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Wearables can help with worker safety, retention

By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing magazine

We have been remiss in not reporting a great deal on wearables since starting this magazine in early 2016. So, in this issue, we tackle that subject on two fronts of great import: worker safety and worker retention.

In the cover story, I chronicle the founding of MākuSafe, which is also just over four years old.

MākuSafe’s raison d’être comes equally from CEO Gabe Glynn’s family history and from harrowing stories Glynn collected interviewing manufacturers in Iowa for his podcast: His great grandfather survived a factory explosion by a stroke of luck. And the stories he broadcast included one about a worker dying of heat exhaustion and another about a man who lost his hearing.

Glynn and cloud-computing specialist Mark Frederick developed an armband device packed with communication technology and MākuSafe sensors for light, sound, temperature, humidity and air quality. “It also has an accelerometer for tracking motion,” Glynn said. “We look for things like slips, trips, falls, and forceful repetitive movements. And it has Bluetooth low energy onboard, and wi-fi,” which help with location positioning.

Read about why it is important, how it works and how it is capable of integrating with automation systems here.

In our worker-retention story, contributing editor Ilene Wolff writes that Boeing, BMW, Comau, Ford, GM, Hyundai and Toyota are among the manufacturers that have already embraced wearables.

Toyota in 2018 designated an upper body exoskeleton as personal protection equipment for welders at its Woodstock, Ont., plant.

That move, Wolff writes, may have been a watershed moment for the use of wearable robotics in manufacturing—because it puts exoskeletons in the same league as goggles, closed-toed shoes and industrial ear plugs.

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