Today's manufacturing organizations require agile systems and infrastructure that facilitate the flow of data. A recent article for Industry Week highlighted the importance of organizations being able to respond with flexibility in the face of fluctuating consumer demands while also maintaining accurate data records.
Agility Requires the Use of Modern Digital Tools
Citing a recent study from the research and consulting firm Accenture, Industry Week wrote there are three key variables that influence a manufacturer's ability to achieve flexibility. These include using digital and advanced technologies geared toward building a connected workspace, capital asset management and having a talented workforce well-versed in modern high-tech systems.
Automation ranks high up on the list of priorities for organizations that want to improve their productivity levels. Along with this is the demand for advanced asset management systems. Wireless sensors, including radio-frequency identification tags, used in conjunction with mobile applications help manufacturers keep a permanent eye on the performance of their equipment. As a result, they can adjust maintenance scheduling and adapt to emergency repairs while having the least impact on the production line possible. Solutions like mobile data collection and RFID tagging benefit not only the workers on the shop floor, but also those operating in remote facilities or out in the field.
At the same time, automated data collection tools and systems present manufacturers the opportunity to create a work environment that provides greater visibility into all operations. With the help of automation, organizations have a clear window to look at inventory, logistics, demand and operational capacity. Manufacturers can use this information to make better decisions because data is accessible 24/7 and constantly being updated. In addition, the digital tools used to collect data help eliminate the chances of human error in reporting, making the information more accurate as well.
Take an Enterprise-wide Perspective
While the most flexible and agile manufacturers have begun integrating mobile data collection technologies, there's a very real need to keep total cost of ownership in mind. While an organization may have a robust ERP system, the time will come when it needs to make adjustments to the mobile applications used to assist in data collection, inventory management and warehouse operations.
A major pitfall that manufacturers can avoid is choosing a bundled mobile solution or module assuming it will be complete with all transactions and requirements needed to achieve optimal organizational function. It can be difficult to gauge the total cost of ownership for mobile applications because they often need to be customized for the unique needs of a manufacturer.
Then, what happens when an organization needs to modify standard shop floor transactions as their business requirements evolve? An RFgen white paper titled "Mobile Application Customizations - The Hidden TCO Killer," explores these issues in depth, while showing manufacturing enterprises the solutions that are available to them.
Look at Current and Future Requirements
Mobile application customizations often happen in a couple of steps. The first phase involves establishing the basic framework. During this time, a manufacturer can get a handle on what pre-built transactions are included and how these enable standard mobile activities. Ideally, configuration and development should be rapid and require minimal technical expertise.
At the same time, the mobile application should automatically sync with the existing ERP through embedded interface codes. A drag and drop environment supports rapid development because of its ease of use, and there should be a painless testing component that allows IT workers to identify and address any errors in the mobile application.
In the quest to become a productive and flexible organization, manufacturers can't be too hasty in overlooking the mobile application platform they select. It can make all the difference in the world in ensuring total cost of ownership doesn't drastically inflate as the organization's needs change.