The Top Ten Mobile Solutions for Lean Manufacturing

Oct. 20, 2009
Automating manual processes boosts worker productivity and real-time access to more accurate information.

Today's manufacturers must address a number of major business issues, from market globalization, heightened competition and faster product lifecycles to a demand for more customized products, not to mention recent economic challenges. In order to succeed, manufacturers must find a way to cut costs without impacting quality, customer service or product availability. Lean initiatives are helping manufacturers drive wastes out of plant floor operations by simplifying, standardizing and continually improving processes. Today, however, lean isn't just for the plant floor as manufacturers are focused on 'leaning' their entire operations and increasing margins, reducing costs and improving customer service.

Mobility is a core lean enabler allowing manufacturers to extend mobile voice and data right to the point of activity -- inside and outside the four walls. Automating manual processes boosts worker productivity and real-time access to more accurate information manufacturers to achieve a new level of efficiency and profitability.

So where do you start? Following are the top ten mobile manufacturing solutions that drive dramatic benefits and enhance the impact of lean:

  1. The Warehouse: Reduce Inventory Costs
    Every day there is constant movement of materials in, out and through this crucial business area -- from raw materials waiting to be assembled or manufactured into finished goods, to finished goods awaiting shipment to distributors, retailers or end-users. Mobility eliminates manual processes and establishes real-time visibility allowing manufacturers to better manage inventory across the board.
  2. eKanBan and Plant Communications: Increase Line-side Uptime and Protect Yield
    Mobility can protect against one of the most expensive events in a manufacturing plant - unplanned downtime. A mobile eKanBan solution enables manufacturers to cost effectively place a wireless call button at every station so workers remain focused on task and the call for inventory is transmitted instantly to a mobile computer in the hands of warehouse personnel for immediate response.
  3. Material Tracking/Traceability: Achieve Cost-Effective Compliance
    Regulatory requirements related to track and trace are on the rise for manufacturers, rippling into the need to create an end-to-end pedigree for products -- an undertaking that can be both costly and time-consuming. Mobility enables the nearly automatic real-time tracking of parts and ingredients at any point in the manufacturing process, or after delivery to the customer -- all with just a scan of a bar code, direct part mark or RFID tag. The result is a highly accurate and granular track and trace capability that allows manufacturers to comply with government regulations without adding a lot of process -- or cost.
  4. Asset Tracking and Maintenance: Improve Asset Utilization, Extend Asset Lifecycle and Reduce Capital Requirements
    Tracking and maintaining the many assets in a manufacturing plant can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor -- from roll cages and pallets to totes and tools. With RFID, inventory counts and asset locations are always visible, eliminating time-consuming manual inventory counts. Accountability is improved, theft is reduced, and real-time asset visibility not only ensures asset availability, but also helps reduce asset inventory levels.
  5. Quality and Error Proofing: Validate Process Accuracy and Improve Customer Satisfaction
    The automation of the capture of quality data enables manufacturers to achieve Six Sigma quality, virtually ensuring that your customer receives the right product, manufactured the right way, every time, improving customer satisfaction, as well as customer retention. In addition, the ability to catch quality issues early helps contain the cost of a quality event by minimizing wasted labor, materials and equipment time.
  6. Labor Tracking: Increase Labor Visibility and Utilization for More Accurate Costs... and More Competitive Pricing
    Without true labor costs, you don't have visibility into the real cost of your products. Mobility addresses this issue by extending the existing time and attendance (T&A) system right to the hands of operators on the plant floor-enabling the ability to track granular time-on-task. Actual labor cost data can now reside in both the T&A and ERP systems, replacing standard costs and resulting in the ability to more accurately evaluate product pricing. With mobility, you can establish more competitive pricing, protect profitability; substantially reduce accounting administration and rationalize product lines by true profitability.
  7. Field Sales: Increase Revenue and Productivity
    When your salesforce carries an integrated mobile voice and data device with a real-time connection to their back-end business systems, everything they need to close deals on the spot is in hand. Salespeople can easily check inventory and pricing, capture a signature, submit the order in real time, and with a mobile payment card reader, even process payments instantly. Sales productivity increases enabling increased customer interaction to drive sales revenue.
  8. Field service: Increase Revenues, Reduce Order-to-cash Cycle Times and Improve Cash Flow
    The efficiency and effectiveness of your field workers is critical to the health of your business. A mobile device can eliminate the gap between the voice and data networks in the office and the field workforce, greatly improving the efficiency of workers who repair product or perform inspections and maintenance. Repair technicians can receive electronic work orders, access service history, service level agreements and more, eliminating paper-based processes and improving customer service.
  9. Fleet Management: Reduce Truck Rolls and Vehicle-related Costs
    When vehicle-mounted in your fleet of trucks, you have the tools required to improve the management and utilization of both drivers and vehicles. Integrated GPS allows dispatch to monitor real-time location for more efficient routing, effectively reducing truck rolls, minimizing mileage, fuel costs, wear and tear and repair costs, extending the lifecycle of these high dollar assets. And with telematics, supervisors have the real-time visibility into engine metrics required to reduce unplanned vehicle downtime.
  10. Management: Improve Decision Making and Manager Effectiveness
    Regardless of whether your managers are responsible for your plant, sales or field operations, they need access to a wealth of information in order to act as effectively as possible. With a mobile device, managers can access productivity applications such as email, plant messages and alerts as well as back-end systems that provide a window into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and more. By mobilizing the many critical management applications, managers can be on the go -- yet access the information required to make the best decisions possible.

Mobility is truly an ideal 'lean' enabler. While this article examined the top 10 areas where mobility can have the most impact on the success of your lean initiatives, mobility is capable of stripping wasted time and errors out of virtually any process in any and all of your business functions, making mobility the ultimate platform to take your manufacturing operations to the next level of lean.

June Ruby is Director, Manufacturing Solutions Group, at Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions Business.

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