Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leveraging Mobility to Enhance Efficiency

Sreenivasan PD analyses the shortfall in expected production, even after installing high-grade technology

A fortune 100 company in the US has been expanding and ramping up its production capacities aggressively in the last few years to cater to its global demands. To complement these expansion efforts, the company invested strategically and heavily to implement high-tech manufacturing assembly lines in its facilities. However the organization was not able to realize the increase in efficiency on the production floors to the expected levels, thereby resulting in marginal increase in the productivity. Thus the organization was not able to achieve the expected productivity, the bottom line targeted by the top management through such huge investments.

Detailing the challenge

Investigation by top management revealed that though the high-tech manufacturing assembly lines were in place and functioning functioning to their fullest potential, controlling them was a challenge. And to control them, the floor supervisors had to be equipped with the real-time assembly line data to monitor them, decide and act accordingly.

In the existing scenario, the assembly line data was wired to the server rooms and the floor supervisor had to wait for the data to reach him, before acting decisively, thereby reducing the process efficiency. The other practical difficulty was that of the floor supervisor’s physical movement to the server room for accessing the assembly line controlling software. This discovery further narrowed down the challenge and the key objective in front of the organization was to mobile enable real-time assembly line data access and key assembly line controlling features, to the floor supervisors who are always on the move.

The company had already invested in blackberry devices for their employees to access their email and now the company decided to enable real-time access to assembly line data and assembly line controlling features on to the blackberries of the floor supervisors. The amount of technical difficulties involved in achieving the same, emphasized the need for a partner who had a good amount of mobile technology consulting and implementation expertise. The key technology challenges were mobile enabling real-time data and features to control the assembly line, device side memory management, flexible graphical data representations, data security, development approach/methodology to handle the application development process for catering to the evolving blackberry models.

The solution

Endeavour Software Technologies, the mobility experts were called in and entrusted with the tasks of analyzing, recommending and implementing a solution to address the above mentioned technology challenge. Endeavour, by virtue of its domain expertise in manufacturing supply chain, was quickly able to understand the business impact and performed a detailed analysis by studying the above mentioned difficulties; the assembly line controlling software, the generic mobility pitfalls with respect to data, security, UI addressing the form factor and memory management encountered by any organization, and recommended the following.

- Consideration of device capabilities before rendering.

- XML interface for data exchange

- Custom security model on top of BES

- Data scaling to view data in multiple trends

- Client side handling for flexible graphical data representations

- Reusable components to handle memory management

- An efficient development approach involving low development efforts to handle evolving models

Business benefits

The solution once implemented, resulted in the floor supervisors accessing real-time assembly line data, monitoring them closely and making effective timely decisions at the point of activity. The floor supervisors were also able to control certain key factors of the assembly line from their blackberries. This resulted in increase of production efficiency thereby realizing the bottom line targeted by the organization through such strategic high tech investments.