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The 5 major issues power chair manufacturers are facing

& how AI is being used to solve them

BY AIZA ASIM

8 MINUTE READ

Industry Overview

Propelled by advancements in technology, a growing aging population, and increased awareness about mobility assistance, the power wheelchair industry has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years. This market is globally estimated to be valued atUSD 3.88 Billionin 2024 , and is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.76, reaching USD 6.47 Billion by the year 2029. To cater to this growing demand, key players have been expanding their manufacturing capacity and investing heavily in research and development. However, there are a number of manufacturing challenges faced by the industry. Recent advancements in artificial intelligence have the potential to resolve these issues and aid power chair manufacturers in their operations.

Here are the 5 major issues power chair manufacturers are currently facing:

Bottlenecks lowering production efficiency

In the power wheelchair industry, most manufacturers have to deal with bottlenecks and long wait times on the production floor. Bottleneck stations often have chairs that are awaiting attention from management due to various issues. Lack of continuous visibility into production operations usually leads to the inability to address chairs immediately, which are then often forgotten. This causes delays and lowers the overall efficiency of the production timeline. With a surge in demand globally, power chair manufacturers who are unable to address their production bottlenecks are thus unable to meet their production targets - costing them heavily in terms of lost output and revenue.

Ineffectiveness of time and motion studies

Like most manufacturing industries, power wheelchair manufacturers still rely upon time and motion studies in an attempt to improve efficiency. However, productivity data collected from these studies are often inaccurate due to the reliance on human inputs and manual data collection. In addition to the risk of operators performing differently when being actively monitored, it is also time consuming and impractical to continuously conduct manual time studies across an entire production operation.

Keeping up with regulations and strict industry standards

Given the critical care nature of the product, guaranteeing the safety and reliability of power wheelchairs is paramount. Regulatory authorities such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) establish acceptable industry standards that manufacturers must adhere to. Compliance with varying regulations and standards across regions can however be complex and costly for manufacturers. Keeping up with changes in regulations may require production line restructuring and additional labor training. Strict quality assurance procedures are required to ensure each wheelchair on the production line meets the required design criteria, safety standards, and is fit for use.

Risk of defects with complex design and features

With advancements in health technology, power wheelchairs have become supremely advanced in terms of ergonomic design and performance. Smart features, intelligent control systems and enhanced safety are providing greater accessibility, independence and comfort to individuals with limited mobility. For manufacturers, this means more complexities on the production line. To avoid defects with elaborate features and design elements, having a foolproof production system becomes necessary. However most detection systems currently being used are unable to capture minor defects in sufficient time.

Maintenance and Repairs

93% of wheelchair users are reported to have required repair within the first year of purchase with 68% requiring two or more repairs. Not only does the need for repairs arise frequently, the time it takes to repair is also long - ranging from 4-7 weeks on average. Adverse consequences for wheelchair users include being stranded at home (27%), outside home (9%), and being stuck in bed (12%). The ‘right to repair’ law has been passed in Colorado, other states may follow. Therefore, power chair manufacturers must address the issue of frequent repairs if they do not want to lose out on repair revenue.

Here’s how leading power chair manufacturers are using AI computer vision to resolve these challenges:

To identify and remove bottlenecks, AI driven Computer Vision System are highly effective given the ability to monitor the entire production floor. Computer vision systems have the capability to track each element on the production line and can identify chairs that are waiting for a period of time that exceeds set thresholds pre-determined by management. Production managers can instantly be notified through an embedded alert system as soon as a chair exceeds the wait-time threshold. This will allow issues to be addressed immediately keeping production flow consistent and enhancing overall efficiency. Using i-5O’s AI driven computer vision, Pride Mobility was able to boost productivity and reduce time-to-action for issues needing managerial attention on the production floor.

To overcome the shortcomings of manual time motion studies, computer vision systems offer a powerful alternative, superior in terms of accuracy and cost-effectiveness. By providing highly accurate data and real-time metrics on productivity for each station, manufacturers can improve performance, and optimize their production flow and layout. Using a computer vision system will also free up manufacturers’ engineering resources who can focus on production operations instead of collecting data for time studies.

Keeping up with evolving regulations and strict industry standards often necessitate meticulous quality assurance procedures and staff re-training to ensure compliance. AI driven computer vision equips manufacturers with continuous insight into their production operations, allowing managers to instantly detect even the slightest deviations or defects on the production floor. Not only will this ease the compliance process and improve accuracy, power chair manufacturers will also be able to meet regulatory requirements much faster.

With complex power chair designs and numerous components, manual defect detection fails in terms of high cost and low accuracy. AI powered computer vision catches defects as soon as they occur on a production floor with 99% accuracy. Early detection of errors and deviations allows for immediate corrective action, minimizing rework costs and production waste. This will ensure that each powerchair is built correctly from the start, delivering higher quality and improving brand reputation. Less rework will also improve production flow, allowing manufacturers to consistently meet production targets.

To deal with the issue of frequent repairs, manufacturers must build up on parts inventories and increase technician hours to speed up the process. It is also important to understand why these defects occur in the first place and eliminate the cause by improving power chair design and robustness. Computer vision can help manufacturers understand the cause for defects much faster since they will have quick access to accurate insights based on continuous production line data.

To learn more on how North America’s leading power chair manufacturer, Pride Mobility is using i-5O’s computer vision system to improve efficiency on their production floor, read more here.

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