by Mike Bartels, Senior Research Director at Tobii Pro Insight

A breakthrough from Tobii Pro allows companies to see the world through the eyes of their workers, and thereby improve training, reduce errors, and add efficiency. Visual attention is the most critical factor in the performance of a labor-force. And if you don’t believe me, ask your workers to complete their duties for a full shift with their eyes closed. How many injuries would occur? How many tools and materials would be damaged? Would anything – even the simplest task – be successfully accomplished over the course of an entire day? Obviously, you would never ask your employees to do this because the sense of sight is absolutely essential to getting the job done. Humans are highly visual creatures, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the fast-paced and hazardous environment of an industrial workplace.

The “Eye” is for Industry, Industry TodayThe vital role of attention in human performance has long been a subject of scholarly interest, as philosophers, psychologists and others attempted to understand distraction and the ways in which we visually interact. The first scientific apparatus for measuring the behavior of the eye was invented in 1908, and in the ensuing century it has inspired dozens of other systems, each one more effective than the last. This persistent interest in visual attention throughout history was the genesis of the modern-day field of “Eye Tracking,” a research discipline that uses advanced camera and computer technology to record and analyze the exact visual focus. Traditionally, eye tracking has been relegated to laboratory settings, but technology innovations have taken it out of the lab and moved it into the real world. The latest generation of wearable eye tracker captures accurate visual attention data in any environment, without disrupting performance of the task.

Now let’s return to our example workers, and this time instead of asking them to close their eyes, lets record their visual attention throughout a full shift. What might we learn by watching expert performance of a difficult task literally through the eyes of the expert? How many accidents will be avoided by analyzing distraction in real scenarios? To what extent will new hires benefit from watching attention videos from more experienced counterparts? What new practices can we adopt to create a workplace that is more conducive to exceptional performance? The possibilities are endless for using attention data to streamline manufacturing processes and improve safety and training.

The “Eye” is for Industry, Industry Today

A recent case study conducted by Tobii Pro Insight illustrates how simply and effectively eye tracking can be used to understand performance in an industrial workplace. H&H Castings – a premier US supplier of aluminum castings – utilized eye tracking to record the visual attention of foundry workers during the aluminum molding process. Each worker wore Tobii Pro Glasses 2 while performing tasks including filling, cleaning, transporting, and pouring molten metal. After a quick calibration of the system to each worker’s eyes, they performed their duties as normal while the eye tracker precisely recorded where they focused their attention. The data collected from the H&H Castings’ employees was analyzed, and a variety of valuable insights were provided to the workers and management. One of the findings revealed a specific visual pattern that was associated with spillage of the molten aluminum. The results were also useful in informing best-practices around situational awareness and timing of work breaks. Even the raw eye tracking video provided great value for H&H, as it has since been integrated into training materials. The knowledge gained from the Tobii Pro Insight research has not only allowed H&H Castings to make safety adjustments, it’s also allowed the company to streamline training. With the average training time of one full week, there is hope that the eye tracking video will save the company two days per employee. Ideally, this would save them 400 hours of training time per year in that department.

The ability to examine the visual attention of industrial workers has already proven to be a game-changer for early adopters. A major car manufacturer reported a 50 percent decrease in visual inspection errors after integrating eye tracking into quality control procedures. Another company in the electronics manufacturing sector successfully reduced onboarding time by 30 percent through presentation of attention video and results during the training process. Eye tracking applied as a training and assessment tool has the ability to positively impact industrial performance. Can your business afford not to have this knowledge?

To learn more, the full case study can be downloaded here, and a video from this study is included below.

The “Eye” is for Industry, Industry TodayAbout the Author:
Mike Bartels is Senior Research Director at Tobii Pro Insight, the research consultancy division of Tobii Pro. Over the past twelve years he has designed, conducted, and analyzed eye-tracking studies in a variety of fields, including professional performance, user experience, consumer behavior, and applied science. He has a Master’s degree in Social Psychology and has written eye tracking-related articles for several marketing research publications (Quirks, QRCA Views, MRA Alert) and scientific conferences (HCII, ETRA, ETBC).

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