Mobile apps and the cloud are invading all facets of life. Many businesses will turn to customized mobile software solutions in order to help achieve their automation goals. This usually results from a desire to stick with their existing legacy system, which may have been implemented or even developed prior to the release of any mobile applications. Keeping these solutions while desiring to implement mobile or cloud-based versions can lead to costly implementations. But software developers are taking note and including the power of mobile with many of their software options.
This would include the manufacturing industry, which is an industry that is known for being more “stubborn”, or resistant to change, even with the known benefits of manufacturing software. For example, manufacturing ERP can provide you with bill of materials, order planning, and process tracking. But where do mobile apps come in? For a company where the grunt of the work is done on a shop floor, how can mobile apps help?
Real-Time Inventory and Order Fulfillment
Knowing your inventory levels along with open and pending orders is crucial to how quick of a production turnaround your business can operate at. It has even been mentioned as one of the 4 key data sources CFOs must analyze when looking at the supply chain value.
Simply put, the faster you can accept a new order, manufacture the product, and send it out the door, means your company should become more profitable over time. Certain MRP software functionalities such as purchase planning, demand forecasting, and master production scheduling were found to be the most three requested features for buyers in the market for better material resource planning. The Software Connect report found that more than 70% of all buyers desired these top features.
As specific functionalities are more requested by buyers of MRP systems, companies will want functionalities covered via a mobile device. This, in turn, will allow more direct access to the benefits provided by functionality on the shop-floor.
When you’re on the shop-floor, manufacturing is your primary concern. In a traditional setting, your sales team may be working in the front office while your manufacturing team is in the back or in the warehouse. This can cause delays when someone on the shop floor needs to check inventory levels to see if they can fulfill an order. Similarly, follow back up with the sales rep (or someone in purchasing) that they need some certain raw materials ordered before they can get started on an order.
If a shop foreman has the ability to check inventory levels in real time from a mobile device, he’ll know within seconds if they can take care of this new order coming in, or even take care of placing the purchase order right from his device if they need more materials.
Mobile Maintenance Monitoring
Manufacturing requires heavy parts and machinery. Over time, these parts and machines will break down or require some level of service. Preventative maintenance make sure you get the full value of these assets that help your business operate.
Machines are becoming a lot smarter and may even have maintenance reminders built into them. For those that don’t, being able to register when a machine was last serviced, or being able to set reminders to take care of potential issues will be crucial to the health of your machine. You may even be able to create a work order right there on the spot. If there is an employee in charge of maintenance on the floor, he can easily be pinged about an issue without leaving the shop floor. Waiting until they get back to an office, or even until the next time they see a manager, can cause people to simply forget.
Field Service Technician Assistance
Many manufacturers have multiple warehouses due to the sheer volume of the operations. However, when it comes to the technicians assigned to keep their machines up and running, they may not have the luxury of having a huge staff level. Because of this, these technicians may need to bounce back and forth between multiple locations.
With mobile connectivity, these technicians can stay updated at any point. About pending work orders, what location they are most needed at, the types of parts they will need and more. The quicker this information passes on, the faster they can fix any issue and help the business operate.
Boost Communication and collaboration in the workplace
Employees like to feel engaged in their jobs, especially the next generation of workers (the millennials). In fact, studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between technology and employee engagement and retention. What does that tell us? The use of mobile apps can help your employees happy, and avoid turnover for your company.
Employees engaging with mobile apps have more of a hands-on way of doing their work. In manufacturing, this includes submitting work orders, ordering new pieces of inventory, beginning sales orders, or simply punching out. Younger workers are going to feel apprehensive when they have to handle seemingly mundane and redundant activities. In a different era, running out of a piece of inventory would require you to verbally inform a manager. That manager would make a note on a clipboard. At the end of the day in the back-office, he’d place an order for more parts. Now, the worker is more empowered to handle that at the click of a button on his workstation.
As mobile technologies become more affordable, their adoption rates will increase. Many workers already carry a personal smartphone with them on a daily basis. Companies could implement a BYOD policy that can subsidize their employee’s phone bills for using the device for work purposes. More secure methods of providing the hardware directly are available. It will allow phones, tablets, smart watches, and more the ability to give a leg-up to your manufacturing managers. In turn, your business should succeed with greater visibility, better resource optimization, and improved response time, among other perks.