Another capability of visual communication systems is that these events can be recorded. In situations where you have a talented technician that represents the best practice in a particular operation this can be recorded and becomes part of a training video to upgrade the skills of other technicians globally.
A key methodology for team-based improvements is the technique of Kaizen meetings. Kaizen is word meaning continuous improvement, so the Kaizen technique is a collaborative process where a team works to improve a process or part they work with on a daily basis. These meeting are supported by data that characterize a process or condition that is being investigated. A team associated with the process and possibly some technical experts are assembled to work on improvements. These are structured collaborative events that build on the strengths of the team and their experiences. They start by understanding; what were the forces that created the present condition and brainstorm new ideas to create a new level of performance. These events work best when the team meets near the process they are studying and can “go see,” as Taiichi Ohno would say, the process for themselves. The other hallmark of good Kaizen projects is that they meet frequently for short periods of time, roughly 20 to 30 minutes, to quickly generate momentum and progress. The ability to tie a supplier into these improvement efforts with little cost using video, thereby extending the process improvement capabilities deeper into the supply chain, has powerful benefits.
In a multi-plant environment best practices can be shared across multiple locations much more easily. Operators in one plant can actually see how the other plant has solved a problem or implemented an innovation. However, this is often done through costly, time-consuming travel to each other’s plants. As a result, management can be reluctant to support such trips and have key people unavailable for extended periods of time. And while these trips have beneficial effects, they usually don’t happen very often so the effects are hard to sustain.
One of the values of a visually-connected supply chain or multi-plant environment is that teamwork and cooperation is constantly reinforced with frequent targeted video collaborations that build on each success the team experiences. Collaboration over distances becomes commonplace, and geographic separation becomes a transparent issue as innovation is implemented on a more global scale. To modify an old phrase “think global but act local,” now you can “collaborate and innovate globally while you act and stay local.”
Mobile Video Collaboration
Recent innovations in the field of wireless mobile video allow mobile field workers to communicate in real time with remote experts. This solution supports two-way voice calls and high resolution video stream. The video call allows an expert in the home office to work remotely, seeing exactly what the field worker is experiencing, and offer guidance to resolve the issue immediately. If there is a technician that represents the best practice in a certain operation, their approach to the problem and resolution can be recorded and this material can be integrated into future training sessions. In some situations the capability of an integral touch screen supports live annotation from both ends of the call on the live video stream or on freeze-frame jpg files. This greatly aids the real-time collaboration value of this technology.
Innovations like these are enabled by the ever-increasing capabilities of the Internet or IP networks. The unprecedented level of connectivity allows new ways to deliver product service, collaborate with suppliers and remote development teams, as well as preserve the knowledge of skilled experts in recorded training content.