New advancements in mobile data collection systems are being incorporated into the manufacturing process as suppliers increasingly realize the technology's benefits.
In a globalized economy where market volatility endures and supply chain disruptions could happen at any time, suppliers recognize that better operational flexibility is becoming a requirement to compete. Beyond the advantages mobile data provides in regard to real-time communication tools and instant data access, a study conducted by the Analysis of Wireless Devices in European Industrial Automation Market found that industrial mobile data collection devices also optimize plant functionality.
"Wireless devices reduce maintenance costs, boost productivity and improve quality of production," said industry analyst Anna Mazurek to Manufacturing Automation. "At the same time, initial implementation does not require vast restructuring or expensive machinery replacement. This combination of plant optimization, quick return on investment and easy installation is highlighting the benefits of industrial wireless automation."
System redundancy, slow standardization cited as barriers
So why have certain manufacturers been slow to adopt wireless technology? For one, nearly all suppliers operating today already use some form of supply chain management software to oversee workflows. The distinguishing trait of those existing systems, however, is that they are likely wired into the manufacturer's physical infrastructure. The reasoning goes that it does not make sense to spend unnecessary money on an overhaul to replace an otherwise functional supply management system for one that duplicates the same core functions with an added benefit of being untethered from wires. The problem with this logic, though, is that the lack of wireless technology in older systems is prohibiting the level of flexibility necessary for a modern manufacturing space to operate at maximum efficiency.
Another barrier to wireless adoption cited by supply chain professionals is the lack of interoperability among device vendors due to the use of proprietary hardware and software. To counter those concerns, steps are currently being taken by those in the mobile data collection device industry to standardize wireless network protocols for both hardware and infrastructure, said ARC Advisory Group.
Despite early growing pains typically found in any technological development, the advantages of suppliers utilizing an integrated system of automated data collection in mobile devices are immense.
"The potential market for wireless devices is one of the closest-watched segments in process automation," said ARC's Chantal Polsonetti. "Increased availability of products and solutions that support industrial wireless standards will help spur double-digit market growth due to the tangible business benefits that can be achieved through use of wireless instrumentation."