Our cover story this month is all about how wearables, specifically smart glasses, can increase worker productivity. Wearables come in all shapes and sizes,
and for all sorts of body parts (yes, all sorts.)
One of the more intriguing, the first industrial glove, called ProGlove, allows workers
to document process steps without picking
up a tool, and to pick and scan at the same
time. The Munich-based startup of the same
name has run pilots in a few major German
During one of these, the workers at John
Deere’s plant in Mannheim performed 1,000
picks a day, and ProGlove says it can save 4
seconds per pick. That equates to more than
an hour a day, or a 12% efficiency increase.
Add that up over a year and the ROI will make it
seem like you’re getting a five-finger discount.
We talked to ProGlove’s spokesperson Sabrina Werner to give us some more details.
NED: How does it work?
Sabrina Werner: Its design, consisting of
a core computing unit and a glove, perfectly
adapts to industrial environments. This has
already been recognized by BMW, Festo,
Audi, Penny and around another 100 other
organizations, as well as Chancellor Angela
Merkel. Our customers see ProGlove as a
comprehensive solution for the instant start
of Industry 4.0.
With ProGlove, you work and scan at the
same time, allowing for hands-free scanning,
and therefore more ergonomic work. Through
the integration of currently discrete functionalities, the worker saves the time of taking and
replacing formerly separate tools, omitting
extra steps out of the process.
NED: How does this wearable communicate with a company’s overall inventory
system and what needs to be done to
SW: ProGlove is designed as a plug and
play solution and can be implemented without
integrational effort. We do not need to adapt
the current system.
NED: So how did the idea for the ProGlove Mark come about?
SW: ProGlove was founded by Thomas
Kirchner, Paul Günther, Jonas Girardet and
Alexander Grots. Two of them are former IDEO
employees and the other two have a background in the automotive industry, such as
BMW. The concept was created as part of the
Intel ‘Make It Wearable’ Challenge in 2014.
The four founders thought a lot about a wearable technology and what could differentiate
their product from all the fitness trackers.
Paul Günther was a PhD student at BMW and
recognized that everybody in production and
logistics wears gloves. So they thought, Why
not make a smart glove? They were the only
ones developing something for the industry at
the challenge in Silicon Valley. And with this
challenge we won our seed financing.
NED: When the company started doing
market research to see if there was a
need for the product, what were some
of the problems you knew the ProGlove
(For more go to:
PROGLOVE Smart Glove
People can’t wait to get their hands in the first industrial smart gloves. The German startup ProGlove explains how the efficiency-boosting wearable was developed and when it will be available in America.
by John Hitch
SW: Efficiency is the main profit driver in
industrial production and logistics. Outside
factors, like increasing flexibility or low-wage
countries, force process managers to evaluate every solution to increase productivity
by improving output quality and decreasing
The human worker plays a critical, but
volatile role in most production lines and
warehousing. His adaptability and learning
abilities are demanded qualities for modern
production and logistic processes. Wearable
technologies offer an enormous potential to
integrate human and human-based workflows
into the overall production systems. It is critical
for acceptance and adoption of wearables that
the user is already used to the form factor—
and everybody already wears gloves every day.
NED: You made a bit of a redesign along
the way, with the display going from the
wrist to the back of your hand. What
was the reason for that and how did
that transition go? Were you hesitant
SW: We have prototypes that include RFID,
a display, motion sensors, etc. What we real-
ized along the way is that not every technology
makes sense for the user at this moment.
First, it is hard to cancel these great func-
tionalities, but in the end the crucial question
is: “Will the customer pay money for that?”
For our customers, the most important thing
right now is to save four seconds per pick. We
don’t need RFID or motion tracking for that.
Currently we’re working on our second
product, which should offer even more information and feedback to the worker by an
included display. Pilot projects will start in
the end of 2017.
NED: You have several case studies on
your website. Can you distill all that
feedback into why a picking operation
should invest in the ProGlove?
SW: ProGlove enables manufacturing and
logistics staff to work faster, safer and easier.
With ProGlove, the worker can save up to four
seconds per pick. As an example, building one
car requires about 1,500 scans. That means a
lot of time savings and therefore money for the
car manufacturer. The worker can scan hands-free and pick goods with both hands. This is
an improvement of ergonomy and safety. The
worker gets direct feedback to his working
steps, which means a higher process quality.
NED: When will this be available in the
United States and how much will it cost?
SW: At the moment we’re certified for the
European market, where one ProGlove costs
around 1000€ ($1,000). In the U.S., we are
going to start first tests end of this year. Our
goal is to enter the North American market
ProGlove, the frst industrial smart glove, should
be available in North America next year.
BMW logistics workers found the
scanning glove can shave 4 seconds
from each pick.
Audi used the ProGlove at its largest