The increase of devices linked to manufacturing and mobility processes has led to a growth in data available.
A forecast by Gartner predicts that the number of connected things will reach 25 billion by 2020, with manufacturing, as one of the top three verticals using Internet of Things (IoT) in 2015.
In a similar study, IDC estimates that a good portion of the digital universe will be generated by mobile devices and people – from 17% in 2013 to 27% in 2020.
Much of this information, however, may be disjointed across the enterprise, making it difficult to obtain a real-time view of assets, people and transactions.
Data and inefficiencies
When this decentralized scenario is replicated across the enterprise, with countless devices running disparate, inefficiencies continue to mount.
This leaves enterprise workers incapable of harnessing value from their data.
Food manufacturers in the Asia Pacific, which TechNavio says they currently represent 39.9% of the global market share in packaged foods, are quickly catching on to the value of using IoT solutions and cloud technology to manage their processes and become supply chain visibility nodes.
Implementing these solutions helps build optimized, repeatable business models, minimize downtime and maximize productivity—all of which are key to reaching a new level of efficiency, accuracy and quality.
Data for food safety, quality
According to the 2014 Global Food Security Index, collectively, Asia Pacific is one of the lowest-scoring regions for food quality and safety, but there is much opportunity to improve these safety standards.
Food companies are using traceability tools and techniques to improve food safety and tighten operations by driving out excess inventory, storage, and handling costs.
By capturing these data feeds and turning them into actionable insight, they can gain enterprise asset intelligence—resulting in more informed decision making and more efficient and accurate performance, while complying with food safety and regulatory standards.
By leveraging enterprise asset intelligence, manufacturers and mobile workers can add value in the following areas.
I. Warehouse Inventory
The efficiency of a warehouse directly impacts the cost of doing business, level of customer service and the ability to compete in the food business.
Mobile solutions and tracking inventory data can do wonders for performance.
With these devices and an IoT solution in place, manufacturers can give their physical assets a digital voice by capturing and sharing the mission-critical data across the cloud.
By doing so, food manufacturers can ensure they have the right goods in the right place—ready to be delivered to the right location.
This asset intelligence helps improve efficiency by identifying areas where operator waiting time, defects, over-stocking or production waste can be reduced.
Moreover, it enables food manufacturers to know where to dedicate time to improving certain processes that lie in the food grower, shipping or packaging chains to enable easier tracing throughout the product lifecycle.
Whether it is related to stocking or fulfilling electronic orders to surpassing customer expectations, the ability to make these more informed, analytical decisions is how food manufacturers will drive productivity and improvement.
II. Asset Management
Without a direct line of sight into their location and materials handling equipment, the potential for loss, delay and delivery error is vast.
According to Swiss Re’s Food Safety in a globalized world report in July 2015, more than half of all food recalls cost the affected companies more than US$10 million each, apart from the reputational damage that may take a company years to recover from.
Solutions that integrate mobile scanning devices and passive or active radio frequency identification (RFID) tags allow companies to quickly track the location, motion and state of their materials and assets, allowing them to devise plans to reduce this waste.
This visibility into their assets will, for example, allow manufacturers to determine if the source of a contamination occurred at the grower, or was introduced within the distribution process, and which stakeholders might be affected.
A company can then trace its shipments and conduct a highly targeted recall by contacting only those customers who received affected products, so that it can be completed quickly, with minimized cost, and without having to pull unaffected products from store shelves.
Though mobile devices alone can track assets, it is the asset intelligence afforded by an IoT solution that puts this visibility into context at a faster, replicable and more accessible rate.
Sharing data across cloud-based applications allows manufacturers to have a centralized location that provides real-time insight into an organization’s asset usage and needs.
This keeps materials handling, labor and energy costs to a minimum and helps manufacturers ensure they have the right materials in the right places to keep their business momentum going.
III. Quality Proofing
With quality applications deployed via mobile devices, manufacturers can improve the speed and accuracy of their quality checks.
The capture of quality data can be automated to ensure that customers receive the right products every time and improve customer satisfaction and retention.
For example, production control systems enable food manufacturers to isolate quality or compliance problems at the lot level.
By making lot-level traceability available throughout the supply chain with a barcode scan, businesses can recall specific quantities and shipments wherever and whenever a drop in the quality of the product is detected.
This degree of traceability limits the burden of logistics handling costs and administrative so recalls can be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Mobility can improve quality beyond the production line since product verification can be conducted at virtually every step of the process.
This intelligence can ensure inventory is readily available and all orders fulfilled correctly.
IV. Workforce Management
Workers responsible for inventory management or field service need access to real-time information in order to make real-time decisions that impact performance.
Mobile solutions can provide this insight from anywhere, allowing workers to communicate and facilitate processes regardless of where they may be stationed at.
As a result, managers can be more productive throughout the day, with the ability to stay on the plant floor or central office as needed to ensure seamless operations but still have access to the information they need, when they need it.
In return, any asset intelligence collected from these interactions arms manufacturers with the right insights to optimize their use of the data.
V. Field Service
To deliver superior customer service, it is important to have the right route person at the right place and time, with the right equipment.
Mobile devices alone have impacted service providers like delivery drivers—these handy tools help improve their image as brand ambassadors to their distributors or retail stores.
As the IoT continues to expand, these devices are a critical component to enabling field mobility.
The increased adoption of Mobile-to-Mobile (M2M) connectivity is enabling field personnel to gain actionable insights that enable them to better interact and communicate.
For example, they can be more proactive by responding to traffic and weather conditions so they can prepare for delays or use alternative and safe delivery routes.
According to a 2014 McKinsey report, the technology opportunity is still waiting to be harnessed—these technologies could potentially create US$25 billion to US$45 billion of annual economic impact in ASEAN by 2030.
Advances in mobile technology and the IoT are dramatically improving manufacturing and field mobility by empowering entire workforces.
Enterprise asset intelligence, achieved through the adoption of these solutions, will enable them to pinpoint inefficiencies in real time and improve throughput—helping them build progressive plans to move toward innovation.
Story by Ryan Goh, VP and GM, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific.