Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Factory-Floor Wearables Advance ‘Internet of Things’ in Manufacturing

The Internet of Things (IoT) is moving quickly to the factory floor, for both machines and people. The reason: More manufacturers are placing a new emphasis on “big data” to gain a competitive edge.

‘Ceaseless’ sensors are being installed on equipment and worn by employees that provide continuous monitoring, collect valuable data and make quick, automatic adjustments to systems to keep them humming. The trend even includes the appearance of more wearables such as Google Glass.

Major U.S. manufacturers, including General Electric and Honeywell, have been tapping into IoT and deploying massive quantities of networked new devices in their plants, according to The Wall Street Journal. One example is Stanley Black & Decker, which has been pioneering techniques at its manufacturing center in Reynosa, Mexico. The power-tool manufacturer is using sensors to spot problems and delays in the production line faster than human workers can.

“The PC will be dead on the shop floor. Turning people into essentially walking sensors is going to be the future.”

RFID tags are also being placed along assembly lines at DeWalt, also a power tools maker, to monitor the output of jigsaws, planers and cordless drills and then wirelessly relay data that includes product timestamps and number of products completed, the Journal said. Analytics software fires off alerts when necessary to supervisors’ desktops, smartphones and tablets.

Suppliers expect an imminent explosion of IoT applications in automotive plants. Jason Prater, vice president of development for cloud-based manufacturing-software company Plex Systems, regaled an audience of industry executives at a Michigan conference recently with assurances that the time is now for such technology.

“There’s a perception manufacturing is still in the Dark Ages, that people are still banging on hammers putting things together,” Prater said. “That’s not true. We are the leading edge.”

And the leading edge now, he said, is that “the PC will be dead on the shop floor. Turning people into essentially walking sensors is going to be the future.” The wearable technology involved will include devices like Google Glass that factory workers can wear on the job to transmit data automatically. There also will be smart watches and smart vests that “will allow you to continue using your hands without having to input or look for data.”

In turn, factory-software systems using the data will be able to adjust tooling and equipment without human intervention, Prater said. “It will allow seamless interactions. They will solve a lot of problems on the shop floor.”

At the same time, workers will benefit, and not just from the automation of processes that they currently must conduct manually. In the wave of sensors that can be worn in a vest are those that can help prevent accidents, for example, as well as others that monitor a worker’s body temperature on the job and send out a signal if a person’s temperature gets too high or too low.

These devices tied into the Internet of Things promise immense gains. Harnessing them on the factory floor could help American companies keep their technology lead.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.