Many have predicted mobile technology will revolutionize the shop floor, and the technology does hold promise. In fact, IDC Manufacturing Insights reports that 75% of all manufacturers currently use or plan to implement mobile technology in their business, and market research has noted MES providers are working to provide mobility. But, is there a point when a tool for operational efficiency becomes a doorway to information overload? This is especially dangerous for a generation constantly plugged-in to a steady diet of Twitter feeds and Facebook updates. In fact, plugging an “information-hungry” generation in may have an adverse effect on productivity.
One foundation of operational excellence is getting critical information to the right person at the right time. With the advent of Wi-Fi, tablets, smart phones, mobile apps, and secure connected technology; mobile technology has made this an attainable goal. Imagine, a shop floor worker receiving notification of a change order on a tablet, and then taking the tablet with the revised and approved plans directly to the workstation. The manager and engineer receive notification of the change order receipt, and the as-built data is instantly updated. The entire process is the model of efficiency.
The strength of mobile devices is their ability to quickly and easily send and receive data. Information overload happens when the information delivered doesn’t add value to the production process. As others have noted, the mobile technology system needs to sensibly deliver right information. There’s no need to plug a shop worker into an ERP or have them simply log into the company intranet. That’s not the information they need, and it won’t increase process efficiency. For this reason, the end users and shop managers need to have input on how a mobile system is implemented.
Right now, mobile technology is still growing, defined more by product diversity than as a commodity. Any system implemented to utilize mobile technology needs to be agile and have the capability to adapt to meet future business needs. If not, the system you implement risks early obsolescence when the newest phone, tablet or OS hits the market. Mobile technology has tremendous promise for manufacturing. It is changing the way we do business, but it needs to be implemented with forethought and care. Plugging an app into your work process or opening a shop floor tablet into an ERP may not be the solution you want.
What experience have you had with mobile technology on the shop floor? How are you approaching the issue? We’d love to hear from you.
Join us next time as we look at calculating ROI for your MES system.