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A glove that’s changing the world

ProGlove – a fitting brand name for Workaround GmbH, one of Bavaria’s many exciting start-up ventures. After all, the company is all about gloves – but very special gloves: Gloves with an integrated barcode scanner which can be triggered and controlled by sophisticated electronics. A scanner on a glove? What good is that? And how does one come up with such an idea?

Let’s take a closer look at a modern production line in the automotive industry: Nowadays, workers must scan each and every part which they assemble, along with the matching assembly instruction, thereby ensuring quality as well as end-to-end process documentation. The production line in a typical factory might produce 1,000 cars per day and the assembly of each of these cars can easily involve 1,000 individual scans. This means that if you can save just one second of time per scan, that’s 1,000,000 saved seconds per day – or nearly 12 man-days each and every day. And that is for just one production line.

The idea for ProGlove came to one of the company’s founders as he was writing his doctoral thesis at BMW’s flagship factory in Munich. He observed two separate things: First, that almost all factory workers were wearing gloves. And second, that they were constantly scanning parts and documents. Now, what if we could somehow combine these two activities? A clever idea, that was quickly engineered into reality. Today, the workers no longer have to reach for or fumble with conventional barcode scanners. And – as it turned out – this saves not just one, but up to four seconds per scan.

The founders won their starting capital in a Silicon Valley technology competition. It quickly became apparent that they were onto something big, because interest came not only from the automotive industry but also from the logistics, retail and e-commerce sectors.

For the makers of ProGlove, being located in Munich is a real blessing. The Bavarian capital is a magnet for talent, with excellent infrastructure and ample opportunities for networking. In addition to being a beautiful city with a high quality of life, the Munich area is one of the world’s great hubs for industry and technology. This is immensely important for the young company, not least because of the many state-of-the-art factories in the region, which ProGlove can use as a testing ground for its prototypes. After all, the ProGlove system marks not the destination but just the beginning of more wearables for industry. What’s coming next? Portable displays and cameras integrated into scanners are just two of many examples.

Bayern Kapital has been among the first investors to support ProGlove – and it’s a vote of confidence that is extremely important to the young company. CEO Andreas König, who has been at the head of ProGlove since last December, puts it this way: “Although our goals are international and far-reaching, it’s also important that we have a key investor from our home turf who understands where we’re from and what we’re about, and who really believes in us.”

The company behind ProGlove is convinced of two things: First, that people are indispensable even in the most modern production environments, and that this will not change, even as we move into the digitalized world of Industry 4.0. And second, that Germany – and the booming southern state of Bavaria in particular – will be a place to watch in the coming age of industrial wearables.