Colgate-Palmolive is Utilizing AR Wearable Tech for Worldwide Manufacturing Efficiency and Safety

Colgate has come a long way in their two hundred plus years, from producing soap and candles in a single New York factory, to becoming the number one producer of toothpaste, among numerous other products, in the world.

One of the ways the company has stayed ahead of the curve is through their investment in the future. Colgate opened one of the first applied research labs back in 1896, and they've been looking for ways to improve ever since.

Colgate-Palmolive's latest evolution is looking to achieve a more efficient manufacturing process using augmented reality powered wearable tech.

It Starts with a Partnership

Colgate-Palmolive has teamed up with RealWear, a global leader in augmented reality wearable computing, and a company whose sole aim is to help improve employee safety while also increasing productivity through the use of wearable tech.

Realwear's HMT-1 device boasts a virtualized Android tablet fully integrated into a hands-free, voice-activated headset. It's designed to allow employees the ability to work hands-on while utilizing a virtual seven-inch tablet which sits just below the user's line of sight. The device features a microdisplay which is visible in all lighting environments, including the great outdoors, meaning it doesn't matter where they are. Even while climbing scaffolding, the user can maintain their situational awareness.

"The image viewed on the HMT-1 is phenomenal," explains AR analyst of the Futurum Tech Podcast, Fred McClimans. "The clarity is great. The ability to point or look at an industrial device and get extended information is phenomenal. When it comes to AR we like to talk about glasses, but here's good tech that makes good business and safety sense."

It's also ruggedized to MIL-STD-810G levels, which means they've survived drop tests from at least eight feet onto a concrete surface. The HMT-1 can function in temperatures ranging from -4 to -122 Fahrenheit. It's dust tight and can withstand working in heavy seas. Not that these conditions are likely to be found in a toothpaste factory, but it's reassuring to know they're durable.

Most importantly, the wearable tech is much safer to use than a cumbersome tablet or visually distracting smart glasses.

Colgate-Palmolive has successfully tested the HMT-1 in several pilot locations and is clearly more than satisfied with the results. The company plans to make its use standard practice, initially rolling out the HMT-1s to twenty of its largest manufacturing facilities across eleven different countries.

"Colgate-Palmolive tested RealWear HMT-1 through successful pilots in 8 locations and is now standardizing globally on this wearable device for our manufacturing operations," said VP for Global Engineering at Colgate-Palmolive, Warren Pruitt. "Looking ahead, we see an opportunity to use this tool beyond the plant floor for improved performance and new efficiencies."

The global rollout is possible due to the versatility of the HMT-1. With four microphones and advanced algorithms performing noise cancellation prior to voice recognition, employees will be able to use their regular speaking voice and receive an accurate performance, even in an environment where industrial background noise is as high as 95 decibels.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

The use of RealWear's tech within Colgate-Palmolive means mechanics and engineers will be able to troubleshoot machinery while keeping their hands free to work on the task in front of them. Using their voice to engage with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), equipment suppliers, and manufacturing teams across multiple sites for support and cross training.

HMT-1 users will also be able to access any required video or documents. They can even capture and create their own, adding them to the wealth of knowledge already available in the archives. Realwear's platform can offer remote mentoring, document navigation, internet of things visualization, and digital workflow solutions.

"Colgate-Palmolive's global deployment signifies that industrial wearable computing has crossed the chasm into mainstream manufacturing companies," said RealWear CEO and Cofounder, Andy Lowery. "This has been a textbook example of how to move with energy and purpose, from evaluation through pilot to global deployment."

Final Thoughts

Colgate-Palmolive's latest partnership is set to decrease the amount of unsanctioned downtime, increase general worker productivity, while also helping to maintain its already high standout of employee safety.

You can hear Colgate-Palmolive's Vice Present of Global Engineering Services, Warren Pruitt, and Director of Technology for Strategic Innovation and Alliances Gary Binstock speak at Connected Manufacturing Forum 2019, being held in July at the Hilton Austin, Austin, TX.

Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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