Industrial mobility: the new norm

Manufacturing intelligence software for industrial mobile applications is enabling users, in just seconds, to access business and production data, and personalise and share it for new levels of collaboration and productivity.
Industrial information software now allows users to create, modify, personalise and access their own displays of business and process information on any mobile device.

How many of you take your personal smartphone or tablet on the plant floor or to the business office, or see co-workers with their mobile devices? Does your company use mobile devices for industrial purposes? It’s happening more and more, and because of that, today’s industrial information software is adapting too.
Industrial information software now allows users to create, modify, personalise and access their own displays of business and process information, in the office, at the machine, at home or on any mobile device. 
The software’s dashboard on a device doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s; it can contain the specific information the user needs. They can access historical and real-time data reports from anywhere, anytime.

It’s no surprise mobility is changing the way managers, engineers, operators, technicians and others are working in the business office, the production plant and the field. Three trends have been leading to this advancement:
1. Growth in consumer devices, which is driven primarily by device manufacturers focusing on the user experience and moving away from single-use devices. It’s driving a lot of small productivity gains. Although a lot of people have these in their pockets, there’s a lack of industrial software that’s tailored to these devices.
2. Increased network access, which enables external network connectivity of the control system up to the business system so information reaches a broader set of people. Users are asking their automation suppliers about consuming that data, not just providing it. That’s a huge market trend and shift from isolated protected control systems, to be able to share tidbits of information, or in some cases entire pipes of information, to the external world that’s never been privy to that information before. At Rockwell Automation, we call that The Connected Enterprise.
3. Continued productivity demands for automation system providers helps users better utilise assets, increase uptime and equipment efficiency, and generally do more with less.

It’s all about context
A change in thinking also is contributing to the usefulness of mobile devices in the industrial setting. 
What has been primarily a machine and product focus is becoming systems thinking.
This has been common for some time in the process industries, and now it’s everywhere. People want to layer in context and collaborate across sites, whether it’s a multi-facility global food and beverage conglomerate, a pharmaceutical manufacturer contracting out a plant, or an industrial machinery OEM that wants to see how its equipment is operating around the world.
The ability to view, navigate and share information is being combined with portability and mobility to make it so operators, engineers, and managers never have to leave their work,.
With smart phones, tablets and laptops, they can access their choice of content, subscribe to feeds, and personalise their own dashboards with the exact machine, system and business information they need or want to do their job in the best possible way for them.
The philosophy is being applied to conventional operations technology (OT) and IT, but also for management. 
In automotive, suppliers of turnkey lines can see their equipment all over the world to determine and share best practices for operation and maintenance.

Portability and personalisation
The two keys to successful industrial mobility are user enablement and system extension. 
It’s called the “Value- and User-First Philosophy”. User enablement lets users configure their dashboards, reports and other information on the fly and make it personalised. 
System extension means the industrial information software uses HTML5 and other technologies so users can tailor the device to their specific needs. 
The three primary ways to accomplish this are: 
1. Provide role-based and user tools for user enablement. This means users can configure on the fly, and it’s personalised to the user. Mobility really is a landscape in which users don’t want the generic login and the same report 50 other people want. They want a report that’s personalised to them, and then they want it personalised across a mobile device or laptop.
2. Innovate in the collaboration space. This means looking at collaboration not from a machine telling users what’s happening, but other people telling users what’s happening — being able to provide a framework where, for example, an operator can talk with an engineer, or people are collaborating across sites. For example, users aren’t just looking at notifications. Instead, they see that this alarm happened, and here’s the trends graph that attached with it on a mobile device, and historically the user sees the top three reasons why the alarm happened so the issues can be addressed. 
3. Extend existing systems. This means, as described previously, using HTML5 and other technologies to be able to customise existing views to any mobile device in a secure and logical way, including existing reports on a PC that can be used on a mobile device. 

Collaboration makes a difference
Mobility is moving beyond replacing existing plant or machine-based experiences on a mobile device to enable collaboration across sites. 
Today’s industrial information software can help solve problems faster and more efficiently, and even prevent them.
New levels of mobility, portability and personalisation can allow companies to easily try out different data, displays and configurations in a matter of seconds, without the need to call IT or a developer. 
Getting the information users need where, when and how they want it allows them to do their job better and to run equipment and operations in a better way. 

*Theresa Houck is an Executive Editor with Rockwell Automation; 1800 762 593, www.rockwellautomation.com

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