The future of efficiency is as close as your mobile device.
"The Internet of Everything is just around the corner," technologists often say. An environment where all components communicate wirelessly and seamlessly, all controlled in a central fashion, is an exciting prospect. But we still have a way to go before that architecture is put into mainstream use.
Between now and then, there are lots of things companies can do to take advantage of the rising use of smartphones and tablets in conjunction with industrial networks. With today's technology, companies can observe and manage performance factors in real time, collect safety records and data immediately after an incident and proactively manage maintenance concerns with just a tap on a screen.
Companies understand the value of real-time data and that access to immediate performance information can be a key strategic advantage. System integrators, our company among them, work with manufacturers to extend real-time reporting farther into the production environment. By creating reporting dashboards that can be accessed on smartphones and tablets, machine operators, engineers and managers can share and collaborate virtually anywhere, whether standing on the production floor or working remotely.
Instead of waiting until the end of a shift, day or week, crucial data can be made available in real time so adaptations or adjustments can be made instantly to ensure optimal performance. Managers not only can view the output of a particular line, they also can look at energy consumption, upcoming maintenance events, and the speed and efficiency of the line. Then they can pinpoint where a potential problem might come from.
Managers also can view trend reports based on historical data, all visible on their smartphone or tablet. Instead of holding a meeting in a conference room to discuss performance metrics, managers can work with operators on the floor, and review various dashboards, creating more efficient means of monitoring and troubleshooting.
Using tablets and smartphones offers a distinct advantage to companies that provide maintenance and support contracts to clients once an automation project is completed.
Manufacturers invest in automation projects to improve product quality, increase productivity and reduce risk. These projects often have performance metrics associated with them, and to ensure those expectations are met, a properly outlined maintenance strategy will assist in ensuring optimal performance and minimal downtime.
In the event of a failure, it's imperative that the cause be identified and the corrective action put into place as soon as possible. System integrators can extend support efforts by providing remote troubleshooting services, allowing the client to share real-time photos and videos with its engineers. This real-time sharing often can cut down on costs such as flying an engineer to the site, and can expedite the time it takes to resolve on-site issues.
The capability to collect information in real time during or immediately after a safety incident is imperative to quickly identify the issues and implement corrective actions. By using smartphones or tablets, the involved parties can snap photos of the event, record information and fill out a safety report before returning to their desks.
This method of data collection provides more accurate reporting, and ensures that crucial details are not left out. Collecting information in real time means the data can be shared instantly to relevant team members within the organization and/or with system integrators who might be responsible for creating and revising safety standards.
No matter what industry segment they serve, manufacturers will see that industrial networking, applied with new data-gathering tools, is a proven strategy that helps them to make good business decisions that result in the most efficient production process possible and the greatest return on their investment.
Michael Lindley is vice president of sales and marketing for Concept Systems, headquartered in Albany, Ore. Learn more about the company at www.conceptsystemsinc.com.