PUTTING MOBILE FIRST IN MANUFACTURING

02 Oct PUTTING MOBILE FIRST IN MANUFACTURING

How mobile tech is driving the next industrial revolution

The pace of growth in mobile technology over the last 10 years has been staggering. And today its impact can be seen across every major industry.

Many companies have already embraced this revolution and adopted a ‘mobile first’ strategy.

That is to say the use of mobile – whether smartphones, tablets or any other kind of connected device – is placed firmly at the centre of operations.

When you look at the advantages of mobile technology you can see why.

Increased productivity and reduction in operational costs are just two of the major benefits of implementing a mobile first strategy.

So what are the implications for Thailand’s large manufacturing industry?

They should be largely positive.

One of the greatest strengths of mobile is that it allows people to handle data much more efficiently, in real time.

This means that factory or warehouse managers can utilise existing Internet of Things technologies – such as wearable devices and sensors – to significantly improve business processes.

When manufacturers use mobile devices to increase automation, employees spend less time on managing and maintaining, and have more time to spend on monitoring, increasing output and growing the business.

In addition, factory operations benefit from improved communication, which can have positive effects on lead-time accuracy and employee training.

Mobile tech can also reduce costly mistakes that in some cases could lead to accidents on the factory floor. By identifying pain points, the right tech can be used to make systems, and their employees, much safer.

mobile-business-app

Automate for efficiency

Machine analytics are nothing new, but mobile tech makes analysis much faster and more versatile.

“With mobile technology, you need fewer people to monitor the production process,” says Han Thomas, Business Consultant at Aware Corporation Ltd. “Companies that rely on old technologies limit growth because data is not necessarily accurate nor timely.”

These days, sensors can be fitted to provide accurate data in real time, allowing managers to identify patterns and bottlenecks and schedule resources effectively. It also gives them immediate data to measure those all-important KPIs.

Infrastructure challenges

How, then, should Thai companies review their infrastructure to take advantage of the latest developments in mobile?

Many manufacturing companies invest in machinery that is designed to last a long time. But management is often reluctant to replace heavy equipment simply to be compatible with the latest technological breakthroughs.

With labour costs still relatively low in Thailand, some managers prefer to retain existing plant standards and pay people to operate it. This will only be sustainable in the short term.

Han Thomas says he often encounters equipment that uses very old technology when it comes to information transfer and automation. This includes machinery that relies on data being manually transferred using floppy disks – a form of data storage and transfer that is all but obsolete in every other industry.

The good news is that manufacturers can take advantage of mobile, without having to spend huge amounts of money.

“Fast networking using 3G and 4G is almost everywhere in Thailand, and even the most affordable devices are already equipped with many sensors such as GPS and cameras,” says Han. “Networking for industrial process tracking doesn’t need to be lightning fast. Tracking typically involves entering and transmitting basic information, so it’s not necessary to have access to the highest speed connections as long as the network is reliable.”

Even in rural agricultural areas, where connection speeds may be compromised, data can be entered on to mobile devices and synced with the main information system later on.

The way ahead

“We often get asked to come in and improve production processes. Sometimes, what is needed is quite basic. These days, you can even collect and transmit data on a cheap phone or tablet.” 

Those companies with the foresight to invest in machinery that works in sync with mobile technology will surely have a competitive edge.

The fact is that ‘mobile first’ is now the norm, and those companies that continue to use old-fashioned methods are being left behind.

If you are a manufacturer and all this seems a bit daunting, there’s no need to worry.

“We often get asked to come in and improve production processes,” says Han Thomas. “Sometimes, what is needed is quite basic. These days, you can even collect and transmit data on a cheap phone or tablet.”

As the mobile revolution marches on, those at the front will reap the benefits and stay well ahead of the competition.

Aware Corporation works with many local and international manufacturers – including Noventa, Gorg Jensen, Driessen, Infinity Global, Berina and Honda Thailand. We specialise in improving manufacturing processes by advising on the most appropriate tech and developing software. Contact us for details.

Article written by guest blogger Neil Stoneham.  Neil has had a varied career in which he has written for many companies, PR organisations and publications – such as the Bangkok Post and Weekly Telegraph – throughout the world.