Traditionally, the lower the production costs, the better the financial situation a manufacturer will find itself in. According to Manufacturing Business Technology, one of the most significant factors in the movement of manufacturing jobs to overseas markets is the cost of labor. Logically, the less a business has to pay for production by way of labor and tax regulations, the greater profit margin they can expect to see. However, it's unlikely the cost of labor in the U.S. will go down anytime soon, as inflation and standards of living tend to push wages up.
As a result, one of the ways American manufacturers can become more competitive is by reevaluating their information technology infrastructure and software systems.
A Deeper Dive into Product Development
The MBT article underlined the need for more efficient product lifecycle management. This includes the research and development stages, the design phase and modeling. By investing more in these steps to identify points at which there are inefficiencies, manufacturers can eliminate waste and streamline the front-end of production. There's also more opportunity to develop innovative practices that can decrease the number of steps involved in manufacturing merchandise, which will also lessen overall costs.
In order to sustain this movement toward more agile manufacturing, data capture is a critical component. The engineers responsible for developing more efficient production models depend on access to real-time information about how actual processes measure up to predictive analysis. They need to know whether there are individual machines or tools that are hampering efficiency on production lines. The more accurate and consistent the data streams, the clearer the picture will be for the engineers working to improve the situation on the shop floor and develop better workflows.
Create a Wireless Setup
To enable the type of environment required to foster automated data collection, existing data capture methods will likely need to be restructured.
- Product Bundling: One way that manufacturers have been able to drive down costs for mobile data collection solutions is through bundling. When all necessary equipment and software is included under one price tag, businesses can often save costs over purchasing items in an a la carte manner. However, one of the biggest pitfalls in selecting certain types of bundled solutions is attempting to customize the mobile applications in the face of either ERP upgrades or migrations. In a white paper called "Mobile Application Customizations - The Hidden TCO Killer" released by RFgen Software, it's very clear that the total cost of ownership of a mobile data collection solution that's built off a bundled setup may not be totally apparent until the manufacturer tries to make adjustments to the mobile application.
- Devices: In all likelihood, each employee within a manufacturing organization will use different equipment to collect data. Whether they use a tablet, smartphone or barcode scanner, the data capture software and mobile applications need to be flexible enough to fit the various needs of the workforce. Language may be another key consideration during the decision-making process because today's workers are often bilingual or perform more effectively in a language besides English.
- Creating New Transactions: In addition to the necessary functionality of being able to generate new transactions, there also needs to be accountability and security. To protect intellectual property and other information from being exposed or keeping data clean, the transactions available to each worker should be adjustable based on their security clearance. Because there may be a large menu of available transactions overall, working through the mobile application to limit each worker's options is also an ideal way to save time the employee may have to spend searching and scrolling to find the right order.