Improving Manufacturing Operations with Mobile Devices

May 21, 2013

Executives looking for ought to consider adding mobile to plant operations

In today’s highly connected world, businesses revolve around data. Being able to effectively collect, manage, and analyze that manufacturing data is key to driving practical decision making and producing positive results. By building on the strengths of mobile devices as tools for real-time data consumption, manufacturers are realizing improvements in efficiency, employee productivity, and ultimately, their bottom line.

Mobile devices as part of the manufacturing network

When it comes to making decisions, managers are able to access charts and graphs for KPIs and financial data on-demand, wherever they are. Consider the impact of being able to pull up live data on a tablet during a meeting and present it to a management team via a projector.

“Push notifications” enable mobile device users to get updates automatically. Manufacturers are now leveraging this technology for reporting emergencies, monitoring when KPIs are out of control, and improving response times and decision making from shop floor to top floor.

In addition to providing the additional convenience, mobile devices can reduce the time it takes for businesses to get actionable data, resulting in faster, more informed decision-making. With real-time access to performance and diagnostic information, local personnel can leverage mobile devices to make rapid decisions and avoid potential losses.

Balancing security with access

Security of the manufacturing network is a top priority, but this is challenged with the new reality of a mobile workforce and personal mobile devices entering the network.

With telecommuting employees and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon, it is a feat to both secure the network and provide flexibility. While at work on site, employees and mobile devices need to be able to access business-critical data inside of corporate networks or in cloud-hosted solutions. A proper network infrastructure, taking advantage of modern networking and security technologies, allows organizations to ensure that their data is simultaneously safe from intruders, and accessible to those who need it. Several articles on Manufacturing IT security including topics on virtual infrastructuredeveloping a manufacturing network strategy and industrial network manufacturing are available for further reading.

Effectively utilizing mobiles devices to obtain data in real-time has many measurable advantages. This also requires the manufacturing IT department provisioning for a myriad of devices having different form factors, screen resolutions, and operating systems. This poses a concern for application developers and also for companies looking to adopt notification and data visualization software for their employees. Consider for example, a performance dashboard that must be equally readable on a 4” phone, a 10” tablet, and a 19” workstation monitor.

Manufacturers can avoid this problem in several ways:

  • By standardizing on mobile platforms throughout their organization
  • By utilizing industry standard, platform-independent technologies like HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript
  • By treating mobile devices as thin clients and letting the applications themselves reside on a server running Remote Desktop Services

Next steps for manufacturers to embrace mobile technologies

Embracing mobile technologies, while taking appropriate security precautions, enables organizations to greatly improve response time for emergencies and put actionable data in the hands of key decision makers. By placing the appropriate KPIs front-and-center, organizations can reduce the amount of time that management and engineering teams spend digging through reports. This puts more time back on their calendar for solving problems.

If you’re interested in adopting mobile devices to help improve your efficiency, decision making, and bottom line, consider downloading Grantek’s free Manufacturing IT Assessment Tool which will help you to determine your organization’s preparedness for a mobile device-friendly infrastructure.

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