With the surging interest in Digital Transformation, industries are now looking for options to reduce the turnaround time on the factory floor and increase efficiency tremendously. Mobile computing is bringing in new apps to the plant floor, replacing the traditional operations and maintenance methods. These industrial grade mobile applications are now making it possible to manage and control all the functions on the factory floor even from remote locations. Before we delve deep into how these applications are being used to monitor the operator efficiencies, let us first look at the challenges which the industrial companies are dealing with on the shop floor.
Challenges Faced by the Industrial Companies on Factory Floor
The Shop Floor managers are under tremendous pressure when it comes to managing the deliverables and dealing with quality issues. They are also facing constant changes in the bottlenecks and are unable to identify the sources of data and efficiency loss. Having worked in a challenging environment, they are flooded with irrelevant data, some of which cannot be even transformed into actionable relevant information. No significant amount of time is available to understand the data and draw conclusions. Consequently, the implication to their factories’ overall productivity results in only 30% – 50% effective asset usage, high levels of material waste and machine downtime, ongoing discrepancies between standard and actual production targets, and low customer satisfaction.
Reasons for Digitalizing the Industrial Processes
In order to stay competitive, it is crucial for the industries to keep pace with the evolving technologies. Modernizing the operational processes by leveraging technology can immensely increase efficiency, with a special focus on data analysis. Following are the reasons for digitalizing the industrial processes:
- Urgency to reduce cost
- High downtime and waste
- Heavy reliance on specialized technicians for monitoring the operations
- Shortage of skilled personnel
- Vendor lock-in
How Mobile Applications are helping in Boosting Operation Efficiencies on Factory Floor
Let us take an example to understand the need of mobile applications to increase efficiency and accuracy. Suppose a machine goes down on your production line. The operator notes the error on a paper downtime log and then calls the maintenance technician. The technician diagnoses and repairs the machine, and then goes back to their desk to enter what they did into the computer. Then, a sanitation worker comes out to clean and sanitize the machine, noting their work on a sanitation log. Finally, a QA/QC engineer is called to verify that everything was done correctly.
Now, if the manager needs to check the maintenance records of the machine, it would be difficult to keep a tab on all the tasks executed since multiple people were involved in the process. Here come the mobile applications to the rescue, which can make the process more efficient, as well as increase the accuracy of the documentation. These apps give users real-time, read-only, remote access to plant floor data, and are easy to use. Using AI, analytics and automation, the factory floor operations can be easily monitored, and thus have the following advantages:
- It helps in bridging the gap between “having a procedure” and “implementing that procedure”. Apps can help by sending the instructions to the technicians quickly and can also monitor that these processes are carried out effectively, thus improving accuracy
- It helps in following work compliance, ensuring that the work has been performed, verified and validated, through documentation
- It helps in removing technological barriers, since the apps are easy to use and people are more comfortable with them
With the advancement to Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), the digital transformation is going to pick up speed. The cost of implementation will continue to decrease, and AI and ML technologies will be broadly implemented to predict future problems. The operations will be further automated, which will allow the platform itself to take care of the corrective action items.