Recent days, SMAC (Social media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud computing) has become a buzz word and they are supposed to have big influence on all industries as well as our day-to-day activities. I will try to putdown my thoughts on the influence and involvement of SMAC on shop floor solutions in my next set of blogs. In the first one I will highlight the involvement of mobility solutions in the shop floor, mainly focusing on where and how mobility solutions can be deployed.
Global manufacturers, in the current economic environment, are constantly under pressure to save cost, improve quality and deliver quickly. These scenarios and fierce competition push manufacturers to embrace lean manufacturing process and achieve the desired results. Effective utilization of resources in the shop floor is very much essential to achieve this objective. Most of the manufacturers realize that adapting cutting edge technology to reduce manufacturing costs at various stages of the production is the way to go.
Mobility has come out as one such technology which allows people to access information while “on the move” and take decisions. Mobile applications built on Smart phones and other mobile devices offer features like camera, location identification, voice recognition and data connectivity that helps manufacturers address productivity and visibility issues.
Visibility: I think significant drive for mobility is propelled by the increasing need of key decision makers to access mission critical information on the move. In the complex global supply chains, the need to monitor production data is of equal importance for the stakeholders in the supply chain. Mobile applications that provide easy access to critical production data like WIP (Work in Progress), scrap, defect and rework rate, equipment utilization, inventory levels etc. can facilitate faster decision making and better co-ordination among various stakeholders of the manufacturing supply chain. Introduction of e-signatures in the approval process along with access to decision making information over mobile devices helps in improving the productivity as well.
Productivity: Another factor influencing manufacturers for implementing mobility on the shop floor comes from the need to increase productivity. Applications that facilitate significant time-saving for the users find high rates of acceptance in the industry. Some examples of such applications are the one which automates the processes, reduces manual entry; allow quick access to job-specific instructions.
Process Improvement: In a world moving towards lean manufacturing, the next generation of mobility based solutions can be used to optimize the manufacturing practices to reduce or eliminate waste at every stage of the production process. Mobility based solutions can be used to enhance operational efficiency by better utilization of man, machine and materials.
At Dhruv, we have developed few mobility applications and POCs around shop floor applications. These simple applications which are implemented at couple of our customer sites have given them lot of flexibility and quite a bit of above mentioned advantages.
Areas of Concern: There are some impediments in implementing these innovative solutions. Some major ones are,
a) Security: Mobile devices are highly prone to information leakage, by means of both physical access (loss or theft) and man-in-the-middle attacks. Smart phones also support short range communication protocols like Bluetooth and Infra-red which can be ideal avenues for stealing business critical data. In addition, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) from mobile devices can cause disturbance to the working of electronic equipment inside the shop floor.
b) Automation: Integration of mobile devices with control systems like SCADA, PLCs and DCS is expensive as many of these control systems support only proprietary communication protocols. Direct integration with hardware-based sensors and actuators to provide close-loop control from mobile devices is also equally challenging.
I am sure; as the technology is moving forward at a faster pace the above mentioned concerns will be addressed. I strongly feel, mobile solutions for the shop floor can be an effective tool to streamline manufacturing processes which results in efficient utilization of work force, equipment and materials. Mobile applications can communicate with various IT systems to provide means of increased visibility which in turn leads to faster and more effective decision making.
- Various Internet and Other Sources.