Powering modern manufacturing
Technology has become a cornerstone of modern warehousing. Manufacturing executives have moved away from outdated pen-and-paper processes, and are instead using sensors and automation to improve productivity and reduce human error. In this article from Gulf Industry, learn how mobile technology and the Internet of Things are powering smart factories.
Globally, manufacturers are beginning to adapt to Industry 4.0 and smart factory operations, which are enabled by advancements in technologies including mobile devices, radio-frequency identification (RFID), wearables, and automated systems. By leveraging the data provided by these technologies, as well as sensors connected to legacy systems, manufacturers have the opportunity to boost output and achieve fully connected operations in the near future.
Using this data, manufacturers stand to gain unprecedented visibility into every stage of manufacturing and warehousing processes, including end-to-end supply chain fulfillment, shipping and receiving, points-of-failure identification, and, overall, more comprehensive insights into the inner workings of their operations. Because of these overwhelming benefits, the number of companies employing a fully connected factory is expected to double by 2022.
In a recent warehouse survey, three out of four executives reported that outfitting staff with new technology is a top initiative to improve operations and optimize their supply chains. This is no surprise considering that, in another recent study of 1,100 manufacturing executives from various industries, 62 percent responded that they still use pen and paper to track vital production steps. Not only are manual information-capturing and sharing processes incredibly inefficient, but they are highly susceptible to human error.
To begin to modernize the manufacturing floor, executives must first evaluate their current processes, consider their workers’ daily routines and look for ways in which technology can be used to improve workflows, boost efficiency and ultimately integrate into operations connected by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Specifically, they must focus on the present and prioritize investments that benefit their most important asset – their current and future workforce. Today’s workers need technology solutions that can improve their overall productivity without disrupting their workflows, while the next generation of digitally native workers will demand tools that offer the same connectivity that they’ve become accustomed to in their everyday lives. Manufacturers can appeal to both generations by equipping them with easy-to-use yet sophisticated mobile technology that allows them to access software and back-office systems throughout all areas of the manufacturing environment. By doing so, organizations will gain real-time visibility into their operations, and they will also be empowering their employees to become engaged members of the modern manufacturing workforce.
The aforementioned outdated processes waste valuable time and negatively impact current workers’ productivity and conflict with future workers’ demands for information mobility. In regards to the newer entrants to the workforce, which manufacturers will need to focus on recruiting in order to fill 700,000 jobs for skilled manufacturing employees over the next decade, older processes that don’t offer immediate workflow-related insights, or information mobility, will be a major turn off. Fortunately, each of these issues can be addressed by providing workers with flexible mobile solutions that can adapt to any kind of workflow demands.
The Right Mobile Solutions
Manufacturing workers are constantly mobile and on-the-go, whether they are navigating the shop floor on foot or forklift or constantly transitioning between the office, factory, and warehouse. That is why it is incredibly important that the technology that they use is equally mobile. For example, providing plant floor employees with rugged mobile computing devices that are equipped with a built-in barcode reader allows them to accurately generate real-time inventory status updates in connected back-office systems, providing managers with the information they need to make faster, and more accurate, decisions.
Today there are rugged tablet-based solutions that can be custom-equipped with the precise performance, security, connectivity and usability features required to accommodate mobile workers’ individual device preferences and address a wide set of application workflows.
However, not all supposedly “rugged” devices are built for enterprise, much less manufacturing, environments. Be cautious of consumer-grade devices that claim an IP65 or IP68 rating is sufficient for manufacturing use. They lack the inherent durability features of an enterprise-grade “rugged to the core” device” as well as the more advanced wireless antennas, I/O, and processing technologies that ensure workers stay connected to critical data and each other in dense facilities and hazardous work conditions.
Manufacturers also demand true enterprise lifecycles and service programs to ensure they can depend on mobility solutions. In other words, it is imperative that manufacturers build their mobility solutions using best-of-breed technologies if they want to achieve the desired level of visibility into the full spectrum of operations without risk of data loss or delay.
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