Lately, manufacturing has moved toward “lean” philosophies. The sector is seeking ways to improve efficiency, cut waste and drive a more dynamic overall production cycle.

Smart, connected devices are at the heart of this program — and not just smart, but sturdy.

The rise of the rugged smartphone shows the critical role resiliency plays, as manufacturing seeks to get the most out of these versatile devices. Lean manufacturing needs phones that can deliver the latest app-based productivity tools. But it also needs phones that can withstand being dropped.

What Is Lean Thinking?

Lean thinking is about adding value. Its proponents aim to curb unnecessary activity, whether in design, manufacture, distribution or customer service. This happens through a constant process of review across all aspects within the manufacturing cycle.

Communication and real-time tracking are critical components in lean manufacturing, where multiple personnel operate across diverse spaces, from the loading dock, to the shop floor, to administrative centers where logistics are handled. In lean thinking, communications across the enterprise is essential: All the gears need to mesh with minimal waste and without excess effort.

It’s easy to see how mobile communication plays an important role in this endeavor.

The Rise of Mobile Apps on Factory Floors

The advent of mobile data and apps likewise has presented an opportunity for manufacturing to use mobile device solutions, such as smartphones, to dramatically simplify operations and pare back waste.

The ability to share spreadsheets, documents and other necessary business information makes the smartphone an invaluable addition to the lean toolbox. At the same time, connected accessories such as bar code scanners and RFID readers can reduce wasted time and redundant efforts.

Mobile apps help enable Gemba walks, where managers identify opportunities for improvement in scheduling, inventory and other key areas. Likewise, tools like a statistical process control (SPC) app can push notifications when performance starts to stray. Some 54 percent of plant supervisors and 53 percent of plant managers access this kind of real-time data on mobile devices.

The rise of lean thinking and the new app ecosystem drive mobility in manufacturing. Unfortunately, the limited durability of mobile devices has traditionally impacted their ability to survive under the rigorous conditions that exist in the manufacturing environment.

Hence the rise of the rugged smartphone.

The factory and the warehouse are by definition physically challenging spaces, and daily work in these environments poses an inherent hazard to delicate electronics.

Dropping is the leading cause of phone breakage and an all-too-common occurrence in the manufacturing sector. Add to this a vulnerability to dust and dampness, and it becomes clear why production, transportation and other elements of manufacturing take their toll on the smartphone.

Samsung Combines Durability With Functionality

Manufacturing needs a rugged smartphone. One example can be seen in Samsung’s newly released Galaxy S8 Active, a device that combines all the functionality of the most current smartphones with a durability suitable to withstand the rigors of the manufacturing environment.

Display breakage is a leading concern when it comes to smartphone survivability. To that end, the Galaxy S8 Active has been designed to MIL-STD-810 specification, military-grade toughness. The device incorporates an advanced, dual-layer screen system to provide shatter resistance for the Super AMOLED display for falls of up to five feet onto flat surfaces.

The device has also been hardened against dust and dampness, and has performed successfully under extensive drop testing, including a 26-drop test from 4.9 ft. It’s a long way down from the loading dock to the warehouse floor, and workers need to know that even an accidental drop of their device isn’t going to cause an unnecessary break in the workflow.

Mobile devices have helped change the world of manufacturing, driving lean processes to new heights. Now rugged versions are ushering in a new phase of efficiencies. With the ability to withstand drops and to operate unimpeded across a range of conditions, the latest rugged smartphones clearly demonstrate how durable technologies can help the manufacturing sector to achieve its lean ambitions.

See how enterprise mobile solutions are changing the way that employees work on a daily basis.