the inspector does not need to carry around any large manuals or logbooks. They even do not need to access their phone or tablet to find relevant information. Additionally, there is no need to carry along a camera, as photos can be taken and stored with a simple voice command. All of this cuts down the time and decreases the complexity of conducting an inspection.
For large, geographically dispersed organizations it can be costly to have inspectors visit each and every inspection site. This and the impact of COVID-19 has led to the increased popularity of Remote inspections. Experts can conduct remote inspections by having a local employee wear a wearable device and following along via the camera, or having that employee call out to a remote expert when necessary. The experts in charge of ensuring smooth inspections can do so across multiple locations from the comfort of their office chair. This has a double benefit: reducing travel costs and saving inspection time.
Assisted reality devices enable virtual on-the-job training. If an employee needs help interpreting an issue on-site, they can use the device to make contact with a superior or an expert to quickly diagnose the problem. Answers can be found within minutes, versus trying and failing to fix an issue - which can be costly and time-consuming.
Assisted reality devices can also be used to train new employees that will be charged with completing inspections. Old inspections completed by their predecessors using the device can be captured and turned into a training video. This allows for more practical training that can also be accessed at a later time when an actual inspection is being done.
More companies are focusing on worker safety and remote working (accelerated due to COVID-19) — any technology that advances this goal will thrive. The introduction of inspection software moved the process into the 21st century, and wearable technology presents a new avenue for achieving operational excellence for inspections.
Having the best devices with the correct software installed means that on-site inspections can be more cost-efficient, safer, more productive, and enable the next generation of employees. Wearable devices are changing the game when it comes to on-site inspections in the industrial space.
JourneyApps provides a rapid way to build custom apps for RealWear® HMT, mobile and desktop. Voice commands are simple to set up and manage, we provide offline support out of the box, and deploying apps happens with a single click. Comes with prebuilt ERP integrations. If you are interested, please contact us to schedule a demo. You can also visit our RealWear page to learn more and subscribe for notifications about new blog posts.