AGCO Uses Glass Technology

AGCO Uses Google Glass Technology

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Employees at AGCO's Jackson, Minnesota, assembly plant use Google Glass to make operations run more efficiently. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

Technology is an important part of farm machinery. Advancements in various precision ag tools have allowed farmers to become much more efficient in the different tasks they do every growing season.

The same is true in the factories that manufacture the machinery farmers use in their operations. Workers in one AGCO manufacturing facility are now using Google Glass technology to become more efficient in building farm equipment.

Google Glass is an optical, head-mounted display designed in the shape of a pair of eyeglasses. Wearers can communicate with the internet by using voice commands to help them find the closest Chinese restaurant, for instance.

AGCO's manufacturing plant in Jackson, Minnesota, produces Massey Ferguson and Challenger high-horsepower tractors, Challenger track and articulated tractors and RoGator and TerraGator application equipment. The facility has nearly 100 models with hundreds of different variations built on two assembly lines.

This facility has been using the Google Glass technology for the last three years. According to AGCO, this new technology has been successful in increasing productivity and also improved product quality.

There has been a 30% reduction in inspection time, with the elimination of paperwork and manual uploading, said Peggy Gulick, director of business process improvement for AGCO. In addition, there has been a 25% reduction in production time on low volume, complex assembles and a 50% reduction in learning curve for new hires.

Workers in both assembly and quality control used to use checklists on paper and clipboard. As technology improved, computers replaced paper.

However, computers were not very handy to use on the assembly line floor. Workers on the AGCO quality team had to constantly climb from equipment to complete their checklists, Gulick said.

After consulting with its employees, AGCO decided to use tablets in this process. The quality team was "very happy," but the problem shifted to IT issues, she said.

Gulick said tablets were being dropped from the top of tractors and run over by tractors. About two tablets a month were damaged or destroyed, and a warranty isn't valid for any tablet dropped from more than 4 feet, she said.

At $3,000 per tablet, this was an expensive problem.

In 2014, AGCO decided there had to be a better way and worked with Google to utilize the company's Glass technology by buying one pair before they were even on the consumer market. Gulick said AGCO found an application developer in Belgium and began to process a system for the company.

Today 100 pairs of Glass are in use at the Jackson facility, assisting in accessing manual and assembly instructions, she said. They are either voice or touch activated.

"We have a culture here of problem solving," Gulick said. "You have to have that culture in place with what we are trying to do."

Eric Fisher, AGCO director of operations in Jackson, said last year alone the Jackson facility came up with and implemented more than 4,000 employee suggestions.

Most were not big ideas but ideas to help contribute to efficiency and safety. Fisher pointed out employees were the ones who suggested water used in application equipment testing in their facility should be recycled, and the plan was implemented.

"We are highly evolved here, which is part of AGCO's culture," Fisher said.

The future of the Glass in the Jackson facility is to get Glass to as many employees before the launch of a new tractor line, Fisher said.

There is also six sister factories elsewhere within AGCO across the world beginning to utilize the Glass technology. These plants have started using the technology in their quality aspect of their manufacturing, he said.

Gulick added that this technology has made AGCO very popular with other companies -- ranging from other manufacturers to fast food firms -- who are considering adding Glass to their facilities to improve efficiencies.

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Russ Quinn