The benefits of smart manufacturing going mobile

The benefits of smart manufacturing going mobile

ATS Global's Mike James explains how manufacturing teams can adopt efficient working processes

Caspar Herzberg |

This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

A fellow member of the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, Uwe Kueppers, recently had a fascinating insight using the lean manufacturing concept that is deployed across a vast array of companies. The story starts with ‘go and see’. In a manufacturing context, this literally means and go and see how production is running. Get out on the shop floor and observe. Go and talk to the team on the production line. Supervisors, managers and quality staff often get out of their offices to ‘go and see’ how work is progressing. The value of developing an understanding and finding opportunities for improvement can result in significant productivity benefits over long periods of time. But Uwe’s insight turned the idea around.

‘See and go’ he said, and his insight referred to using a mobile device. Data flowing from systems on the shop floor are like arrow heads, pointing you in the right direction, and the data is presented to the user on a mobile device as easily digestible insight. Workers can ‘see’ the arrow on my mobile device, and it tells me if there are any issues on shop floor. Having ‘seen’, I can now ‘go’ to the shop floor and immediately find the area in which I can best help my team.

It’s a great insight and mixing technology with lean manufacturing is something I dubbed many years ago as ‘sticky lean’. One of the problems with lean manufacturing is that it relies heavily on manual processes. This is good for the team and forces communication and action. But in practice, lean practices weaken over time. This is because people are not as consistent as we would like them to be. But by adding technology and introducing ‘sticky lean’, processes can be carried out with greater consistency.

Mobility gives workers freedom of movement and adds a new dimension to any manufacturing process. Mobile devices can deliver information about many aspects of a plant to workers directly, providing maintenance staff with the chance to act quickly and may help them, using augmented reality, to carry out a critical repair more effectively. Devices can also help direct staff to a problem area within a plant.

‘See and go’ offers IT/OT a wide range of opportunities for improvement. Just don’t forget that mobile devices are tools for real people in real plants, stay safe and watch where you are walking!

Mike James is chair of the board of directors at ATS Global

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