34 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Sometimes, efficiency is right in front of your eyes.
All you need to do is look through the right glasses.
No matter the sector youre in, efficiency is a
crucial linchpin in your organization’s prosperity.
It’s the crux of the fourth industrial revolution and
essential for survival amid global competition for
business. The increasing focus on lean manufacturing has also
thrust the proverbial “fat cutting” into the spotlight more than
ever, but what do you do when there appears to be no more
fat left to cut?
Just as technology has heralded the advent of Industry 4.0,
it also serves as a resource to help deal with the challenges this
global revolution has presented. Ever since Frederick Winslow
Taylor picked up his first stopwatch more than a century ago,
industrial and systems engineers and other productivity pro-
fessionals have used work measurement and time studies to
figure out how workplace operations and staff interact with
their environment, finding nuggets of information that can
increase productivity, streamline processes and reduce wait-
ing time.
But no matter how well-designed work measurement can
be, the observers can’t see exactly what the workers see – until
now. Real-world examples from today’s workplace show how
specific businesses have used eye tracking technology to gain
actionable insights and make valuable changes. Lets explore
how these benefits can help reduce the burden of the skills gap
plaguing many industries, along with improving operations
and reducing waste.
Preparing for the looming skills shortage
With baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) on the
cusp of retirement, the coming decade will see an even greater
widening of the skills shortage facing manu-
facturing, engineering and related sectors.
According to a Deloitte report, because of the
skills gap, 600,000 U.S. jobs went unlled
in 2011. By 2025 this number is expected to
grow to an astounding 2 million.
The issue this presents is twofold: How do
you quickly and effectively train a new work-
force? And how do you retain the decades
of experience and knowledge held by baby
boomers? Globally, manufacturing makes
up about 16 percent of GDP and 14 percent
of employment, so without intervention, the
skills shortage will have a far-reaching im-
pact. Adding to the burden is the wave of new
technology entering industries: Smart facto-
ries, artificial intelligence, automation and the
Looking through the efficiency glasses
Eye tracking software can be a modern boon to the age-old ISE tool of time studies
By Mike Bartels
An H&H Castings worker navigates the ladle while being eye tracked.
October 2018 | ISE Magazine 35
internet of things are all putting pressure on staff to learn new
skills and employers to facilitate this training.
This is where eye tracking technology can help.
As workplaces and equipment become smarter, faster and
more efficient, so must the processes we use to manage this
change. Eye tracking can be a valuable tool to help businesses
manage this transition. The key to its value lies in the type of
information it uncovers.
Eye tracking data can:
Reveal information on cognitive workload
Uncover subconscious or instinctive behaviors
Provide visual representations of best practice methods
Provide evidence of attention patterns associated with ac-
cidents or injury
Allow you to understand performance techniques in dan-
gerous or time-critical situations
Highlight areas for further investigation
Capturing and analyzing visual attention reveals a great deal
of detail about cognitive processes. By simply observing work-
ers, you can’t possibly know what’s going on in their mind,
how they’re processing the task at hand or in what way they’re
gathering and interpreting information. Wearable eye trackers
allow you to observe exactly where the wearer’s attention is
focused. The built-in scene camera records the environment
and renders in real time exactly where staff members are look-
It’s as close as it gets to seeing your workplace through the
eyes of your employees.
This information can be used to examine any number of
roles or processes within your production chain. For example,
by observing the gaze of both experts and novices performing
a particular task, you could establish best practice methods;
this information could then be used to update protocols or
improve training material with enhanced visual illustrations
of how to carry out the task.
Because many elements of behavior, especially familiar
ones, are often subconscious, even the workers themselves
may not be able to articulate their thought patterns or focus
of attention. In the same way eye tracking data can reveal best
practices, it also can highlight roadblocks, inefficiencies and
even safety issues.
Observing how workers perform their duties also can shed
light on obstacles that hinder production. For example, do staff
members not see something they should, or does the workflow
system divert their attention during a critical moment, leading
to an increased risk of error or accident?
Eye tracking and real-world applications
To get a clear understanding of how valuable this knowledge
can be, let us look at a specific example.
Research group Tobii Pro Insight was commissioned to ex-
amine the visual attention of metal workers at H&H Castings,
an aluminum foundry in the United States. Workers wore
Tobii Pro Glasses 2 while performing the time-sensitive and
dangerous task of pouring molten metal into molds.
Eye tracking allowed management to gain a visual repre-
sentation of the attention patterns associated with “the perfect
pour” from the perspective of experienced workers, which
could then be shown to trainees and incorporated into learn-
ing material.
The beauty of eye tracking in this instance was that it al-
lowed management to gain insight into processes that are nor-
mally quite difficult or impossible to observe. In the case of the
metal foundry, the process of pouring the liquid metal cannot
be interrupted, so its difficult to study particular elements of
the process in a safe and efficient way.
By using the eye tracking glasses, it was possible to observe,
pause and rewind the process multiple times across multiple
workers. This information also highlighted a particular visual
pattern that occurred prior to a spill, allowing new protocols
to be implemented.
The information gained from this eye tracking study also
dramatically improved the anticipated training time for new
recruits. The foundry hires about two new staff members in
the melt department each month, and the insight from the
study is expected to cut two days off each worker’s training
time, which over the course of a year equates to about 400
hours. Imagine the impact this would have on a larger scale
This technology is not just conned to small scale tests, as
A worker at H&H Castings wears Tobii Pro eye tracking
36 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Looking through the efficiency glasses
it’s already being used by huge multinational companies to stay
competitive. A major car manufacturer has reduced training
time for new production line staff from six to four weeks and
has been able to lower visual inspection errors by 50 percent
thanks to the information gathered from an eye tracking study.
Similar improvements have also been seen within a big-name
electronics corporation, with one department able to reduce
its training time by one-third after incorporating eye tracking
into onboarding processes.
For companies that rely on quality control, the insights from
an eye tracking study can be particularly valuable, especially
when human error can cause the assurance process to be de-
graded. A study on one processing line within a pharmaceuti-
cal packaging company identified areas that went unseen by
operators, leading to the introduction of new measures to en-
sure these spots were correctly observed during the clearing
In this way, already highly regulated and measured process-
es can be optimized through eye tracking technology.
This also shows how eye tracking can help improve knowl-
edge retention. Given the ongoing mass exodus of baby boom-
ers from the workforce, currently at a rate of about 10,000 per
day, it’s clear something must be done to preserve the decades
of experience and knowledge they possess. In the same way
eye tracking data harnesses tacit knowledge from expert per-
formers to expedite training, it also can capture best practice
Perhaps your industry may benefit from retaining the
knowledge of someone with advanced skills in the manual
handling of a task should an automated process fail, or perhaps
there is value in retaining information on troubleshooting, or
the manual repair of certain equipment and so on.
Looking toward Industry 5.0
Already, industry insiders are talking about the upcoming fifth
industrial revolution, which is expected to see a greater em-
phasis on customization and the interaction between man and
machine. There is no doubt that eye tracking as a tool for as-
sessing and rening processes has a valuable place in this space.
The ongoing development of eye tracking in virtual real-
ity is paving the way for more training and assessments to be
carried out in this way. The applications of this are incredibly
exciting, as this technology allows training and assessments to
be conducted in the controlled connes of a simulated scene.
For instance, operators of underground mining equipment
could be trained or assessed without the risks associated with
the physical environment. Similarly, aviation workers, trans-
port operators and many more can train and test with almost
guaranteed safety.
Virtual reality allows for the conditions of the environment
to be changed as a person’s skill level develops or lets you simu-
late potential disasters within the situation. With eye tracking
integrated into this platform, it delivers enhanced insights into
performance and ability.
Although the development of virtual reality environments
can be a large investment, when you look at the big picture it
Eye tracking follows a worker as he pours molten metal at H&H Castings.
October 2018 | ISE Magazine 37
can, in fact, be remarkably cost-effective. Imagine the cost of
repeatedly interrupting operations to facilitate training, or the
resources needed to generate mock operations, then factor in
geographical locations. With virtual reality, you can run si-
multaneous tests or training in the same environment all over
the world with the click of a button.
Volkswagen and Audi are already using this technology for
training and assessment within their logistics departments.
Volkswagen plans to train 10,000 employees in 2018 alone
within virtual reality environments.
Scenario versatility, the ability to connect people from dif-
ferent global locations in one virtual location and the reduced
need for training space are among the benefits the German car
manufacturers have cited.
For those in construction and design fields, virtual reality
can provide a faster and more cost-effective method for bring-
ing products to market, as it can reveal usability issues in the
prototype stage before money has been spent on production.
Embracing change
There’s no avoiding the fact that industries worldwide are in
the midst of dramatic change, both in relation to technological
advancements and a shift in employee demographics. But at
the same time, equal change is happening with the resources
available to manage this transition.
A conglomerate of stakeholders within the Swedish metal
industry has acknowledged that a lack of competent labor is
the single largest issue stiing its growth and prosperity. In
response to this, an eye tracking study spanning three years has
been commissioned, looking at ways to improve the training
for jobs within the sector and develop standardized methods of
learning, which can also reduce the language barriers attached
to many current forms of education. There is a great opportu-
nity for other industries worldwide to acknowledge the issues
they face and seek new and innovative ways to address them.
Eye tracking studies and the insights they provide can deliver
the information needed to both identify and remedy issues
within a plethora of working environments.
Whats unique about eye tracking is its ability to deliver ac-
curate and unbiased information on human attention and be-
havior in a way no other assessment tool or previous time study
can. Studies can be easily scaled to suit a company’s needs,
making it accessible to all industry types and sizes, and there
are few entry barriers as studies can be completed in-house
or through a research consultancy, depending on the size and
needs of your business.
Mike Bartels is the senior research director for Tobii Pro Insight in
North America. Over the past nine years he has designed, conducted
and analyzed eye tracking studies in a variety of fields, including web
usability, user experience, package design, consumer contexts, advertis-
ing and applied science.
An analyst reviews eye tracking videos of the pouring
process at H&H Castings.
Key takeaways
Eye tracking studies have a number of advantages that can
be integrated into your organization’s work measurement
programs. They can:
Improve productivity and efficiency
Help streamline processes and identify roadblocks
Assist with knowledge retention and help remedy
the skills gap
Improve training and assessment material
Lower training costs
Improve standardization
Deliver more clarity on key performance indicators (KPIs)
Identify hazards and improve safety
Improve design processes and prototyping