The concept of mobility is not new to the manufacturing industry. Over the last decade, the same technology principles that gave a boost to mobility have also been seen in action in the manufacturing world. RFID for inventory management, Remote Diagnostics for offsite equipment management,
GPS-enabled tracking for fleet management, Sensors for plant automation have all become part of life.
Strategists should not confuse these with the mobility of today.
In this position paper, we explore the modern day tablet and smart phone, with rich visual and interactive real- time experience, and the value they bring to the technology backbone that already exists. We also take a look at how mobility can help alleviate the pain of the ‘7 Wastes of the Manufacturing World’.
Not since the time of widespread adoption of LEAN Manufacturing principles in the western world, has there been such great excitement in the industry, as is there today with the advent of mobile technologies. Mobility presents a great new opportunity to drive business and process transformation across the industry, providing a vehicle for reengineering that can restore the competitive edge to manufacturers.
Experience Mobility on the Shop Floor
The modern shop floor is a wired place. As you walk the shop floor, you can discover several opportunities to experience mobility.
As a floor supervisor or head of plant operations, you no longer need to be tied down to your desk while taking critical plant decisions. With production plans, drawings, change notes, and quality check lists available on your mobile device, and with a 4G connection, you can create a virtual “big room” on the floor which can drive vast improvements in plant productivity.
Further, analytics-driven mobile triggers can aid faster decision making and thereby contribute directly to the top and bottom line. You can also create a simulated assembly line on the tablet, or create a digitized, mobile alert – which may actually help bring together a crisis management team virtually on the mobile – to solve problems much faster. By minimizing downtime, this can make a large impact on the throughput of the assembly line. Visual simulation of the concept of 'single piece flow' through the shop floor, to identify bottlenecks as they emerge, can be a boon to plant managers. Considering the volume of activity that happens on the shop floor, such as inspection records, inventory checks, calibration transactions, deviation approvals, and workflow approvals – one can expect huge productivity gains through mobility solutions.
The complicated airline production system is a good example of a shop floor that can immensely benefit through the use of mobility solutions. Live collaboration between different work groups on the assembly, reduction in the back and forth movement of workers to access drawings, designs and assembly procedures (Standard Operating Procedures) are some ways of boosting productivity significantly.
The continuous production process in the chemical industry can also benefit from mobility solutions in areas such as real time compliance management, track & trace and plant stability which are critical to the manufacturing process.
Extend the Mobility Experience to Product and Process Support
Product technical support, especially for industrial equipment in remote operating conditions, airplanes and complex ‘in-plant’ maintenance operations among others, need on-site servicing, and are a natural fit to leverage mobility solutions.
Access to interactive trouble shooting, live SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and library search and repair capabilities that mobility solutions provide can enhance the overall equipment availability and efficiency. Most of these environments already benefit from the remote connectivity provided by embedded telematics which can be integrated with newer mobile solutions.
These are just some illustrations of the countless possibilities that exist in the ecosystem of the manufacturing value chain, which can be targeted for large productivity gains.
Creating Value through Mobility
A fresh approach to mobilizing manufacturing takes into account two points:
- Mobility applications vary across the manufacturing value chain
- Mobility applications vary across industry verticals
Industrial manufacturers are leveraging mobility extensively to dramatically improve their field service optimization – both in terms of business coverage and the quality of service. The key to success here lies in integrating the customer experience with the internal business process.
In contrast, the aerospace and ‘continuous manufacturing’ process industries are still in the early stages of the maturity curve and are working to find their feet with high impact mobility applications. Being largely in the B2B space, they will derive more value from internal deployment. Even here, the B2C front end has been the first off the block to leverage the benefits of mobilization, through the creation of apps. For instance, a chemical products firm, which interfaces with customers through its retailers and the web, created an app that allowed the customer to relay back the actual usage of the product they wanted to purchase. In return, customers can visit the nearest store and take delivery of a ‘custom’ version, tweaked just for their usage requirements – something similar to a ‘made to order’ scenario, with specific ‘configuration rules’ (color, viscosity and other properties).
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The aero industry is looking to simplify the entire manufacturing process through mobility solutions. Early patterns of mobility solution deployment in this industry include supplier collaboration with real time visibility and speeding up the assembly process or assembly expediting by fostering collaboration amongst teams. Another area that uses mobility is MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) support to airlines to minimize downtime. This includes the ability to improve the hangar productivity by making technical knowhow available to the technician at the swipe of their finger.
Mobility Addresses the “7 Wastes’ of Manufacturing”
1. Hand off (Workflow)
The shop floor lends itself to on-the-spot collaboration. Productivity gets a boost from real time collaboration between production cells or teams of design engineers; sales force can carry virtual demos and showrooms to show clients.
2. Waiting & Delays
Liberation of production managers (who need to clear schedule changes or material requests) from their desktops and allowing them to be ‘mobile’ reduces waiting and related delays (including unnecessary motion) for drawings, specifications or procedures on the shop floor. There is also reduction in waiting time for expert guidance for trouble shooting and other help by service technicians.
Gain in ability to receive and respond to real time production broadcasts and alerts, or to distributor/supplier positions to effectively route transportation; minimizing of premium freight through collaboration and timely alerts to suppliers.
Transparent inventory mapping across the value chain can allow tweaking of production, and diverting of stocks appropriately between consumption points – on the production floor, material track & trace is possible by leveraging the imaging ability built into most mobile devices.
Enabling ATP (Available to Promise) scenarios between field and production can help eliminate overproduction – especially in the case of ‘made to order’ or ‘engineer to order’ scenarios.
6. Over processing
The digitized mobile alert concept coupled with the visual virtual production environment and the real time performance connect with the maintenance systems of critical equipment in process plants helps eliminate over processing. In similar made-to-order or engineer-to order scenarios, collaboration with end users can ensure that exact requirements are met.
7. Defects and External Quality Control
Direct infield assessments of failure, or of online shop floor defects can help in rapid communication and collaboration across the value chain to correct the situation.
The manufacturing industry has merely touched the tip of the mobility iceberg and a lot more remains to be discovered and deployed. However, even as companies are freely exploring the mobility space, unplanned implementation of mobility solutions may lead to challenges as a later stage. A strategic game plan is therefore necessary to leverage the true power of mobility.
About the Authors
Tata Consultancy Services Vice President & Global Head – Manufacturing Industry Solutions Unit
Milind heads the Manufacturing Industry Solutions Unit (ISU) which is 8% of the TCS business. The Manufacturing ISU serves the automotive, Industrial Equipment & Machinery, Aerospace & Process Industry customers globally. Milind is responsible for formulating and executing the strategy for the Manufacturing Industry vertical within TCS.
Tata Consultancy Services Head, Manufacturing & Transformation Group
Sreenivasa Chakravati leads the Innovation & Transformation Group – the cutting edge domain consulting group and part of the Manufacturing Industry Solutions Unit of TCS. He is responsible for playing a key role in driving thought leadership for the engagements of TCS through consulting, solutions and services transformation. Sreenivasa brings over 20 years of experience, cutting across Consulting, IT and Manufacturing.
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