Today, smart devices in your home, car and even your clothes are linked to your smart phone and tablet, keeping you always connected and in control. These connected devices were developed for the consumer world, but their use has expanded to the shop floor. One of the more intriguing ones is the webcam, the miniaturized, low-cost, Internet-enabled video camera. Originally developed for video calling (i.e., web chats), tiny video camera technologies rapidly evolved and showed up in camera phones and wearable units used to record your adventures and day-to-day activities for sharing on Twitter, YouTube and others.
With these tiny cameras, we can now keep an eye on our pets or the babysitter from anywhere at any time. These connected cameras are easily accessible for consumers, but why not apply this technology to the shop floor? Manufacturers today can use this technology to improve traceability, ensure products are made correctly and delivered damage free. Here’s how:
As an extension of existing plant and global logistics networks, these low-cost and highly capable webcams and devices add visibility and enhance the tracking and management of product and processes anywhere, often under conditions that make direct human observation difficult or dangerous.
Is there a problem with your production line and its root is inside a machine, in a heat treat oven or sand-blast cabinet? Mount a webcam close to the area of concern and record the activity. Using a webcam can save countless hours of speculation, modeling and experimentation, allowing you to see what’s going on inside the machine. Webcams can also be used for observation of hard-to-reach (and see) areas when products are being field tested during development or to help identify failure modes or product improvement opportunities while in use.
I recently heard from a customer where a delicate product would sometimes arrive damaged at its destination and the shipper could not identify why or how this was happening. A webcam mounted inside the truck revealed that the strapping allowed the product to move and suffer damage. The only other way to “see” and understand this problem is to have someone ride with the cargo a number of times until the problem reveal itself – a dangerous and costly undertaking.
While webcams on the shop floor aren’t recording the daredevil tricks consumers are capturing, their usage can directly impact manufacturers’ bottom line. A small investment into these tiny cameras can improve safety and efficiency, saving manufacturers both time and money.