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How a rugged smartphone can drive lean manufacturing

Even before the disruptions caused by COVID-19, manufacturing has been moving rapidly toward “lean” philosophies, seeking to improve efficiency, automate processes, cut waste and drive a more dynamic production cycle. At the heart of this program are smart, connected devices — that are also durable.

Rugged smartphones’ growing popularity 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 in manufacturing?

Lean thinking is about adding value. Its proponents review all aspects of the manufacturing cycle to curb unnecessary activity, whether in design, production, distribution or customer service.

Manufacturing personnel operate across diverse spaces — from the loading dock to the shop floor to the administrative centers — so communication and real-time tracking are critical. In lean thinking, communication across the enterprise is essential: All the gears need to turn together with minimal waste and without excess effort. Mobile devices play an important role in this endeavor.

The rise of mobile apps on factory floors

The advent of mobile data and apps has presented an opportunity for mobile manufacturing solutions to simplify operations and reduce waste.

The ability to share images, documents and other necessary business information makes the rugged smartphone an invaluable addition to the lean toolbox. At the same time, connected accessories such as barcode scanners and radio-frequency ID (RFID) readers can increase efficiency, saving time and reducing redundant efforts.

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Mobile apps help enable Gemba Walks, where managers identify opportunities for improvement in key areas like scheduling and inventory. Likewise, tools such as a statistical process control (SPC) app can send notifications when performance starts to stray off target.

As manufacturers seek to enable associates to return safely to work following after closures due to COVID-19, mobile apps can also provide a way to encourage social distancing and support contact tracing.

The growth of lean thinking and the new app ecosystem drive mobility in manufacturing. Historically, mobile devices’ limited durability has weakened their ability to survive under the rigorous conditions of a manufacturing environment. Hence the rise of the rugged smartphone.

Drops are the leading cause of phone breaks and all too common in the manufacturing sector. Add a vulnerability to dust and dampness and it becomes clear why the elements of manufacturing take their toll on average smartphones.

Samsung’s rugged devices combine durability and functionality

Manufacturing needs rugged devices, like Samsung’s Galaxy XCover Pro — a mobile device that combines all the versatile functionality of the most advanced smartphones with the durability to withstand the rigors of the manufacturing environment.

Display breaks are a leading concern when it comes to smartphone survivability. To that end, the Galaxy XCover Pro was designed to MIL-STD-810 specifications — military-grade toughness. The device features an edge-to-edge 6.3-inch screen, but its tough build and use of Gorilla Glass 5 means it can withstand drops from up to 5 feet. It’s a long way down from the loading dock to the warehouse floor, and workers need to know that accidentally dropping their device isn’t going to cause an unnecessary break in the workflow.

Beyond drop testing, the device was put through a series of 21 other environmental tests, including blowing rain and dust, humidity, temperatures as low as −40 F and as high as 160 F, altitude, vibrations and more.

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

Find out more on how mobile enterprise solutions are changing the way employees work on a daily basis. And get your free guide to the mobile technologies that will accelerate your smart factory journey.

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Adam Stone

Adam Stone has over 20 years' experience writing extensively on healthcare, retail, hospitality, enterprise mobility, government and a range of other topics. His work has appeared in USA Today, American City Business Journals, Digital Healthcare and Productivity, SoftwareCEO, Internet Security, Hotel F&B, Senior Living Executive and many consumer and trade publications. Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamstonewriter

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