Smart Manufacturing Goes Mobile

By adopting a ‘see and go’ approach, manufacturing teams can adopt more efficient working processes.

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 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 their mobile device, and it tells them if there are any issues on the shop floor. Having ‘seen’, they can then ‘go’ to the shop floor and immediately find the area in which they can best help their 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 encourages 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 critical repairs more effectively.

‘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’re walking!

This article was first published in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record Magazine.