BYOD Spreads Into Manufacturing Sector

First it reshaped information technology (IT); now its spreading its wings over the manufacturing sector. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon is here – with employee-owned smartphones and tablets changing the way workers interact with machines.

A rising number of manufacturing workers are now bringing their own devices to work, according to a new whitepaper from IHS. These devices allow them to manage equipment remotely and observe processes while employees are on the move.

BYOD is currently being driven by individuals, which will likely result in companies provisioning employees with ruggedized devices in the future. In most cases, these devices increase the functions of industrial PCs.

The global industrial PC market is expected to generate shipments of 4.1 million units in 2016, up from 2.5 million in 2012., according to HIS. "The use of BYOD devices in manufacturing is predicted to rise at a rapid rate in the coming years," said Mark Watson, associate director for industrial automation at IHS. "But because the movement is being driven by individuals and not at the corporate level, gauging the number of BYOD devices being used or to forecast the growth of the market is difficult. Just the same, anecdotal research conducted by IHS indicates the BYOD trend is expanding in the manufacturing realm."

Despite BYOD's rapid growth in manufacturing, there are a number of challenges that mobile devices present to the plant floor.

"Unlike industrial PCs, consumer mobile devices are not designed to endure the stresses commonly encountered in manufacturing, such as vibration, heat and water," Watson said. As a result, manufacturing companies in the future may provide workers with tablets and smartphones rated for such environments.

BYOD growth is a result of networked automation equipment. A small percentage of equipment makes use of wireless networking technologies, including those of consumer mobile devices. This area has a lot of potential for growth in coming years.

Manufacturing processes are now incorporating tablets by mounting them to the sides of machines for improved visualization and control,

New vendor apps are being developed to work on iOS and Android devices as well. One example of this is Opto 22's groov, which offers a system for building human-machine interfaces (HMI) to monitor and control manufacturing automation systems.

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