3 min read

A New Vision of Mobile Manufacturing

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Don’t be fooled, mobile manufacturing requires more than just an app. It requires an integrated mobile solution delivering shop floor functionality on the go.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I love music. A few years ago I wanted a new stereo system. I had a single requirement – I wanted to use my MP3 player with the sound system. I wanted to throw parties, fill the house with music that fuels the fun. Problem was – I didn’t do my research. I bought a system with the words “MP3 Compatible” in big, bold letters on the box.

Unfortunately, “MP3 Compatible” meant a single USB port. The stupid thing never worked, and was about as functional as fins on a kangaroo. I couldn’t plug my player directly into the port. Instead, I had to download my music onto an empty zip drive. Then I had to plug the zip drive into the USB port. After a few minutes, a song MIGHT start playing. Maybe. I couldn’t control the music, and between songs there was a LONG delay. If I ever downloaded something other than music, an error would flash and the whole system shut down.

Honestly, the system and my music player were as compatible as fire and ice, and as functional as those fins. I felt cheated, used and angry. My excitement crumbled as the truth of my purchase became apparent.

What can mobile manufacturing do for you?

Using a tablet, smart phone, or other mobile device to access a true paperless manufacturing system will boost productivity, help eliminate errors, and increase work flow visibility. Imagine giving your shop floor anytime and anywhere connection to production documents, including work orders, safety documents, training videos and more. How much more productive will your team be if QA conducts real-time quality checks from anywhere? How would shop management like anywhere access to real-time production data?

Unfortunately, many MES or paperless manufacturing vendors make promises regarding “mobile manufacturing compatibility” that fool many companies into accepting awkward functionality and systems that never work as promised. Compatibility between a shop floor system and mobile devices is neither important nor useful, compatibility between the application software and the work flow processes is how you achieve true mobility. You need a scalable, adaptable solution that supports your work flow processes.

For some vendors, “mobile manufacturing” is a simple app that provides a view of some production data from a mobile device. Turn on the app and you can see shop floor trends, and maybe identify potential shop floor problems, but that’s about it. These apps might allow you to open a document from your web device, see the production schedule, and maybe move an item on the screen, but that’s the limit of their app-functionality.

Other vendors promise mobile manufacturing as an add-on project once the initial project is complete. They can do it, if you want, but it leads to additional service fees, project schedule bloat, and complicated and risky implementation. Like me and my “MP3 Compatible” sound system, manufacturers buy a system, only to see the limits of “compatibility” once they have the system on the shop floor.

True Mobile Manufacturing

True mobile manufacturing offers an integrated mobile solution within the core system, not an app. The power of the complete manufacturing system should be available from most mobile devices, and offer interactive functionality, not just read-only screenshots of data. Mobile manufacturing should ensure quick and easy access to your MES or paperless manufacturing system from almost any device.

Don’t be fooled. Look for browser-based systems (though, be careful you aren’t diving head first into the dangerous world of the Cloud). Look for systems that are fully compatible with the web, and offer complete mobile functionality, not an app or two.

The future of modern manufacturing is embracing mobility. Even if you aren’t ready to give your shop floor a tablet now, in a few years (or less) you may need shop floor software that offers mobile manufacturing. Take the time, do your research and find a solution with integrated mobile manufacturing, not just an app or hastily slapped-on “mobile compatibility.”

… unless you want to watch your dreams of an efficient, mobile shop floor crumble like my dream of music-fueled parties…

Let us know if you want to learn more or see how integrated mobile manufacturing can transform and benefit your shop floor.