Argyle, whose company helps manufacturers adopt lean procedures, said workers with access to mobile tablets can generate and upload data that can lead to the root cause of a problem — an obvious improvement over having workers send paper memos, pick up the phone or call someone on a walkie-talkie about a problem.
On a more connected factory floor, workers could point out a problem "and right away management would know what line they were on," he said of new approaches to tracking manufacturing activity. "You can immediately notify the proper people. They can configure criteria and controls to ensure the issue was addressed," he said.
By capturing the data of an assembly line fix or making a procedural improvement, the lessons learned can be passed along to similar production lines within the same plant or in similar plants around the world, Argyle said.
"If that's done on paper, if it's done by two-way radio, it's much harder to capture that data," he said.
"The critical thing is that the people are empowered to identify that there's a problem and either stop the line or get it addressed some other way."
Where some manufacturers go wrong in implementing the new practices is they don't truly buy into the mindset that lean manufacturing is a journey that never ends, he said, not a one-time project based on adopting new technology.
Some plant managers also fail to accept that "the person running the machine knows the machine better than the engineers," Argyle added.
"A lot of companies go into technology and automation so fast they can't digest it," he said. "It's a major struggle. It cost a lot of money, and they don't get out of it what they thought they were going to get out of it."
"The customers that really get it know it's not just about the technology," Argyle said. "It's about the tech and the people. The people are still going to be the ones that solve the problems."