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Two shopfloor workers at assembly line showing their smartwatches in an Industry 4.0 application Source: 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