Mobility on the move in the plant, Motorola study finds
Handheld, wireless devices gaining visibility and saving time
Manufacturers plan to expand use of wireless LAN and wireless sensing technologies within process and discrete manufacturing environments, says a survey commissioned by Motorola. Using more wireless networking will augment process automation, efficiency, and agility, at lower costs compared to wired networking infrastructure investments. The research study found that more than seven in ten surveyed information technology decision-makers in the manufacturing industry looking to leverage mobile and wireless solutions to streamline operations.
The study found manufacturers with mobility applications saved a daily average of 42 minutes per employee.
The survey results show gains in project interest. In an exclusive interview with editors from Plant Engineering and Control Engineering on June 23, Motorola officials said more than a dozen wireless mobility projects, formerly on hold, recently were reapproved.
The Motorola Enterprise Mobility Manufacturing Barometer surveyed manufacturing IT decision makers in 14 countries across four continents, of whom 80% cited that mobility was more important for their organizations today than in 2008. This represents a nine percent increase from previous research, indicating that enterprise mobility applications continue to grow in importance as manufacturers look to boost operational efficiencies and increase productivity in the current macro-economic climate.
PPG sees significant value in wireless mobility
PPG Industries, a coatings and specialty products and services company, has been at the forefront of manufacturing mobility technologies and applications, Motorola says. PPG uses Motorola's private commercial radios for improved plant communications and security, and empowers workers with Motorola's MC9000 rugged handheld mobile computers for mobile human-machine interface (HMI) and asset management, helping improve operational efficiencies and increase worker productivity, Motorola says.
"We have garnered significant savings from utilizing wireless technology for measurement and point-to-point applications between systems," said Rob Brooks, process control supervisor, PPG Industries. "And, although we are just in the infancy of enabling the mobile operator and technician in our facility, the potential benefits in efficiency, safety and environment are huge."
Over one-quarter of those surveyed identified inventory/materials management and sales force applications as their organization's top drivers for continued mobility investments. Key application investment on the shop floor was driven by inventory management, materials management, and process-oriented applications such as work-in-progress (WIP) tracking, human machine interface (HMI)/operator interface applications and quality control/quality assurance. The study also identified the rising demand for sales force and field service applications, with nearly 29% of surveyed enterprises using field service applications citing an increase in business revenues/sales results and 25% reporting an increase in customer/partner satisfaction.
From a geographical perspective, Motorola says, all regions agreed that inventory management was a key mobile application for the manufacturing industry, while Asia Pacific highlighted the importance of customer-facing applications and the Americas and Europe touted sales force applications. In summary, manufacturers investing and leveraging wireless infrastructure and industry-specific devices see higher productivity for all workers, increased velocity of investment in raw materials and an increase in the accuracy and relevance of the real-time data they need to make better business decisions.
More than 60% have a plan
"With more than 60 percent of the surveyed manufacturing IT decision makers stating that their organization currently has a mobility strategy, it is clear that mobility is no longer viewed by manufacturing IT executives as the vision of the future but strategically important today," said Jim Hilton, senior director, Global Manufacturing Solutions for Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions. "In fact, more than one-half of those surveyed cited a competitive advantage through the use of mobile and wireless technologies to empower their shop-floor and field-mobility workforce to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace."
Respondents to the Motorola Enterprise Mobility Manufacturing Barometer also provided insights into future mobility trends. Manufacturers plan to increase the use of voice-over-WLAN (VoWLAN), fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and various asset management/asset maintenance solutions over the next 12 to 24 months. The study also found strong interest in rich media and video conferencing applications that allow manufacturers to realize additional efficiencies and increase workforce productivity. Respondents also indicated plans to expand the use of wireless LAN and wireless sensing technologies within both process and discrete manufacturing environments, allowing manufacturers to achieve process automation, efficiency, and agility without additional wired networking infrastructure investments. Sales force applications lead the plans for new installations and upgrades in the Americas, while inventory management has the highest planned growth rate in Europe and streaming media and customer-facing applications are viewed equally important for the next wave of mobility in the manufacturing sector in Asia-Pacific.
Surveyed manufacturing IT decision makers cited total cost of ownership (TCO), return on investment (ROI) and internal rate of return (IRR) as the main tools to justify their organization's mobility investments. In fact, more than 50% of surveyed enterprises utilizing an ROI analysis indicated they expect a return within 15 months of their initial investment.
Motorola conducted an independent research study to measure attitudinal and behavioral decision making of IT executives in key manufacturing industries, such as aerospace/defense and automotive, consumer packaged goods (including food and beverage), oil/gas and chemicals, high-tech, life science/medical as well as industrial and heavy equipment. More than 3,400 IT decision makers across 14 countries participated in this market research study through participation with research partners Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) and e-Rewards. TNS is a leading research and insight consultancy operating in over 70 countries worldwide. e-Rewards, Inc. is the largest "by-invitation-only" online research panel, serving more than 750 research firms. The survey was designed to provide a benchmark measurement of the overall perception and usage of mobile and wireless technology solutions across a multitude of commercial and public industries.
Motorola wireless broadband network offerings are only part of wider Motorola industrial wireless business products and services, such as bar code scanning, RFID, mobility software, and others.
Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering editor in chief, www.controleng.com