Technology has a strong influence on numerous industries, and manufacturing is no different. The fact is that modern organizations depend on having powerful information technology infrastructure, state-of-the-art machinery and software systems to ensure they remain competitive in the present and future. Mobile data collection through the use of applications is one of the most important ways that manufacturing companies are able to get a firmer handle on various internal processes, including inventory management, picking and product forecasting.
In addition, a recent article for Manufacturers' Monthly explained that there will likely be 33 billion connected devices throughout the world by 2020. That's more than double the number that can be seen today. The worst-case scenario for manufacturing organizations is that they ignore the need for and obvious benefits of mobile apps for data capture and other functions until it's too late, meaning they'll be working twice as hard to catch up with competitors that have already invested in mobile technology.
1. What You See Is What You Get
As customer demands for rapid production and distribution and supply chain complexity grow, there's an increasing need for manufacturers to have visibility into their workflows and management processes. In other words, real-time access to data has become a business imperative that fewer organizations can afford to ignore now compared to recent history.
On one hand, manufacturing organizations can integrate barcode labeling and hand-held scanners to keep on top of assets. In too many cases, equipment auditors monitor machinery used in manufacturing or moving items throughout their warehouses using paper-based procedures, which then forces them to re-enter information into enterprise planning software, likely at the end of the day. This allows more errors to enter the process because information is initially collected used hand-written assessment tools, and the data may not get entered by the same person who originally audited the assets. The more up-to-date and accurate the data regarding equipment, the greater potential there is to keep maintenance costs low.
Mobile data collection enables manufacturers to update information in their ERP systems as soon as it is captured using barcode scanners. The information is immediately accessible. Furthermore, radio frequency identification tags are another excellent tool to ensure that products are tracked efficiently. In addition, to mobile tools, manufacturers can capture information as inventory moves from warehousing facilities and moves through various distribution channels.
2. Reduced Dependence on Paper
According to an article for appsFreedom, it's normal for an office worker in a manufacturing organization to use roughly 10,000 sheets of paper annually. Documents not only take up an excessive amount of space to store, but they also take a lot of time to locate if needed. In other words, paper-based systems promote inefficiency in multiple ways. Additionally, paper is a cost burden for many organizations. The same article indicated many organizations spend roughly $80 per employee every year simply on paper.
With mobile apps that enable more efficient data collection, manufacturers can develop transactions that are customized specifically for their particular products and processes. For instance, manufacturing organizations can develop transactions that employees can use while picking items in inventory. With this in mind, companies can operate on wireless networks using mobile devices, such as smartphones, to transmit information in real time. If there should ever be an issue with the wireless connection, the apps can continue capturing data and nothing will be lost.
3. Keep Track of Mobile Workers
It's important to ensure that field workers are as productive as possible. Mobile data collection and apps used to support these processes help organizations see what each employee accomplishes on a daily basis. By integrating GPS technology and time stamps into all transactions that go through a mobile app into the ERP, manufacturing organizations can ensure critical information gets entered on time. It's important for these individuals perform their tasks quickly to ensure continuing functionality, especially for workers performing audits or maintenance on assets.
Depending on a manufacturer's needs and capabilities, it's likely that they'll require a mobile data collection solution sooner or later. Implementing the right system and apps means looking at how well existing operations work and where there may be issues that can be solved with mobile technology.