Monthly Archives: August 2012

Mobile Technology for Manufacturing – Anytime, Anywhere, Any-maybe…

With proper planning, mobile manufacturing will increase efficiency.

Mobile manufacturing has the ability to revolutionize manufacturing, when it’s implemented well.

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.

Have you looked at optimizing your shop floor for mobility?

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.

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

Finding opportunities for improvement is easy, but taking the steps necessary to improve is much more challenging.  The unfortunate mess in my basement is proof of that.  I wrote a list of “basement improvements,” but boxes sit against the wall and shelves still aren’t hung.

Too often, process improvement faces a similar challenge in manufacturing.  We recognize steps for improvement, but taking them is more difficult.  But I believe now, more than ever, manufacturing excellence is within reach.  Here are a few simple reasons why:

Moving toward Operational Excellence.

  1. Seamless, integrated communication is possible (and affordable).  To manage change and ensure quality, shop floor workers need access to up-to-the-minute information and the latest plans.  Managers need access to quality control and other data instantly so they can rapidly respond and make informed decisions.  With improvements to data collection, integrated MES software systems, wireless networks, and secure mobile technology, seamless communication is not only feasible, but easy to implement using the right tools.
  2. Lean and Six Sigma processes are sustainable.  There is no doubt Lean and Six Sigma processes improve efficiency, work flow, and inventory control, leading to improved shop floor processes and company profit.  According to the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the UK, implementing Lean manufacturing principles will, on average, improve productivity 25%, reduce scrap levels 26%, and improve delivery performance by 26%.  The challenge has been sustaining improvements.  MES systems implement and maintain a production system that takes advantage of improvements through procedural enforcement and controlled processes.
  3. Shop floor workers are becoming more proficient with technology.  Mobile technology is revolutionizing manufacturing, and is now as commonplace as the smart phone. In fact, according to AdAge, 4.8 billion (out of 6 billion) people on the planet have a mobile phone (and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush)! In an age where everyone has multiple home computers and many of us spend more time browsing the web than watching TV, we all find it much easier to accept new technology, even on the shop floor.
  4. Quick implementation of new technology is possible.  Implementing an MES project doesn’t necessarily mean taking production offline for an extended period of time.  There are currently OOTB (Out Of The Box) projects that deliver the functionality manufacturers need, and can be implemented and go live in production in 90 days or less (sometimes, much less).  Creating an implementation plan with short, focused phases can show an almost immediate ROI.

The truth is, production shops are dynamic environments where change, both planned and unplanned, is the norm.  Technology has improved and processes developed to give us the capability to manage change and risk, and deliver quality results in less time and money.

The goal of this blog, Paperless Manufacturing, is to focus on manufacturing excellence and what steps we can take to get there.  Manufacturing excellence is a lofty goal, but it’s not one we can ignore.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturing produces $1.7 trillion dollars of value each year.  For every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.35 is added to the economy.  We have too much riding on manufacturing not to strive for excellence.

Delivering manufacturing excellence.

If you have an idea for a blog topic, a question you want to ask, or an issue you want to discuss, let us know.  If you have something you want to add to the conversation (and who doesn’t want to be heard), leave a comment.  We’re listening.  You can email us here.  Improvement should be the goal for all of us.  Next week we’ll talk about mobile technology, manufacturing, and what you should look for as you plan for the future.