On the modern production floor, efficiency is all about making the right decisions on the fly. Timely knowledge inputs are critical here—erroneous judgments often arise from a lack of access to pertinent data.
Mobile solutions hold a lot of promise, giving employees unprecedented visibility to vital data right from the production floor. With the growing convergence between Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT), these solutions provide a glimpse into the future of industrial production.
Here are five mobile solutions that can boost efficiency and productivity on the site of production:
1. Mobile Data Collection Solutions
Paperwork is the bane of productivity on any shop floor. With mobile barcode scanners and RFID/NFC tracker tags, firms can streamline the documentation process drastically. Tablets or smartphones with built-in scanners allow employees to quickly update the status of timesheets, completed jobs, project progress, and more.
However, there is a major caveat to be noted when applying mobile scanner technologies. They generate a ton of data that calls for dedicated software management. Consequently, tight integration with specialized asset inventory management solutions and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is essential to utilizing these technologies to their full potential.
2. e-Kanban solutions
Kanban is a supply chain management system based on the Japanese principles of Lean (also known as Just-in-Time [JIT]) manufacturing. Instead of a forecast-based replenishment model, it utilizes a consumption-based system for inventory management.
The system uses Kanban cards that hold all the data linked to each designated inventory order. In e-Kanban, the paper cards are replaced with an online system featuring barcodes—employees on the shop floor can quickly place orders using their handheld devices.
3. Mobile Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS)
Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) have been around for several decades now. Over time, the systems have evolved into cloud-based, modular, highly customizable solutions. Mobile support, through dedicated apps, takes modern CMMS maintenance to the next level, right down to the production floor.
Mobile maintenance software allows employees to access critical insights about equipment status and maintenance, conduct basic troubleshooting, instantly communicate with all key departments, and post-work orders for maintenance teams faster than ever before.
The instant access to manuals, checklists, safety guidelines, and similar documents significantly shortens the time technicians and operators need to perform basic maintenance tasks.
4. Audio/Visual Communications
The importance of video calls in business has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside conference rooms, the same technology is also transforming productivity levels in a myriad of ways. Repair techs can guide operators to perform on-site troubleshooting, drastically reducing downtime in remote facilities.
Floor managers are also empowered like never before in their ability to keep employees in sync. Given the quick access to video capabilities on mobile devices, virtually all modern MES solutions come with some sort of mobile video communications solution for the shop floor.
5. Internet of Things (IoT) & Mobile Edge Computing
Industry 4.0 is one of the best use case scenarios of edge computing. The ability to avoid the “last mile” latency will finally allow enterprises to harness the productivity benefits of automated machines and smart IoT sensors.
With the widespread rollout of 5G networks expected to strengthen by 2025, firms can empower employees with mobile industrial IoT (IIoT) devices that provide visibility into critical equipment and physical assets. Real-time access to sensor data will facilitate advanced predictive maintenance, reduce equipment downtime, and increase on-site automation.
Increasing Security Implications
Network and processing bandwidth limitations acted as the key impediments to automation and the use of IoT/mobile solutions in production. However, with 5G and Edge Computing, those are poised to become relics of the past. As industrial production embraces increased automation, the number of connected mobile devices and sensors within facilities will increase.
These complex networks come with increasing cybersecurity threats. Secure key management will assume critical significance in this modern production floor. Investing in specialized Industrial Control Systems (ICS) with heavy segmentation, zero-trust models, and advanced Hardware Security Modules (HSM) should become a priority.