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A key aspect of the "perfect plant" is having the right information in the right place at the right time. In most manufacturing environments, instrumentation and monitoring is widespread. Pages and pages of graphs and reports describe every operational characteristic and are used by operators and management to steer the plant to optimal performance. However, in the modern plant, the right time to view this information is not when you are standing in front of an operator console. It is when you are in the field, in front of a failing piece of equipment or discussing a problem while on the move. More often than not, the right way to deliver information is by putting it in the hands of a mobile worker.
The right way to collect information also involves mobility. Remember that 40% to 60% of equipment in the plants and on the shop floors is not instrumented. Optimizing this critical aspect of plant performance depends on mobile field workers. Armed with the right tools, mobile workers can cost-effectively gather data from non-instrumented assets that can be readily analyzed and integrated into existing back-end decision support systems. Bidirectional flow of information to and from mobile workers is a key competitive imperative required to make fully informed decisions regarding the operation of the perfect plant.
Regrettably for most companies, when it comes to the mobile workforce in manufacturing, too often, vital decisions are made in the dark, in an information-poor environment and with little support or historical contextual information to make informed decisions proactively. Field workers — the people who are closest to the equipment and processes, who feel the heat, hear the noises and see the changes that can be the first indicators of trouble — frequently do their jobs based on individual experiential knowledge acquired over many years.
This approach makes manufacturers vulnerable to high levels of variability based on individual talent, skills and training. With the massive investments in automation over the past decades, management often lacks visibility into what these decision makers in the field do and finds it hard to provide guidance to ensure execution of best practices occur across the field worker roles, production shifts and assets.10/26/2010
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