Take a scroll through the Google results for “Tablets in Manufacturing,” and you will come across a plethora of articles posted between 2010-2012, claiming that “Tablets are going to save Manufacturing,” and “The tablet revolution is here!”
Did they save Manufacturing? Did a revolution occur?
For an answer, we’ll look back at what the manufacturing world predicted would happen when tablets first came on the scene, what the perceived pros and cons of a tablet were, and then we’ll head to the current state of things, to see where adoption really occurred.
The Tablet Revolution in MFG was poised to begin right around the time the iPad came to consumer households across the world. The iPad and its imitators proved themselves to consumers first, and then to manufacturers. The tablet craze in manufacturing that came from the advent of tablets in the business world can be attributed two-fold: the continued improvements to lean manufacturing theory and practice, and the world’s obsession with tech adoption, and Silicon Valley.
Manufacturers want to be more efficient. Do tablets make them more efficient? Well we all sure thought they would. Functionally, there was a belief that ERP systems, tracking systems, and communication systems would catch up with tablet technology, to create a synchronized system perfect for the freight tracker and the production manager alike.
The pros and cons list of tablets for manufacturers is as follows:
- Material movement
- Quality reports
- Inventory control
- Process control
- Shipment and logistic tracking
- Remote monitoring
- Alerts and alarms
- Performance tracking
It’s obvious that there are a lot of pros for the use of tablets in manufacturing, so much so, that if one was just glancing at the size of those lists, they may opt to outfit their entire floor in iPads tomorrow. But, this isn’t an exercise in how many more ”pros” there are for tablets than ”cons.” There are a lot of reasons to adopt tablets in your process, but there are a few key reasons on why it may be a bad idea. Security is a HUGE issue for the research/development and accounting teams, but it should also keep the manufacturing supervisor up at night. Tablets need connectivity, the easiest way malevolent hackers can get into your company data.
Durability is simple enough. Tablets continually have to prove they won’t need to be replaced every year because the manufacturing floor is too hard on them. Integration is a key question, if not a negative side of tablets, because they aren’t large computer systems, but ancillary devices that store data much differently than a typical hard drive on a computer. Your ERP system may have to have an app, and you may have to shift your internal system to use WiFi communication instead of Radio Frequency. A $300 purchase can turn into an entire process overload.
Today we stand at on the cusp of tablet adoption in many industries. The companies adopting tablets were able to overhaul their logistics and processing applications to meet the particular tablet specifications that they wanted to purchase. Or, they actually had tablets made for their specific company.