As a manufacturer – are you utilizing the advances in enterprise mobility solutions to run your shop floor more effectively? Are you looking to improve how you do business?

The advent of mobile technology has revolutionized the way our businesses operate today. The manufacturing shop floor is no exception to this. When the power of ERP is combined with the agility of mobile devices, the functioning of a manufacturing unit can be transformed significantly to render cost efficiency, enhanced performance, faster operations and better resource management. With most of the small and mid-sized businesses embracing leaner processes and smarter tools, inclusion of mobile technologies on the shop floor is the best IT strategy that one can implement.

What can mobility do for the shop floor?

Mobility has become one of the core aspects that define the success of modern-day manufacturing units. When implemented correctly, it has the potential to:

  • Reduce lead time
  • Improve response time
  • Improve manufacturing employee effectiveness
  • Improve customer service

Here are some ways in which enterprise mobility technologies help improve operations on the shop floor:

  1. Quick error detection and corrections
  2. Easier employee management
  3. Easier reporting on machine status
  4. Readily referable work instructions
  5. Inventory Tracking
  6. Quality Check and Documentation
  7. Job Tracking

Quick error detection and corrections

Often manufacturing units experience bottlenecks in their processes due to erroneous operations or malfunctioning of equipment. Ramification of the issue doubles when corrective steps aren’t taken in a timely manner. Mobility solves this problem by instantly informing the technicians when a machine breaks down. This initiates faster execution of corrective plans, after which the ‘fixed’ status of the equipment can be updated from the handheld device. Such a well structured system also keeps everyone well informed about every single issue and its resolution.

Easier employee management

Staff management is a huge responsibility on the shop floor. Significant amount of time and resources are dedicated to keep track of employees, their whereabouts on the floor and the assigned responsibilities. Mobility makes it easy for you to keep a tab on the attendance of your employees, total work log to be handled and how the delegated work is being carried out. Additionally, the employees are bound to provide live updates to their supervisors resulting in better task completion rate and more responsible work culture.

Easier reporting on machine status

Fixing a broken machine quickly is one way of ensuring that a shop floor runs smoothly. However, having a setup that keeps track of machine status and informs when abnormalities or discrepancies are observed enables you to manage your shop floor much more efficiently. When you employ mobility, you can receive live reports on downtime, cycle time, maintenance issues, quality problems and performance of the machines. With this knowledge, you can maintain your machines well and avoid any potential obstacles or losses.

Readily referable work instructions

Well informed and well trained employees are at the core of any manufacturing setup. Using smartphones and tablets, you can provide specific work instructions to your shop floor personnel. The work instructions can be specific to a part being manufactured, instructions about an operation, part drawings, quality inspection procedures, gage calibration procedures, etc. A modern ERP system that is designed for manufacturing gives the ability to provide these types of instructions to a shop floor user.

Inventory Tracking

Mobility makes inventory tracking simpler and smarter. You can manage your inventory accurately, faster and with less paper. The centralized databases of ERP software and smart mobile devices make it possible to look up stock availability, locations, work order/Job requirements, and stock shortage. It also facilitates instant reflection of incoming and outgoing stock. This makes the tedious task of maintaining accurate inventory much less cumbersome.

Quality Check and Documentation

Traditional approaches used for quality checks and documentations require a lot of manual effort and paperwork. But with mobility solutions, this process has been hugely transformed. Both on-site and off-site quality checks are conducted via phones and tablets. The quality check results are instantly recorded and fed into the ERP system, which lessens the scope of errors, quickens the process and makes analysis very easy. With mobility, successful standardization of quality checks and documentation across different locations has become possible.

Job Tracking

On a shop floor, quite often, job tracking requires machine operators to walk to a stationary terminal to retrieve job information, report time, quality problems, etc. With latest ERP systems having integrated applications for mobility, this situation can be improved drastically. Utilizing tablets and smartphones, operators can get all types of information regarding schedules, job progress, work instructions and quality without leaving their machines.  They also have ability to update information in real-time; thus making the interaction two-way.  This live information helps transform how decisions are made and how fast we can respond to changes on the shop floor.

Why is there a slower adoption of Mobility in SMB?

Though the benefits of mobility have been understood by many small and mid-size(SMB) manufacturers, some still find it difficult to adapt to the latest mobile technologies. There are three main factors contributing to slower adoption:

  1. Cost Concerns
  2. Insufficient Expertise
  3. Return on investment

Cost concerns

Often business owners feel that latest technology comes with an expensive price tag. However, bringing in mobility works the other way round; you end up saving instead of spending more. With latest hardware capabilities being cheaper than their traditional counterparts, the overall cost of deploying and maintaining mobility on shop floor is much lower when compared to a conventional setup.

Insufficient expertise

Many organizations shy away from mobility solution as they find themselves having no expertise in implementing or managing it. Working with ERP solution providers who render end-to-end services, including business process analysis, integration, implementation and support is very important to achieve good results.

Return on investment

The ROI on mobility solutions is fairly easy to understand and justify. It comes from reduction of operational costs, better employee and machine performance, faster execution and improved customer service.

Mobility trends that will make adoption faster

Mobility has brought in flexibility, ease and convenience to shop floor operations. With the advancement of technology, we should see adoption of mobile solutions much faster. Here are some of the factors that will affect the adoption rates:

  1. The users have become more comfortable with the concept of using mobile devices to access business data
  2. Mobile development has become easier and thus allows developers to provide solutions for manufacturers in a cost-effective manner.
  3. Two-way interactions on the mobile ERP solutions is possible now with better network speed, infrastructure and hardware capabilities around
  4. The information made available through mobile devices are getting more and more sophisticated which adds on to the quality of the mobility solutions

Manufacturers are always looking to improve the operations on the shop floor and mobility offers a great way to achieve several key benefits. Partnering with the right ERP provider or with a specialized mobile applications solutions provider is going to expedite the implementation and adoption of a mobile solution.