Wireless Solutions Improve Communications and Productivity in Manufacturing Facilities
- Tuesday, 01 December 2009
While automotive, aerospace, and high-tech equipment manufacturers are early adopters of wireless networks, the overall manufacturing industry has been slow in adoption.
A plausible theory for this slow adoption is that manufacturing plants are, by design, not the most ideal environments for wired networks — there is too much interference caused by equipment. Therefore, wireless technologies are gaining momentum as the communications technology of choice because they operate on a wavelength basis, rather than a copper cable.
Surveys have shown that more than 60 percent of executives agree that a wireless infrastructure should be part of their business. A large majority of the high-level executives and management already use wireless communications, followed by the sales and marketing workforce, and trailed by field workers and production teams. These high usage percentages seem to illustrate that the ease and efficiency of inventory and asset management, employee scheduling and production monitoring — as well as safety — should be clear selling points for wireless communications. So what are the barriers to adoption?
Simply put, these barriers are the unknown:
- Perceived complexity of the wireless install
- Disruption to workflow
- Business as usual is “fine”
Wireless/Cellular in Manufacturing
Cellular communications are now a
primary means of voice and data transfer.
However, a gap still remains to extending
these frequencies indoors, across campuses,
and in dense metropolitan areas.
To fill the gap, in-building coverage solutions
are being deployed that enable cellular
usage and allow organizations to
provide better reception, and manufacturing
facilities are no exception.
Unlike traditional offices, manufacturing facilities have more in-depth needs for wireless communications. When integrated into manufacturing plants, these systems are utilized on shop floors and across multiple facilities to enable supervisors to monitor and expedite supply orders, as well as communicate with employees and customers. Because the workforce is mobile, desktop phones are not always sufficient. Wireless service providers can install a microcell and assign employees a four-digit extension, just like a landline. Once outside the facility, a traditional cellular network and telephone number takes over.
Most of the wireless/mobile applications
involve logistics outside of the distribution
center or the manufacturing
plant. Plant managers and floor supervisors
who are equipped with wire -
less/mobile devices can track orders,
supply inventories, locate delivery
trucks, change orders, handle customer
relations, and more — all without leaving
the facility. The ability to communicate
anytime, anywhere, will expedite
manufacturing tasks, increase customer
satisfaction, and produce high returns
on investment (ROI).
On the shop floor, employees equipped
with wireless devices gain visibility into
real-time inventory data and are able to
make efficient supply chain decisions.
Floor managers possess information for
just-in-time initiatives while enjoying the
benefits of unparalleled data transaction
mobility. With im proved material handling,
floor managers are able to manage
inventories more accurately while expediting
re sponse and security measures.
Further more, plant technicians can easily
troubleshoot manufacturing and material
handling equipment more efficiently,
minimizing downtime while maintaining
high levels of production.