Industrial wearables are getting smarter - in both senses
8 Jan 2020
Gone are the days of clunky steel-toe capped boots, oversized fluorescent jackets and poorly fitting earplugs. PPE is evolving for a new generation, with equipment that workers not only need, but actually want to use says Honeywell’s Pete Holdcroft...
Working with our customers, in the field, helps us to understand where the challenges in their day-to-day role lie and how the equipment they use helps or hinders their work. This is the vision that our Honeywell Experience Design studio is based on.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) needs to be comfortable and practical enough to allow workers to carry out their tasks effectively. If it’s poorly fitting or an encumbrance, at best it will be a frustration and at worst something which is sloughed off at the first possible opportunity, leaving workers unprotected when they need it.
Secondly, it needs to look good, or at the least, not unsightly or embarrassing. Finally, it needs to reflect the same level of user experience individuals receive in their personal lives. With around a third of the population carrying an iPhone, it is not acceptable for digital devices used in the workplace to lag behind. With this in mind, Honeywell established its Experience Design studios in 2013 with the intent to become the Apple of the industrials.
This design expertise is being recognised; we’ve recently won multiple international design awards in three prestigious competitions iF, Red Dot and Good Design. Each recognising the quality of design innovation in our products.
Connected workers – connected networks
Beyond user experience, there is a broader story, which feeds back into Honeywell’s movement from hardware-based solutions, to the integration of traditional products with software and sensors. These products are more intelligent, and they’re connected. In many cases they deliver real-time safety insight to HSE and plant managers, who can use this information to make informed decisions about plant safety or operational processes.
With around a third of [people] carrying an iPhone, it is not acceptable for digital devices used in the workplace to lag behind
One example of this is our work on wearable gas monitors, which feed data through to a visual dashboard, allowing urgent action in the case of a leak, and allowing plant managers to take pre-emptive action against incipient process or maintenance issues. Bringing connectivity to PPE puts the industrial worker themselves at the centre of the new safety intelligence network.
This wearable gas safety monitor, the BW SOLO single gas detector, is a recent example: The task was to create a wearable detector for the global market, which was simpler and more practical for use in conditions where workers need their hands free.
We worked with customers at all stages of development, across regions, and across all touch points to assess where improvements were needed. Better serviceability was a key requirement for the device, and in response we developed a patented solution for removing the sensor and filter from the front, without the need to disassemble the product. It also features a new lighting ring to increase the impact of the visual alarm.
Honeywell Experience Design development process is based on a system of outcome-based design. What is the problem the customer needs to solve? Why is the solution we are proposing a better option than the many others that might be available to them? And how do we measure the impact this is having?
While the basic need to protect workers hasn’t changed, the understanding of how to achieve that by engaging, rather than enforcing, has moved on significantly. Design is very much leading the way in this new, user-focused environment.
Pete Holdcroft is global creative director of experienced design, Honeywell Safety & Productivity Solutions