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Two shopfloor workers at assembly line showing their smartwatches in an Industry 4.0 applicationSource: Bosch

I am very happy to introduce you today to the Bosch Anderson plant. It is the first (Bosch) plant to successfully implement smartwatches on a manufacturing line for better operator efficiency and productivity. Smartwatches are now used on select lines and have eliminated machine stoppages due to feeder jams and other specific faults. The smartwatches also improve operator response time to general machine faults, which results in a significant savings of time and money.

With the new system, the assembly line is able to communicate with Pebble Smartwatches worn by line operators. This allows the operators to know in almost real-time when and where a specific problem is about to occur. They can then act swiftly to correct the fault or jam, usually before the line ever stops, improving productivity and reducing downtime.

How it works:

  • The server that communicates with the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) on each line receives a signal when a problem or jam is about to occur.
  • The server programming interprets this signal and sends a message to the iPhone.
  • The iPhone immediately relays the message via Bluetooth to all smartwatches on the line.
  • The smartwatches will vibrate, alerting the operator(s) that an urgent message has arrived. The message contains the location of the fault/jam and a description.
  • The line operator reacts to the message and fixes the fault/jam – in many cases before the line stops.

The smartwatch system now runs 24/7 on the LSF Xfour (lamda sensor) line. For every three production days, the system eliminates approximately one hour of downtime, based on time studies and average frequency of only feeder jams. This equates to 122 hours of additional production per year on this line alone. Within a few months using the smartwatch system, the operators already rely heavily on its ability to deliver real-time information.

Before the use of the smartwatch system, buzzers and red lights informed the operators of problems on the line, but these meant the machine had already stopped and needed attention. The team tried using an iPhone, but it was not audible and the vibration often was not detectable.

Smart watch of Industry 4.0 Boscj application with display detail Source: Bosch
The other important feature of the smartwatch, besides the notification aspect, is that it is unobtrusive. The Pebble weighs only a few ounces and is small in size, so it does not get in the operator’s way when they are performing their tasks.

There are currently three smartwatch systems running on three individual assembly lines. Three systems are in full production and one system is still in the testing phase, which will be fully implemented soon. Bosch Anderson is already planning future expansion possibilities of the smartwatch system on more assembly lines throughout the plant.

Bosch Anderson’s biggest challenge with this project was engineering a way to simultaneously connect multiple smartwatches with a single iPhone per assembly line. Each line utilizes three smartwatches simultaneously for redundancy. The watch manufacturer, Pebble, said this arrangement was not possible, citing firmware limitations. However, the Anderson plant was able to engineer around the watch manufacturer’s limitations and successfully pair multiple watches to the iPhone.

Source: Bosch
David Whitt, set-up operator on the LSF Xfour line, is alerted of a possible jam on the line directly to his smartwatch. He can quickly examine the problem and correct the issue before the line stops.

The smartwatch solution can be implemented across almost any system with a network connection to the Programmable Logic Controller, which controls the machine operations. The use of smartwatches in the workforce and on manufacturing lines is just beginning and expanding rapidly at Bosch Anderson.

Which smart, connected devices are you using in your production facilities?

More information on Bosch's and our custmers' Industry 4.0 projects

Case study with our customer OSRAM: Digitalization in manufacturing

Bosch plant in Homburg: The next step in Industry 4.0: rule-based analysis of production data

Bosch plant in Blaichach: How to put people at the heart of Industry 4.0

29 Comments

comments
  • Serena 6. January 2018 at 12:30

    Dear Josh,
    So excited to see your programme on smartwatches on Anderson plant, it’s amazing how a small device can improve productivity and machine downtime. I’m writing my master thesis on HMI with a focus on smartwatch and tablets in the production line. So, thank you for sharing your experience!
    May I have more insights of your work? My first concern is to understand how you get to the choice of a pebble devices instead of others and how your information system was aligned with the requirements of Pebble platform.
    Then, did you find particular resistances among operators in using this device? Did you provide them a usability questionnaire to prove that pebble was the best solution?

    Hoping to hear you soon,
    Thank you so much for your sharings!

    Serena

    Reply
  • Chinnikrishnan 13. January 2017 at 7:27

    Hello Josh,

    I am interested also in your solution with smart watches.
    I would like to see your presentation from assembly line at my works. Please do you send me this presentation.

    alchinni@gmail.com

    Reply
  • Miroslav Agalarev 7. December 2016 at 22:51

    Hello Josh,

    I am interested also in your solution with smart watsches. I would like to see your presentation from assembly line. Please do you send me this presantation.

    Many thanks

    Best regards

    Miro

    Reply
  • Thorsten Krueger 7. December 2016 at 22:02

    Dear Josh,
    although we have to say goodbye to pebble, your solution remains very impressive. We are working on something very similar and I would like to share some insights. Do you mind send me a note so that we can connect?
    Thanks,
    Thorsten

    Reply
  • Anja Neidhardt 1. December 2016 at 15:23

    Dear Josh,
    I’m also very interested in the topic. I would like to see the presentation that shows how the smart watches caused assembly line improvements. My address is anja.neidhardt@arcor.de
    Thanks and best wishes,
    Anja

    Reply
  • Gianfredo 9. November 2016 at 15:13

    Dear Josh,

    I also think this is a great idea and in a close future it would be a common use in manufacturing plants.
    It would be really nice if you could send me also a presentation showing the concept and the improvements achieved.

    Thank you in advance!

    Gianfredo

    email: gianfredo.romano@outlook.com

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 10. November 2016 at 21:03

      Of course Gianfredo. I will make you an email.

      Reply
  • Satya Sahu 16. May 2016 at 12:09

    Hi Josh,

    Very innovative and simple way to increase the productivity and efficiency.

    Can i request you to please send me a presentation where the detailing has been done.
    Besides this i have one question, the Server connected to PLC does use a SMS Gateway to communicate to IPhone or any other medium, please send me the technicalities also.
    My Mail id: satyasahu@outlook.com

    BR
    Satya Sahu

    Reply
  • Shaz 10. April 2016 at 11:52

    Dear Josh,

    Yours is a successful application of iOT. Can you please send a presentation that shows how the smart watches caused assembly line improvements.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Shaz

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 11. April 2016 at 13:53

      Hello Shaz, do you have an email address that I can send it to?

      Reply
    • SATISH B 27. July 2016 at 12:58

      Hi Josh ,

      How you can Integrate iphone with smart watch, Please send me also

      Reply
  • Robert Copelan '81 5. April 2016 at 23:35

    Awesome work Josh. Firstly I was really excited to see this going on in Bosch Anderson as I was there some years ago. 2nd to get to the end of the article and see that it is organized by a graduate of The Citadel EE program was double excitement. Have y’all switched to the Pebble Time platform?

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 6. April 2016 at 13:56

      Hey Robert! Actually yes – I am currently in the process of upgrading the current Pebble Classic systems to Pebble Time. Always great to hear from a fellow grad. How did you come across the blog? Also, for a good read: http://www.iotjournal.com/articles/view?13975

      Josh Lee
      Lima, ’95

      Reply
  • Sebastian 1. March 2016 at 18:28

    Dear Josh,

    Wow, this is a great piece of work! Congrats!

    With reference to Stefan Ferber’s comment, I’m also very keen to know what were the qualitative and quantitative improvements. Will you mind sharing any information with me too? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 6. April 2016 at 13:57

      Hello Sebastian. I would be glad to share some of our achievements with the smart watches. Do you have an email address that I can send to?

      Josh Lee

      Reply
  • Sergio Alvarez 22. February 2016 at 17:06

    Mr Lee, would like to publish this article in Spanish, let me know if you authorize, we have a big audience, best regards

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 22. February 2016 at 18:38

      Hello Sergio. Of course, that should be fine. Will you please post a link when it is published?

      Reply
  • Gustavo Faveri 11. November 2015 at 17:28

    Congrats for the iniciative and for the blog.
    It’s so important to learn and understand more about IoT.
    It’s amazing to see actions that makes easier daily routines.

    Reply
  • Chris Damsgard 2. October 2015 at 1:00

    Hi Josh,

    Are there not safety concerns with the operators strapping these watches onto their wrists in a production environment with moving equipment?

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 2. October 2015 at 14:33

      Hey Chris, our machinery is fully guarded with safety interlocks that cannot be overridden; the machinery cannot be accessed while running. So to answer your question, there are no safety concerns about operators wearing the smartwatches on our assembly lines. Most operators wear regular watches already with no safety issues.

      Reply
    • Barbara Lauer 18. November 2015 at 15:02

      Hi Josh,

      With big interest I have read about your solution. Why do you need the I Phone? Could you not send directly the message to the Smart Watch?

      And have you also checked other smart watched beofe you decided for the Pebble?

      Thanks for sharing your inforamtion

      Reply
  • Jim Gavigan 30. September 2015 at 15:16

    I would love to know more about this solution. I am especially interested in the smarts behind how you know a jam is coming so that you prevent it. How do you know? I assume a lot of historical data provided a pattern that you could recognize?

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 30. September 2015 at 16:17

      Hey Jim, to detect for feeder system jams only requires sensors in the feeder track. The problem was alerting the operators to the jams; all stations had alarms but sometimes it just was not enough to get attention. Now, when we detect for a feeder jam, we send a message to the smartwatches in addition to the alarms.

      Reply
  • Bob Allen 29. September 2015 at 19:38

    This innovation sounds like it’s a leaps and bounds improvement and is very creative. Congratulations.

    I cannot help but wonder about what’s next: i.e. analysis of the underlying *cause* of jams and any experiments you might initiate to either eliminate the problem or significantly reduce their occurrence.

    Reply
  • Stefan Haaf 17. September 2015 at 21:56

    Josh,
    Thanks for sharing, we were able to see this in person in AdP in May of this year, and it was very impressive to see this work in real life.
    Thanks for being innovative and for sharing your success. Keep up the good work.
    Stefan

    Reply
  • Stefan Ferber 13. September 2015 at 19:28

    Dear Josh,
    great news from Anderson plant that shows how simple and effective some Internet of Things application can be on the daily production floor. Do you think it makes sense to scale this up to every person in the factory? Do you observe already some qualitative or quantiative improvements?
    @stefferber

    Reply
    • Josh Lee 14. September 2015 at 14:33

      Hallo Stefan, the smartwatches on the production floor have been a huge success! We realized improvements in the first shift that ran with the watches. If you are interested I can send you the presentation that shows these improvements.

      Also, I don’t think it makes sense for every operator to wear a watch, only the operators who clear machine faults. That is the model we use here – each line has an Einsteller operator who runs the line; this is the person(s) who wears the watch.

      Last week, we rolled out our 4th smartwatch system with great success. System five is already under development.

      Reply
    • David Richards 28. November 2015 at 11:38

      It would be great to see this system open-sourced, a generic IoT type notification system like this could be useful in many applications – any plans to do so in the future? I take it you used the BTLE capabilities of the Pebble to pair multiple watches, although it doesn’t seem to be officially supported this has always seemed to have worked on iPhones.

      Reply
    • Josh Lee 30. November 2015 at 14:29

      Hello Richard. You are correct – I am actually using the BT-LE capability of the Pebbles in my solution. In addition, I am working closely with Pebble to make the BT-LE pairing solution even more streamlined. But so far it works very well!

      As for the open source programming, my current role in Bosch does not afford me the time to develop this at the moment. Perhaps down the road?

      Reply

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