Mobile Application Software for the Manufacturing Shop Floor

shop floor mobile appsI grew up in the 60s and I don’t mind admitting that I really liked the Star Trek series. It was about the future, it had adventure and it always ended with a moral theme. Captain Kirk and his crew would use technology to get themselves in and out of terrible peril. Many times they would rely on their trusty tricorders to get the job done. This fictional, multifunctional handheld device was used for sensor scanning, data analysis and recording data in an alien environment. Time and time again, it was invaluable in a crew member’s decision making process.

Tricorders were cool. They could do all sorts of useful things that enabled the user to get real time information as they needed it. I see the advent of mobile pad computing as an opportunity to make this fictional capability a reality – at least on the shop floor. After all, the shop floor can be an alien place where you need all the help you can get to make a profit.

Imagine that you’re a process engineer responsible for a manufacturing cell’s performance. Instead of the fictional tricorder, you are carrying a pad computer that has a graphic representation of all the work centers in your cell. The color of the work center tells you immediately if it is producing product at standard or if there are process alarms that require your attention. You know that with a few touches on your pad, you can drill down on any of your work centers to evaluate when the work order will be complete, downtime and number of rejects, as well as many other aspects of the process including temperatures, pressures, speeds or other sensors that are being monitored. Any documents required for the product being produced or the work center operation are available at the touch of his finger.

The material handlers also have pads that they use to ensure that all of their work centers have the raw materials required. The pad allows them to scan the barcoded serial numbers of the raw materials to the work center. They can also initiate serialized label printing that can automatically transact the product produced into inventory or to the next process in the routing. As they work, the scanning and label information is being recorded to provide job costing information and detailed lot traceability.

The representative from the quality department is making his rounds based on direction from the workflow on his pad. He has access to part prints, work instructions and any other documents relating to manufacturing a quality product. He can also view statistical quality and process control charts that are updated in real time. He can collect data for quick inspections and conduct quality audits.

As the price point for pad computers goes down, these devices will become readily available for shop floor use. The pads can even be mounted at work centers to be used as smart data entry devices for production information as well as access to documents, training videos and real time SPC data analysis. With their inherent scanning capabilities (must include a camera), they can provide the same functionality as a dedicated barcode scanner for use in warehouse management. All of these capabilities are currently available with the EnterpriseIQ extended manufacturing ERP systemIQMS is bringing the future to the shop floor today.

For more information, click to learn about IQMS’ mobile ERP software offerings or receive a mobility white paper about the 8 qualities to look for when selecting a manufacturing ERP mobile application software.

Randy Flamm, IQMS Chief Product Officer and Chairman of the Board, founded IQMS in 1989. Prior to IQMS, Randy held various technical positions at California manufacturing facilities such as GE Plastics.