Using Mobile Devices To Run Your Shop Floor

Run Your Job Shop Manufacturing Wirelessly With all the advancements in technology I am still humbled by the sheer fact that you can pick up a land line telephone and instantly chat with someone across the globe.  Now, we have fiber optics, satellites, and many other instant wireless communications device that create a no-excuse mentality in today’s society.  If we have access to all of these great features, what is holding the manufacturing companies back from optimizing the same?  We feel it’s only a matter of time.

When contemplating any sort of upgrade, change, etc. the first thing you should typically do is to weigh the pros and cons.  Currently, there are a lot of drawbacks in jumping into the smart-era with both feet in. Prices have reduced significantly with the saturation of the market, but you’re still going to be paying around $199/phone and about $500 per tablet… these numbers are not necessarily chump change.  Next, are you really going to want your welders, machine specialists, and floor managers carrying around these expensive devices in potentially hazardous areas?  There is a lot of risk for accidents and replacements.  This point brings me to my next; smart devices are still in the very early stages of ERP software capabilities.  These devices and their applications are ways away from becoming fully optimized and integrated within system abilities.  Lastly, a whole new round of training will need to take place, in order to bridge any gaps in system to application variances.

Now, don’t be overwhelmed by these ‘cons’, as they are only negatives, momentarily, and will soon transfer from the dark side.  Let’s discuss why.  We spoke about the pricing of the devices and how they are still at a premium for business models (business meaning size/speed capacity).  While they are high, recent acquisitions of Motorola, by Google, and other competition will soon supply a buyers’ market.  Do your research now and keep up on the advancements so you won’t have to learn it all in one large sum.  Next, yes, there is no way around the risk of these devices on your shop floor, however, there are specialized casings that are meant to protect and most have backed insurance plans (at a premium, of course) that are worth the coverage.  Finally, software is still at the trial-and-error stage, but getting ahead of the curve and taking advantage or certain features might be worth jumping in early.  This will also save you from multiple, in-depth, training sessions keeping you up on the latest advancements while still giving you flexibility of running your floor through wireless.

You can battle between the pros and cons, going back and forth, but the main idea is simple.  We will soon have the opportunity to run our manufacturing companies and shop floors remotely; from being literally on the floor and in your offices, dialing up reports without having to bounce around from department to department, or building to building, to being at home, on the road, or on vacation and not have to worry about bottlenecks or waiting on others to send YOU reports.  Soon you will be able to keep tabs on all major jobs, projects, etc. remotely and wirelessly.  For the time being, the programming just isn’t ready nor is it financially justifiable.  However, in the very near future, this will be the standard for all manufacturing companies, big or small.

Posted by Jason Rourke, Marketing Manager, ProfitKey International
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5 Responses to Using Mobile Devices To Run Your Shop Floor

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article Jason! I would like to see some examples of where/how wireless can be used to start painting a better picture in my head…

    Thanks!
    Josh

  2. profitkey says:

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for the comment! Honestly, right now it will be tough to find some real examples as most companies are still in beta testing and/or development. The idea, however, will look to revolve around remote desktop protocol and portability. It will be as if you are walking around with your desktop PC, but in the palm of your hand. Essentially, it should be a mobile terminal where you can pull inventory data collection right on the floor! Laser scanning will also be integrated where you can be on the floor and look up any part right then and there. What this means is more REAL-TIME inventory data collection, while reducing errors.

    I hope this helps paint a picture. Feel free to ask any questions you might think of!

  3. At the bottom of machineshopweb’s web page they have listed QR Codes for quick mobile scans which, among other things, incorporates mobile tagging. Expanding on this for manufacturers will be where tagged parts running through the production line and maybe shop travelers will have the QR codes. It might become that every part has a QR code revealing information about the customer, delivery date, next machine it will be going on, etc. Actually is any of this possible today with smartphones, tablets, and laptop? To what degree of use or application?

    As Jason points out and I agree, once software for manufacturing has caught up and implemented mobile technology then managers and production staff, can walk throughout the floor and instantly get a read on production metrics for parts.

    Could this also work for the work centers? Could software incorporate the ability for a manager to click up the QR code to their smart phone or tablet and instantly identify how long the machine has been running, how long it will be running for the parts its making, what parts are next to run on that machine, when it next a maintenace overall?

  4. profitkey says:

    Hi Jay,

    Great questions. From a ProfitKey perspective, I don’t know if there’s currently anything out there that will do all that, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. From my perspective, as a starting point I wouldn’t even mess around with the 2D QR codes if I didn’t have to. I’d try to use the existing 1D 3of9 codes if at all possible, and I think it is. But then again, if you’re going to start putting bar codes on everything in the plant maybe it would make sense to go to the 2D format.

    What I believe you’re alluding to, and you’re correct, we’ve come a long way from stand alone machines (WITHOUT THE INTERNET!), walking around with clipboards, and now those clipboards will soon be turned into handheld smart devices that will be fully integrated throughout your system. This should even include cost estimating software, as a functionality of the PKI interface.

    I hope this answers your main concerns.

  5. Yes, software, computers and now hand held electronic devices have helped businesses be more functional, and thus more productive and profitable, in their day-to-day operating processing procedures. Communicating real-time is becoming paramount to success.

    Based on your website I would guess that each module ‘communicates’ with each other in “real-time” or instantaneously. If this is true, this has got to be an incredible time saver for your customers already, even without smart-device capability.

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