By Greg Giles, MES Executive Director
Mobile Apps for the Factory Floor – Where to Start?
Handheld devices aren’t new to the assembly line. Hardened bar code readers have been an industry staple for more than a decade. Today, dedicated single-function devices are being replaced by open source mobile operating system devices. iOS and Android have created a fertile field for industrial applications and, with a hardened cover, an iPod can be a better fit for the factory than a traditional handheld device.
Mobile apps can be powerful tools, and because most operators already know how to use them, the implementation process is usually very straightforward. If you’re not already using mobile devices and apps as part of your manufacturing operations, here are three ways to start:
1. Part tracking and traceability:
Today, you might be using bar code scanners to monitor inbound and outbound parts. A mobile device will maintain that capability while also providing real-time data anywhere a device is located. Not only will your purchasing department keep up with spare parts inventory, a line supervisor will be able to identify and address part shortcomings before they happen. Our clients have found that mobile part tracking systems significantly reduce lost parts and waste.
2. Machine health monitoring:
It’s impossible for an Andon board to contain all of the information needed by equipment maintenance staff, and pager alerts are helpful but limited. A mobile health monitoring system provides remote users with production scheduling and machine control as well as comprehensive health monitoring. With a better view of machine health throughout the plant, support staff can triage repairs and maintenance more effectively, no matter where they’re located.
3. Performance management:
Plant managers can be torn between accessing the data they need in their office and interacting with their operators on the plant floor. Mobile performance management systems allow them to stay on top of time-critical orders and resolve production problems from any location.
Mobile devices are charting the course for the complete, secure dissemination of factory information to whomever needs it, wherever they’re located. We’re seeing significant improvements in efficiency and we expect that to only get better over time.
This post first appeared in Automation World.