Solving for X: How Manufacturers Must Use Mobility to Keep Moving Forward


“This customer wants it faster. That customer wants it cheaper.” How do you solve for X? That’s the multi-million dollar question that more than 40,000 manufacturing and supply chain professionals will gather in Chicago to discuss this week at ProMat 2017. The industry has been overcome with an influx of change agents: evolving customer demands, shifting supply chain dependencies, new technology mandates, and an oft-overwhelming collection of data that can eliminate the complexities of today’s omni-channel logistics – if properly cleansed, analyzed and applied.

As a result, nearly every exhibitor at ProMat will be trying to demonstrate how they can help customers “solve for X.” And though the key to successful manufacturing modernization will ultimately be a very intricately-married network of digital and physical systems, it has become clear that mobile computing technologies will be the central enabler of any data-driven supply chain operation moving forward. It doesn’t matter if you’re allocating the majority of your IT spend towards automation, predictive analytics, cloud computing, or all of the above in the next 3-5 years. Without the right mobile technology solutions in place, it will be nearly impossible to receive your desired ROI for the rest of your IT architecture.

Here are 3 fundamental reasons why:

  1. The performance of “connected factory” and “smart warehouse” systems is dependent on the quality and completeness of the data fed into them. Manual inputs – or inconsistent multi-device inputs – just won’t suffice. The reality is that mobile computers, and specifically rugged tablets, are the only technology solutions completely capable of providing an immediate and accurate data input source. They are the only mobile devices built to fulfill the role of handheld, barcode scanner, RFID reader, laptop, desktop, etc. in a single device – without compromising on computing power, usability, security, or connectivity.

  2. Rugged Tablet plays central role in modern manufacturing Because of the central role mobile computers play in the collection and exchange of data, they’re really the only hardware component capable of bridging disparate manufacturing systems and otherwise fragmented data sets throughout the supply chain. Just ask yourself, how many “information” systems are currently used in your manufacturing or warehouse environment? How many more are used to connect to your supply chain partners? Though a single mobile device can’t orchestrate the synchronization of multiple data sources by itself – that’s where best-in-class software solutions come in – the right software-agnostic mobile device will enable you to facilitate any and all data exchanges and subsequent workflow-related actions via a single go-anywhere device.

  3. Automated factories still need workers with capable mobile computers to support all workflows, from the time the first component is delivered to the assembly line to when the final, completed product is delivered to the customer . In other words, logistics managers need precisely optimized forklift-mounted solutions to improve the accuracy, speed, and overall efficiency of their inventory control, receiving, picking and placing and other logistics management processes without excessive upfront or maintenance cost obligations. And technicians and engineers can only use their mechanical skills effectively when they have the relevant, real-time data that comes with specialized I/O connectivity to the equipment and operations systems. Therefore, mobile computers can – if designed properly – become the central enabler of highly efficient operations. They will be the one “tool” the industry must have to easily refine planning, manage production schedules, capitalize on new Industry 4.0 or IIoT technologies and streamline end-to-end supply chain processes to achieve internal efficiency goals.

But, there is a caveats to the “mobility mandate”...

Mobile technologies can either drive more efficient operations or disrupt them. Handheld, fixed terminal, and laptop computers may seem like viable “data collection” options and therefore a budget-friendly enabler of more advanced technology utilization. But their limited capabilities and/or mobility restrict their applicability to a single type of task or job location – i.e. barcode/RFID scanning, forklift, workstations. Today’s high-value and high-customization manufacturing operations necessitate the implementation of precision, just-in-time actions. And your information workers need high-performance mobile devices that can provide real-time accessibility to multiple information systems at their fingertips, at all times.

In fact, Credencys, surveyed 3300 professionals (mostly IT decision makers) in the manufacturing sector and learned that 70% view “ mobility as the key to converting downtime into productive time, recovering a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.” Therefore...

  • If workers have to stop what they’re doing to input or retrieve data on multiple mobile devices or stationary PCs several feet away, then work stops and a ripple effect of delays and downtime ensue.

  • If using a mobile device – or multiple data collection devices – become more cumbersome than writing notes on a piece of paper for input into a desktop computer off the shop floor “later”, then your good intentions of “mobilizing” your operations will fast be defeated.

  • A mobile device fails fast because it’s lacking the [battery power, rugged resiliency, HazLoc protection, processing power, usability, speed, etc.] to keep pace with the demands of today’s industrial operations, then you’ll fail to meet production goals. When you’re workers are on a tight schedule, there is no time to stop and recharge – or replace a broken device.

So, whether you’re headed to ProMat to solve for your “X” – or “Y” and “Z” – or simply entrusting your technology provider to deliver a solution that will work in your best interest, take a few minutes to check out this site. It’s full of expert resources – and opinions – on how you can and should use mobility to solve your operational challenges and advance your business goals.

You can also schedule some time with Xplore’s partners at ProMat to discuss the “X” you need to solve. They’ll help you custom-assemble a best-in-class mobility solution for your manufacturing or warehouse environment.

Glacier ComputersPeak Ryzex

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